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Advantages & Disadvantages of Acupuncture

by
author image Amy Harris
Based in western New York, Amy Harris began writing for Demand Media and Great Lakes Brewing News in 2010. Harris holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Penn State University; she taught high school math for several years and has also worked in the field of instructional design.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Acupuncture
Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles onto the skin's surface. Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

In the United States, acupuncture is an integral part of complementary and alternative medicine, incorporating techniques from Chinese, Japanese and Korean traditions. Some Westerners are skeptical of the practice, while others swear by it, reporting a plethora of beneficial effects. When properly performed, acupuncture is a safe practice; however, inform your physician of any alternative medicine procedures you pursue, and don’t discontinue any prescription medications before speaking to your doctor.

Procedure

Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles about as slender as a human hair into the skin on specific locations of the body. The acupuncturist may simply leave the needles in for a period of time, or may manipulate them with his hands or via electrical stimulation. Different people experience acupuncture in different ways. Many report no discomfort whatsoever during needle insertion, while others report pain. Some people feel a burst of energy following the treatment, while others become relaxed. Follow-up treatments typically occur over a time span of several weeks or months.

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Theory

Among the oldest healing practices in the world, acupuncture dates back thousands of years. It stems from ancient Chinese medicine and didn’t spread to the United States until the latter half of the 20th century. Acupuncture practitioners and patients believe that the procedure promotes the vital flow of energy through all areas of the body.Researchers speculate that acupuncture may aid in the release of the body’s natural painkillers as well as chemicals regulating blood pressure.

Uses

A primary reason that people seek acupuncture is to cope with pain. The practice can help mitigate symptoms of various types of pain, including back, neck, joint and dental pain as well as migraines, fibromyalgia and arthritis. It may reduce nausea after patients undergo surgery or receive chemotherapy, as well as aid in smoking cessation and coping with the bothersome symptoms of allergies and menopause. Some couples even seek acupuncture as a means of increasing fertility. However, acupuncture isn’t a diagnostic procedure – that is, it cannot diagnose a disease, injury or other condition, but is instead a means of coping with known maladies.

Advantages

Unlike undergoing surgery or even completing a drug regimen, acupuncture is a noninvasive treatment, with little to no side effects or recovery time. It may therefore reduce dependence on medications as well as the need for unpleasant medical procedures. Acupuncture is suitable for almost all people, regardless of physical condition, with the possible exception of those suffering from bleeding disorders or taking blood thinners. The practice takes a holistic approach in attempting to eliminate the root cause of the malady, rather than simply mitigating the symptoms.

Disadvantages

Some patients report minor soreness for a period of time immediately following treatment, although it is rarely a cause for concern. In many cases, acupuncture cannot possibly cure the physical ailment, as in the case of broken bones; at best, it can aid in alleviating the accompanying pain in such circumstances. Acupuncture typically involves regularly scheduled follow-up treatments, which may prove a hassle for some patients. Treatments can be costly and often aren’t covered by health insurance providers, and results aren’t guaranteed, possibly leading some patients to believe they’ve wasted their time and money. And although acupuncture produces little to no side effects when delivered properly by a licensed acupuncturist, unqualified practitioners can deliver substandard care, resulting in pain from improper needle placement and even infections from unsterilized needles.

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