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 What Acupuncture Is

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese technique which is based on the idea ill health comes from blocked energy that otherwise flows through channels (meridians) to different parts of the body. Energy is known as "qi" which is pronounced "chee." (It is also referred to as "vital energy" and "life force".) There are 361 acupuncture points along 14 different meridians.

Thin disposable needles are used to unblock the energy. Current needles are encased with guiding tubes. A tap shoots the needle into the skin. Reports are that you hardly feel the needles. According to the Wall Street Journal, the risk of infection or othe rcomplications is very low.

Typically, patients require a number of treatments. The cost of acupuncture is generally not covered by insurance.

What Acupuncture Is Proven To Work For

Acupuncture is used to treat illness as well as to maintain health. Studies show that acupuncture is particularly useful to manage pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and digestive difficulty. (For other tips to help manage these situations, see the documents in "To Learn More.")

According to Consumer Reports On Health  "The evidence is pretty clear that acupuncture can stimulate the production of endorphins, natural painkillers from your own brain. It can also send signals along the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, producing glucocorticoids, compounds that suppress inflammation. MRI studies show that acupuncture stimulates brain activity." 

Acupuncture has been shown to be effective for vomiting after surgery or chemotherapy, nausea associated with pregnancy and dental pain Research is ongoing concerning other uses.

Is Acpuncture Safe?

There are few risks ifacupuncture is performed by a trained, experienced professional. There is a slight chance of infection or bleeding at the puncture site.

If your white blood cell count is low, acupunturists have to be very careful about the points they select, to use only clean needles and to be sure the skin is cleaned prior to insertion of any needles. If you have a low white blood cell count, be sure tell the acupunturist. Only work with an acupunturist who is experienced in dealing with these situations.

Acpunturists Who Are Also Medical Doctors

Some acupuncturists are also doctors. According to the Wall Street Journal:

  • There is no evidence that doctors provide better or safer treatment than non-doctors.
  • Doctors often have less training in acupuncture than non-doctor acupuncturists.

How To Choose An Acupuncturist

 When choosing an acupuncturist, look for:

  • A person with a license if your state requires that an acupuncturist be licensed. To determine whether licensure is required in your state, click here. offsite link
  • Certification from a reputable professional organization. For example, certification from one of the following organizations:
    • The National Certification Commission For Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). You can locate local acupuncturists who are certified by NCCAOM at: offsite link. Look for the words "Find A Practitioner". 
    • According to Betsy Smith, Deputy Director of NCCAOM, "It is not only important for a practitioner to have a state license that is current without disciplinary action, it is also critical that the practitioner has met national standards for safe and competent practice. The standard recognized currently by the majority of states is NCCAOM certification (and/or passage of the NCCAOM exams). This assures the healthcare consumer that the practitioner has met the standard for education and examination as other heath care practices require as well." 
    • American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. You can locate a member via offsite link
    • American Association of Acupuncture And Oriental Medicine. You can locate a member at: offsite link
  • A practitioner who is trained and experienced in situations like yours.
  • Also ask:
    • How many sessions will you need?
    • What result can be expected? 
      • What is the best case scenario? 
      • What is the worst case?
    • How much does each session cost?

To find an acupuncturist who is also a doctor, see the website of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture at offsite link

Beware of anyone who promises too much.

How To Locate An Acupuncturist

  • American Academy of Medical Acupuncture offsite link
  • American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine(AAOM) offsite link
  • National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine(NCCAOM) offsite link. To find an acupuncturist, click on the "Find A Practitioner" tab.

NOTE: If money is an issue, consider using a student from a local acupncture school who is supervised by his or her teacher.

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