What's the Point?
acupuncture is touted for its power to treat pain, depression, and
addiction. so what really happens when you get stuck?
Let’s start with the traditional Chinese
explanation: The body contains as many as 20 invisible pathways, called
meridians. Qi (pronounced chee), a form of energy, flows
constantly through these pathways. When meridians are obstructed by poor
diet, bad posture, or unhealthy habits, qi builds up in some places and
is depleted in others, leading to illness and pain. Some 365 acupuncture
points on the skin connect with the meridians. By gently inserting
needles in a select few of these points, acupuncturists remove the
obstructions and restore the flow of qi.
American medical researchers have not been able to link the meridians to
the body’s network of blood vessels or any other observable system, nor
can they tell exactly what qi might be. But imaging studies of the
nervous system have shown that the insertion of needles triggers the
flow of electromagnetic signals through the body. These signals, in
turn, stimulate the release of natural painkillers and other substances
that can help the body heal.
What acupuncture can treat|
The World Health Organization
recognizes acupuncture’s effectiveness against 28 common ailments. But
in the United States, it is often used for these four:
pain: More than 60 percent of people who see acupuncturists are
looking for pain relief — usually the kind that Western medicine cannot
readily cure, says Lixing Lao, M.D., director of traditional Chinese
medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in Baltimore.
That includes back, neck, and arthritis pain, migraines, menstrual
cramps, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
depression: In a small 1998 study at the University of Arizona of
women with major depression, two-thirds of the subjects experienced a
profound improvement after acupuncture, which is comparable to the
effectiveness of psychotherapy or antidepressant drugs. Larger studies
are now under way. “Acupuncture’s efficacy hasn’t been conclusively
established,” says John J. B. Allen, the professor of psychology who led
the Arizona study, “but in our trial many people showed quite a bit of
addiction: Auricular acupuncture, which involves placing the
needles in the outer ear, is being used at substance-abuse programs in
the United States to treat addiction to cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs.
Acupuncture alone has not been proved to end addictions, but studies
suggest it can be beneficial when used along with counseling, 12-step
programs (such as Alcoholics Anonymous), and medication. In one study
published in the American Journal of Public Health, 40 percent of
smokers who received acupuncture and also attended an educational
program were able to quit for at least 18 months. Only 22 percent of
those who took the classes but had placebo acupuncture were able to kick
the habit for that long.
infertility: This has been one of the fastest-growing areas of
treatment since the 2002 publication of a German study that found that
more than 40 percent of women undergoing in vitro fertilization who
received acupuncture became pregnant (compared with 26 percent of those
without acupuncture). Doctors at the Center for Reproductive Medicine
and Infertility (CRMI) at the New York–Presbyterian Weill Cornell
Medical Center have observed that acupuncture can increase blood flow to
the uterine wall, making it more receptive to an embryo. Still, Zev
Rosenwaks, M.D., director of the CRMI, says that “while there are a
great number of biological explanations for acupuncture’s benefits to
fertility, there has yet to be a definitive clinical study.”
how to pick an acupuncturist|
Most states require that
acupuncturists be certified in order to practice. For certification, an
acupuncturist must be trained in Oriental medicine, have studied human
anatomy, and have passed an exam in acupuncture. To find out if a
practitioner is certified, go to the website of the National
Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine: www.nccaom.org.
More than 7,500 physicians in the United States have had training in
medical acupuncture. They are often a good choice for those who are
leery of alternative medicine. You can find a list of them at the
American Academy of Medical Acupuncture website:
what to expect||
In addition to taking a medical history, acupuncturists ask about
lifestyle. Questions may include: How strong is your appetite? How well
are you sleeping? How much do you sweat? They observe your posture,
listen to your voice, and assess your mood. They will examine your
injury or condition but also take your pulse at several spots on your
wrists to gauge your qi balance.
“A good acupuncturist must be a detective,” says Meg Richichi, an
acupuncturist in New York City, “not someone who just puts needles in at
Depending on the diagnosis and the practitioner’s preferred technique,
anywhere from 1 to 30 needles may be used. They are usually inserted
between an eighth of an inch and one inch deep, and most patients feel
only a slight discomfort—a tingling feeling known as deqi (da-chee). The
acupuncturist may twist the needles or flick them to increase deqi. The
needles are typically left in for 20 to 35 minutes. Most people say they
feel relaxed during treatment, and some even fall asleep, says Nancy
Rakela, an acupuncturist in Berkeley, California.
One caveat for first-timers: Do not expect to feel significantly better
after one treatment. Most practitioners see patients for four to six
weeks — usually once a week, but two or three times if a condition is
acute. “I like to definitely see results after six to eight treatments,”
says Brian Carter, a San Diego acupuncturist.
The cost varies, but the initial visit will probably run from $90 to
$140, and subsequent treatments from $60 to $90. Some insurers — Oxford
Health Plans and Kaiser Permanente, for example — cover at least part of
four common forms of acupuncture
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM): By far the most popular type of
acupuncture in the United States, TCM borrows from many traditional models
of Oriental medicine and is taught in most Western acupuncture schools.
It's used to treat pain, depression, nausea, infertility, addiction, and
Korean hand: Fingertip pressure alone or sometimes needles are used
only on the meridians of the hands. This technique can be the least scary
for many people; it's often used for pain relief in children.
Japanese acupuncture: Somewhat gentler than standard TCM, Japanese
acupuncture calls for very shallow insertion of the needles for a
relatively short time. This is another good choice for children and the
needle-shy. It is used to address the full range of ailments.
Auricular acupuncture: This technique concentrates on the outer
ear, where there are more than 100 different acupuncture points. It is
often used to help treat addictions to cigarettes, alcohol, and other
article courtesy of real simple magazine
womensdeals.com > health >