Millions of people seek relief from chronic joint pain every year. The standard treatments include anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy and stretching exercises. Acupuncture is increasingly a popular option due to both it’s long tradition of use as well as the limitations of standard medical options.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice focused on correcting the flow of energy (also known as chi) in the body. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine believe there are more than 2,000 acupuncture points in the human body and that these acupuncture points are connected to each other by meridian pathways. It is these pathways that create chi throughout the body and are responsible for overall health. When energy flow in the body is disrupted, disease results. Acupuncturists treat this imbalance of chi by puncturing the skin with very thin needles at specific points. It is believed that the needles help to regulate the body’s chi, and therefore heal the body.
Does Acupuncture Work?
One common criticism of acupuncture in the past was that it was based on traditional chinese meridian theory and not on a validated system of scientific study. This has began to change. There have been many studies done on the effectiveness of acupuncture and recent evidence is promising. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded a scientific study of acupuncture in 2012 and the results were positive. Over a six year period, scientists looked at the data from almost thirty different high quality studies on acupuncture and found that acupuncture was effective in the treatment of chronic pain. Patients treated with acupuncture experienced a 50% reduction in pain, similar to pain relief achieved with conventional medical treatments.
What are the Risks of Acupuncture?
The most common side effects of acupuncture are pain as well as bleeding and bruising where the skin is punctured by acupuncture needles. It is essential that only clean disposable needles are used. The skin should also be disinfected with an alcohol swab before inserting the needle to prevent the spread of infection.
Vickers AJ; Cronin AM; Maschino AC; Lewith G; MacPherson H; Foster NE … Linde K. Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis. Archives of Internal Medicine. October 22, 2012; Volume 172, Issue 19, Pages 1444-1453.