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Many have heard of it. Few know very much about it. Yet, acupuncture is one of the oldest healing arts in the world and has been practiced, in one form or another, for centuries by ancient Chinese as a method of curing a host of ailments.
Acupuncture is known to have a relieving impact on pain. One theory is that the application of fine needles in acupuncture points stimulates the release of chemicals, such as endorphins or opiates, which dull or alleviate pain while releasing hormones, neurotransmitters, and other chemicals that aid in bodies healing or regulating processes.
Today, Americans make as many as 12 million visits per year to acupuncture practitioners, according to the most recent statistics from the Food and Drug Administration. Many people who have experienced acupuncture report relief from pain and a sense of euphoria, or well-being.
There are currently more than 10,000 certified acupuncturists-one-third of them physicians-practicing in this country.
Acupuncture involves the application of extremely fine needles into one or more of the 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body. These points are said to link 12 main and 8 secondary pathways. These channels, or pathways, are called "meridians." The meridians are believed to conduct energy between the body's skin and internal organs.
It is widely believed that acupuncture creates energy which is then conducted by meridians, also called qi (pronounced "chee"), this then coordinates the balance between one's spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical state. Acupuncture works to balance the opposing physiological energy forces called yin and yang. When a living organism is healthy, the yin and yang forces are believed to be in a state of harmony.
Does acupuncture hurt?
Acupuncture needles are so incredibly small and thin (up to 50 times thinner than a standard hypodermic needle), they are barely noticeable when inserted. Some people who experience acupuncture report feeling nothing at all; other report feeling a mild discomfort, followed by a mild sensation of cramping, tingling, numbness, warmth, or heaviness. Acupuncture needles are normally left in place for 20-40 minutes.
Acupressure, another alternative therapy rooted in ancient Eastern medicine, involves exerting pressure on specific body points by use of the fingers of the hand, palm, or elbows.