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When someone mentions acupuncture to you, what comes to mind? We bet that right now you’re thinking of a person covered in needles looking something like a porcupine, right? If that’s all you know about acupuncture, then you might not really understand how acupuncture works and what potential benefits it can bring to those who use it.

Whether you get acupuncture treatment for vision improvement, for pain relief, for weight loss or any other reason, the guiding principles are basically the same. Let’s learn a little more about it.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a form of medical treatment that has its roots in ancient Chinese medicine. It involves the insertion of fine needles into certain anatomical points in the body for various therapeutic purposes, some for treatment of problems and others for prevention of problems.

While some may think of acupuncture as a fringe treatment practiced only by small private alternative clinics, it has long been held up as a path of treatment in Australia and elsewhere in the world, including in the public healthcare system.

There is no need for anyone to be under any illusions, however. Acupuncture is not generally considered to be a mainstream avenue of general medical treatment. You won’t find it being practiced in the emergency rooms of the world, for example. It is most often used as a form of complementary care to enrich other treatment programs.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

The general idea behind acupuncture is to stimulate sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles. The result of this stimulation is the body engaging more rapidly in the production of its own natural substances that then aid recovery and treatment. For instance, probing the right location might stimulate the development of endorphins which then go toward pain relief.

While in western terms we may understand the work of acupuncture as the stimulation of production of bodily chemicals, the traditional Chinese understanding was about correcting the flow of “Qi’ (chee), or the body’s life force. Ancient practitioners believed that when Qi couldn’t flow through the body properly, it created sickness. Therefore, using acupuncture to restore that flow meant someone could be restored to health.

When using acupuncture, practitioners will typically begin by asking the patient about where in their body they are experiencing discomfort. Once they’ve established all they need to know, they will begin needle preparation and insertion. Sometimes after the needles are inserted the practitioner may also gently move the needles or even apply some electrical pulses to them. They usually remain in place for up to 20 minutes before finally being removed.

How Can Acupuncture Benefit Patients?

Acupuncture can benefit patients in a number of ways. It should be understood, however, that acupuncture doesn’t work for everyone in the same way or to the same extent. This is why it is not prescribed as a main avenue of treatment, but rather as a complementary one. Having said that, it provides a wonderful chemical-free alternative to harsh pill-based solutions that doctors may usually prescribe to patients.

There are few risky side-effects unless the patient has a pacemaker or a bleeding disorder. It also isn’t usually recommended for pregnant women. Where you usually see a laundry list of side effects on the side of a medicine bottle, you will not with acupuncture. When done properly and under the right conditions, it can provide fast and effective pain relief, not to mention potentially helping with vision, osteoarthritis, respiratory disorders and relief from the negative side-effects of cancer treatments like chemotherapy.

It’s not necessarily for everyone, but it’s an avenue that everyone should consider at least once.