Acupuncture originates from China and has been practiced there for centuries. It was during the second half of the twentieth century it began to spread rapidly in Western Europe, the United States and Canada.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) explains that health is a reflection of a harmonious balance of the complementary extremes of yin and yang energy which is known as Qi ("chi"). Qi flows through what are called 'meridians' in the human body. These meridians are like rivers in our body and Qi is the water contained within them. An acupuncturist can determine the state of the meridians via questioning, palpation, and tongue and pulse diagnosis. Chinese medicine places a huge emphasis on the balance of yin and yang and that illness results from an imbalance. Acupuncture needles are inserted into a combination of points tailored uniquely to each individual so that qi flow can be brought back into proper balance.
In Western societies, acupuncture is explained using concepts of neuroscience and studies have shown that it works on the nervous system. Like the electrical wiring in our houses, acupuncture points are like small fuse boxes that an acupuncturist can use to treat areas of the body that are a great distance from the site of the problem. For example, you might wonder why your acupuncturist is needling your foot to treat your headaches. Acupuncture points are seen by Western practitioners as places where nerves, muscles and connective tissue can be stimulated and lead to various changes in the body.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin single-use disposable needles through the patient's skin at specific points on the body called acupoints. The patient will be asked to lie down, either face-up, face-down or on his/her side, depending on where the needles are inserted. As each needle is inserted the patient should feel them, but initially without pain. However, when the needle reaches the right depth there should be a deep aching sensation. Sometimes the needles are heated or stimulated with electricity after insertion and will retained for about 15-30 minutes.
In an official report, Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials, the WHO (World Health Organization) has listed the following symptoms, diseases and conditions that have been shown through controlled trials to be treated effectively by acupuncture:
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