Acupuncture can enhance the immune system and help with symptom reduction in a variety of disorders in both children and adults. With allergies and back to school illnesses lurking in the air, acupuncture is an effective, research-based alternative to anti-inflammatory medications.
WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?
Acupuncture is a type of physical stimulation, which means it irritates body tissue to ease symptoms of pain, inflammation, and/or nausea. I know, this seems counter intuitive, but the gate control theory of pain suggests that increasing pain by increasing stimulation of nerves, is a way to reduce the perception of pain (Melzack & Wall, 1982). For example, when you stub your toe you grab your foot and apply pressure or when you burn your fingers on a hot surface you put your fingers in your mouth. It’s the same principal as acupuncture, according to the gate control theory.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Acupuncture, in which needles are inserted at specific points on the skin, can help reduce symptoms of disorders. It is based on the premise that the body’s energy flows in 14 distinct channels and a person’s health is dependent on the balance of energy flowing through them (Richardson & Vincent, 1986). Imbalances can be corrected by inserting tiny needles into the skin.
DOES RESEARCH SUPPORT IT?
There are over 4,000 scientific studies published on the efficacy of acupuncture for various disorders from post-traumatic stress to tennis elbow. The research suggests acupuncture can effectively treat symptoms such as pain and nausea. Of course, everyone has a different biochemistry; therefore, not everyone will respond favorably to acupuncture, but this is true for all interventions. The recognition of individual differences has always been a problem in research and immunology.
Other conditions have received attention in research studies and suggest potential areas for the use of acupuncture. Thus, acupuncture is it not limited to pain and nausea, this is just the primary areas research has emphasized and found to be effective.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH ACUPUNCTURE
I’ve been receiving acupuncture for over a year, primarily for allergies, and have found it to be extremely helpful. My sinuses will start to drain immediately after the needles are inserted. The needles stay in for 20-30 minutes and I use that time to meditate. It is a peaceful experience.
Acupuncture provides me with relief from symptoms like sinus pain and pressure, which is medically valuable. Acupuncture is advantageous over other medical interventions such as anti-inflammatory drugs, which have multiple side effects.
Reputable acupuncturists can provide fantastic alternative medical services, especially for children. I recommend someone with a doctorate in acupuncture, such as my acupuncturist, Stephanie McGuirk. Stephanie has studied in China and worked at the KU Integrative Medicine Center. She is extremely knowledgeable and provides a relaxing experience.
Acupuncture. NIH Consensus Statement Online, 1997 Nov 3-5, 15(5):1-34
Melzack, R., & Wall, P.D. (1982). The Challenge of Pain. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Richardson, P. H., & Vincent, C. A. (1986). Acupuncture for the treatment of pain: A review of evaluative research. Pain, 24, 15-40.