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Acupuncture

Don't worry, the needles don't hurt. Find pain relief, calm your mind and regulate your qi.

By Zeel Editorial Staff, Last updated: October 3, 2013

Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of proven medicine. Acupuncture uses fine needles to target the nerve meridians that, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, run throughout the body. By stimulating specific points on the nerve meridians, qi is unblocked to flow evenly through the body and health is restored.

The origins of acupuncture: Acupuncture was first practiced in China over 3,000 years ago. In classic Chinese acupuncture, which is the main form of acupuncture, very thin needles are used to tap into the nerve meridians. After insertion, the needles are jiggled, tapped or twirled.

Acupuncture has numerous variants. In Japanese acupuncture, even thinner needles are employed and inserted through a tiny tube for greater precision. In moxibustion, instead of needles, meridian points are stimulated with burning mugwort, a medicinal herb. Electro-acupuncture requires that the needles be stimulated with electric energy instead of manual manipulation. Finally, some acupuncture theories hold that certain body parts, like the ear and hand, contain all meridians and pressure points of the body in miniature. In Korean Hand Therapy, for example, needles and magnets are used on the hand, but affect the entire body.

Benefits Of Acupuncture

Scientists are not entirely certain how acupuncture works. They have theorized that acupucture stimulates the nervous and immune system and lowers blood pressure. Still, acupuncture, which has been accepted and practiced in Asia for a long time, has more recently become an accepted form of treatment in Western countries, especially for pain. Conditions potentially eased by acupuncture include muscular and skeletal pain, headache, insomnia, fibromyalgia, arthritis, PMS, depression, drug addiction and infertility.

What To Expect

During an acupuncture session, your therapist will likely first examine you, taking your pulse, looking at your tongue, your skin and your posture. These all provide clues to your health. You will also discuss your medical issues. The acupuncturist will then ask you to lie down on a table.

Depending on the insertion sites, you may need to change into a gown. He will insert needles into various key meridians of your body, jiggling or twirling them as they are inserted. These needles are as thin as a human hair and most people do not even feel them. On the tip is inserted; at most, you may feel a tiny twinge. The number of needles used depends on the medical issues to be treated. After all needles are placed, they are left in the body for up to an hour. They are then painlessly removed.

Recommended sessions: Because everyone responds to acupuncture differently, there are no set number of sessions.

Preparation: Do not eat for four hours before treatment. Wear loose clothing that allows good access to the knees and elbows, as these are frequent targets for acupuncture needles.

Risks

In rare cases, nerve damage can result from misplaced needles. Reused needles can cause skin or blood infections. Make sure your acupuncturist is using sterile, disposable needles.

Who wouldn't benefit: Acupuncture is not for people seeking a quick fix. In some cases conditions worsen before they get better, or there may be no effect. Many acupuncturists are reluctant to work on women during pregnancy, except in the last month to ease labor.

Celebrity Devotees

Acupuncture has been widely used among the celebrity set. Well-known devotees include Sandra Bullock, Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, Celine Dion and Cher. Mariah Carey credits acupuncture with allowing her to conceive her twins.

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