Acupuncture, the 3,000 year old healing technique of Traditional Chinese Medicine, has experienced a surge in popularity in the United States. According to recent statistics from the National Health Interview Survey, more than 14 million Americans have tried acupuncture. And it’s no wonder why — acupuncture was found to have relieved pain by about 50% in a review of 29 studies. The World Health Organization even endorses acupuncture for the treatment of at least two dozen conditions.
The traditional theory underlying acupuncture is that there are over 2,000 points on the human body that connect with 20 pathways, or meridians. These meridians are channels through which life energy, or Qi, flow. Blockages occurring along these meridians cause buildup of energy in some places, with other places in the body experiencing shortages.
The energy flow of Qi through the body is said to determine how we act, how we feel, and how physical symptoms and illnesses manifest in our bodies. Acupuncture uses thin needles, inserted in the body at strategic points, called acupressure points, which release the blockages and restore the proper flow of Qi.
However, the acupuncture being practiced in hospitals and doctors offices does not necessarily use the traditional principles of energy flow to guide their practice. Scientists have been trying to figure out the biological mechanism of acupuncture for years. One of the leading theories holds that it works by stimulating neurohormonal pathways. In other words, the needles trigger nerves, which trigger the brain to release pain reducing hormones.
Despite what little skepticism remains, there is no doubt that it is effective in treating pain and other conditions. It is being adopted by the medical community at an ever growing rate, as more than 3,000 U.S. physicians have integrated acupuncture into their clinical practices.
Choosing to undergo acupuncture therapy at the office of a practitioner of traditional or natural medicine in order to treat chronic pain has many other added benefits. Acupuncture can actually be used to help with eating better, diet and exercise, spiritual healing, and wisdom and compassion.
Conceptualizing energy flow throughout the body is a helpful tool for maintaining balance in our physical and spiritual lives, as well as managing pain or other conditions. Thinking about our bodies as the respected hosts to our life energy promotes enhanced self-regard and better self-care.