Acupuncture, probably the most heard of form of alternative medicine while simultaneously the least understood. It is largely thought that acupuncture has its roots in Chinese medicine beginning as early as 6000 bce. Though methods and deeper understanding have developed over the centuries since that time the basic premise remains; a technique to bring healing or balance by accessing specific anatomical locations in the body, referred to as meridians. While more is now known about these locations the early Chinese enthusiasts of acupuncture, and even still today, believed that these areas were where the force of life, or Qi, flowed in the body.
While acupuncturists claim many health and healing benefits the primary reason most patients turn to this form of therapy is for chronic pain. Other benefits include help with physical ailments like low-back pain, neck pain, arthritis treatment, headache or more behavioral or emotional like smoking cessation or depression. The World Health Organization published a report in 2003 stating their support and promotion of acupuncture for the treatment of 31 conditions.
The method behind the “madness” of acupuncture is to stimulate specific points on the body, primarily through needles. Approximately 3 million adults in the United States alone use acupuncture annually. The basis of acupuncture has changed since its origin. Western acupuncturists utilize specific neurohormonal pathways, often the same as those used thousands of years ago, and thereby stimulate the nerve beneath.
Through this process of treatment it is expected that the patient experience relief of their symptoms. Treatment is cumulative and the individual should expect to attend an acupuncture session frequently at first and as symptoms diminish they are able to cut back to maintenance visits monthly or seasonally.
Research in the effectiveness of acupuncture is ongoing and often difficult. The best clinical trials are those with control groups where a placebo is utilized. A placebo is generally a sugar pill or saline injection and the recipient does not know that they did not receive the actual treatment. This is difficult to perform with acupuncture as an effective placebo for physical needles does not exist. Even with the absence of clinical trials years of effective treatment have proven acupuncture to be an excellent source of alternative medicine.