The idea of letting someone stick needles into your body as a treatment for a health condition may seem odd to many who have grown up in the culture of Western medicine. But this practice, known as acupuncture, has been around for more than 2,500 years, and more and more people are learning that it can, in fact, be an effective treatment for what’s ailing them.
The idea behind acupuncture, which is thought to have originated in China, is that there is energy flowing through your body, and if that flow is blocked, pain or illness results. The role of the acupuncturist is to reestablish the flow by placing thin needles into your body at strategic points, called acupoints. To explain acupuncture from a “Western” standpoint, it seems it may stimulate specific muscles and nerves, which causes changes that reduce pain and symptoms and promote healing.
In June 1979, the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a symposium on acupuncture in Beijing, China. While much information was recorded about acupuncture and some of the conditions that can be improved using this treatment, the conclusion was that there were few well-designed clinical trials with appropriate controls.
Nearly 25 years later, in 2003, WHO published a report containing the results of 255 trials concerning acupuncture and its efficacy at treating various conditions.
Currently, acupuncture often is used in combination with more traditional Western forms of therapy in an attempt to ease various ailments. This is why acupuncture is called complementary medicine. If you decide to try acupuncture, always look for a licensed or a medical acupuncturist.
Hong Zhang is an acupuncturist at GHS. She is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and is a charter member of the South Carolina Oriental Medicine Association. She has more than 30 years of experience practicing acupuncture.