Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicinal practice that has been used for more than 4,000 years. It was approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1979 as a practical treatment for a range of diseases and sicknesses.
Let’s find out more about the power of acupuncture as an alternative treatment for a wide range of medical conditions.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical wisdom practice using very thin needles (0.1 – 0.3 mm in diameter or 6-8 times smaller than a common syringe). The needles are buried at various points of the body along the meridian system to balance the body and relieve symptoms of sicknesses. The mechanism of acupuncture stimulates the flow of energy and secretion of various substances, including:
• Stimulating secretion of endorphins that relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
• Stimulating secretion of neurotransmitters that reduce pain and muscle spasms and help nervous system functioning.
• Stimulating blood flow in acupuncture areas and throughout the body.
• Loosening muscles at trigger points and chronic muscle pain points.
• Adjusting immune system functioning.
Medical conditions that can be treated with acupuncture
- Pains such as headache, migraine, neck and shoulder pain, and chronic pains in various parts of the body, including from surgery.
- Neurological diseases such as herniated discs, spinal nerves and paralysis; helping patients recover faster when treated in conjunction with modern medicine.
- Musculoskeletal diseases such as osteoarthritis and chronic myofascial pain syndrome.
- Diseases related to the immune system such as allergies and low white blood cells, among others.
- Cancer – Acupuncture can be combined with other treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation to reduce nausea and vomiting.
- Restore brain functioning following stroke.
- Other conditions on a case-by-case basis such as menstrual pain and infertility.
Preparation for acupuncture
- Always eat a regular meal before having acupuncture. If your stomach is empty, it may cause fainting.
- Get enough rest.
- Wear comfortable clothes that are not too tight.
- If abnormal symptoms occur during treatment, such as pain or fainting, tell the acupuncturist immediately.
Who should not undergo acupuncture?
- Those with blood clotting disorders and those who take blood clot-dissolving medicines.
- Those with conditions that require surgery.
- Pregnant women.
- Those with a pacemaker. Acupuncture involves natural electrical stimulation which may interfere with the functioning of a pacemaker.
Side effects and risks of acupuncture
Although acupuncture is an alternative treatment that has low risks and few side effects, it can be dangerous in the following ways:
- Bleeding and bruising caused by one of the needles piercing a vein under the skin. This symptom can be stopped by pressing a cotton ball down on the affected area.
- Fainting caused by fear of needles or general worry. The patient will feel better after resting.
- Infections such as hepatitis and HIV caused by unsterilized needles or reusing needles. Avoid this by choosing a quality medical facility.
Although acupuncture is proven to be an effective treatment for many sicknesses and has only mild side effects, it is still considered an alternative treatment. Patients should consult their doctor before deciding to undergo acupuncture treatment, especially those with severe or chronic symptoms. Each person's response to acupuncture will be different and there is no guarantee it will have the desired effect. As such, treatment with acupuncture is recommended in conjunction with modern medicine.
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• Bangkok Hospital
• Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital
• Thai Traditional and Integrated Medicine Hospital, Ministry of Public Health
• Synphaet Hospital
• Pobpad website