Acupuncture and acupressure

Acupuncture and acupressure are based on ancient Japanese and Chinese medicine. In acupuncture, special needles are inserted into points just under the skin to promote pain relief and healing. In acupressure, pressure is placed onsimilar points for the same purposes. Both systems are based on a belief thathealth relies on maintaining a balanced flow of qi, (also referred toas chi), a vital life energy present in all living organisms. Qi supposedly circulates along 12 major energy pathways in the body, called meridians. Each is linked to specific organs and systems in the body. Within the meridian system there are over one thousand acupoints, which are specificanatomical locations that can be stimulated to control the flow of qi.

Millions of people have used acupuncture and acupressure for many health conditions. The treatment is often used in conjunction with more conventional methods and has gained wide acceptance. The most studied mechanism is the stimulation of acupoints using needles, which are manipulated manually or with electrical stimulation. Other stimulation techniques include pressure (acupressure), heat, lasers, and moxibustion (the burning of an herb at or near certainsites on the body).

The purpose of acupuncture and acupressure is to promote the body's own healing power. Conditions that are said to benefit from these treatments include the effects of daily stress, headaches, neck and shoulder pain, aches and pains, allergies, menstrual difficulties, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, digestive problems, nausea, and back pain. Acupuncture and acupressure may work by stimulating the release of the body's natural pain-killing chemicals, called endorphins.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles, made of stainless steel,gold, or other metals, into acupoints. The needles can be heated, attached toa mild electric current, or twirled continuously with the hand. Some needlesare left in place for only a few minutes, while others remain for days. Painduring treatment should be minimal. There may be a slight pricking sensationwhen a needle is inserted but this does not last long. If there is some discomfort, it can be relieved by a slight change in the position of the needle.

During acupressure, light to medium pressure is applied to an acupoint and itis rotated in a tight circle. Primarily, this is done with the fingers, thumbs, and hands. Sometimes the elbows or knees are used for key pressure points. Since the most reactive points are tender or sensitive when pressed, this response helps to determine the right location. If the response cannot be felt, the pressure point location may not be correct or the pressure may not be strong enough. The sensations felt during an acupressure treatment should fallsomewhere between pleasure and pain. Acupressure on a single point can lastthirty seconds, five minutes, or be continued for twenty minutes in one-minute sequences with rests in between. The length of the massage depends on the tolerance of the patient and on the type of acupressure.

There are instances where more traditional Western medicine is the treatmentof choice, including life threatening infection, severe trauma, or the need for surgical procedures, such as open heart surgery. This understanding has led to the practice of both systems side by side in some places, with the strengths of each system complementing the weaknesses of the other.

Before the first treatment, an acupuncturist obtains a thorough medical history and studies the patient carefully. All aspects of the individual are considered. The practitioner will observe the person's tone of voice and body language, as well as discussing many aspects of health, including eating habits,sensitivity to temperature, emotional distress, and urine color. Before receiving acupressure, patients are usually asked why they want acupressure, and are also asked about their current physical condition, medical history, and any areas of specific pain.

Since acupuncture and acupressure treatments are individualized to each patient, care afterwards will depend on the condition being treated and the patient's response. The practitioner may recommend changes in diet, exercise, and lifestyle to improve the patient's condition. The number of treatments dependon the patient and the skills of the practitioner.

While acupuncture and acupressure may be used in combination with other formsof therapy, they should not be used as a replacements for necessary medicaltreatment. Serious side effects are unusual, but with acupuncture localized congestion is frequently reported after needle insertion. Less commonly reported adverse effects may include fainting, black and blue marks (hematoma formation), and a collapsed lung.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

The Content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of Content found on the Website.