Acupuncture is considered an alternative medicine methodology that originated in ancient China. The practice consists of treating patients by manipulating thin and solid needles that have been inserted into certain points of the skin. By stimulating these specific points of the skin, it’s believed that it can correct certain imbalances in the flow qi, which is the name for meridians.
In Chinese medicine, a meridian is a set of pathways in the body along which vital energy is said to flow. There are twelve such pathways, each being associated with specific organs. The belief is that qi, which flows through the body, regulates bodily functions and disruptions of this flow are thought to be the reason behind disease and other ailments. Acupuncture then, describes the process of correcting these imbalances by stimulating certain anatomical locations by penetrating the skin with thin metal needles.
Acupuncture has been practiced in China as early as the Shang Dynasty, around 1600-100 BCE. It is believed that acupuncture has its origins in bloodletting and demonology. Fortunately, the latter have both been left in past. But why has something that was alongside such archaic practices in the past remained in use till today. Enough so that the practice not only spread across Asia, but made its way to the West.
The only answer must be that people have found some benefit from its use. For it to be both so prominent and prolifically used in society today, there must be hard proof towards its benefits. The problem though, is that it isn’t as provable as one might assume. Scientists have had an extremely difficult time finding for certain that acupuncture does in fact have health benefits associated with its use.
Is It Safe?
It’s one thing to be skeptical of the benefits of acupuncture, but many people are uncertain if its use is even safe. Like any alternative medical practice, there are definite potential dangers associated with it. But those dangers are by all means considered minor, unless the practitioner clearly does certain things wrong. In which case you can’t rightly blame the practice itself, but have to place the blame on the acupuncturist. Just like if a doctor sowed you up and left an instrument inside you. You can’t blame all of medicine, but the individual who didn’t use caution and care.
There are many ways in which an acupuncturist can neglect certain safety procedure. If clean needles are not used, infections such as hepatitis are the most common of all risks. The safest needles to use are disposable ones, but many practitioners choose to clean and reuse their needles.
Another hazard to be aware of are for patients who have certain bleeding disorders. Small needle punctures can bleed profusely, and compound that over dozens of times over your body, and needle-borne infections become a concern.
Another danger is if the needle enters too deeply into the body, many risks arise hen this occurs. You can damage certain vital organs, or if entered into the skull, can even cause strokes or brain damage. If a needle punctures or severs a nerve, permanent nerve damage can result.
Skeptics of the ancient needle treatment have long stated that acupuncture is nothing more than an elaborate placebo affect. In reality, very little evidence backs up the worth of its use. However, countless people who receive this form of treatment will swear by it. Yet, scientists and skeptics are all of the same mind that those receiving it truly believe it will work, thus their mind and body follow their beliefs. The bases for what the placebo affect entails.
So all in all, the disbelievers simply state that it should be disregarded since there is no viable evidence to link towards it. For the most part, this would be enough to shut down any crackpot theory on healing. But the fact remains that acupuncture has been around for thousands of years, and its still used today. Countless people will swear by it, and even though there is no evidence towards disproving it, there are mountains of evidence where people believe it has worthwhile affects.
Now there may not be heaps of scientific evidence pointing towards acupunctures real benefits. Science cannot trace the qi that acupuncture supposedly reroutes throughout the body. But one thing is for certain, people swear by it, and its not them lying about how it makes them feel. Alleviating pain is alleviating pain, regardless of how it happened.
Since the 1990s, many trials were given where around 18,000 people suffering from chronic pain of various sorts were all given two types of acupuncture treatments, one being genuine, while the other was a counterfeit meaning the needles were placed randomly. This was to test to see if the genuine test had better results for reducing pain compared to the counterfeit version. This was all with acupuncture being believed to be a placebo in mind.
The results gathered, contrary to what was supposed, were rather surprising. 50% of the people who received the genuine treatment said they found pain relief from its use. While only 30% of the people receiving the counterfeit version found pain relief. This is surprising, as most clinicians and patients would say a 50% success rate versus a 30% success rate for something is actually pretty good.
In the end, there is one strong argument that points toward the use of acupuncture… for some. Even if there is no real scientific evidence, and lets say for sake of argument, that there is relief from pain solely due to the placebo affect. Well, if pain once persisted, and no longer does, does it matter if the result is solely the patients mind? Is there less pain felt in that sense compared to prescribing pain medication? What’s the harm in allowing a person to think something works, when as far as they are concerned, it does.
Rather than worry over whether qi exists and is measurable, perhaps we should better try to understand the strength of the human mind. If we can trick ourselves into thinking we are getting better, maybe we should try to unlock that mystery. Because if the human mind is all that is needed to heal our bodies… how wonderful would that be? What a great breakthrough that would be remembered as, yet, we still have those trying to disprove the cause of, rather than figuring out the result. How is the mind so capable that simply thinking we are getting better allows for it? In the end, if it’s helping people, and obviously has for thousands of years, there’s no need to try and bash it as mysticism and nonsense. Take it for what it is, an instrument, even a tool, that does nothing more than potentially help people.
The author of this article is Damien S. Wilhelmi. If you enjoyed this piece you can follow me on twitter @JakabokBotch. If you are looking for home remedies or more information on natural health and holistic healing, please see this website