Lyn W. Freeman
Acupuncture is one of the most researched forms of complementary medicine in the world today; because of this, it is becoming more accepted by traditional medicine. One of the reasons for its acceptance is that its underlying mechanisms are defined, (i.e., its effects on the nervous system and on the endogenous opioids can be used to explain pain-relieving, biochemical, and systemic changes).
Much of the research on acupuncture is methodologically flowed; nonetheless, findings suggest that it is a potent intervention with few side effects for pain and nausea, symptoms of drug detoxification, and other issues inadequately addressed by traditional medical approaches.
The history, philosophy, mechanisms, and outcomes related to acupuncture are fascinating topics of study, shedding light on one of the oldest systems of healing in the world today. The reader is encouraged to acquaint him or herself with the fruits of this ancient discipline.
Acupuncture involves stimulating specific anatomic points in the body for therapeutic purposes. It is believed that acupuncture works by correcting the balance of qi in the body. Qi flows through the 12 major energy pathways called meridians, each linked to specific internal organs or organ systems and 365 to 2000 acupoints.
Historically, acupuncture evolved as one component of the complex tradition known as Chinese medicine. Widespread awareness of acupuncture come to North America in 1971 when James Reston described how his postoperative pain from an emergency appendectomy was alleviated by acupuncture. His description was published in the New York Times.
Bioelectrical properties of acupuncture were identified when low resistance points on the body were found to correlate with the traditional acupuncture channels. Later, research revealed that radioactive tracers injected into classical acupuncture points were diffused along the pathways of the classical acupuncture channels.
Acupuncture has been researched and demonstrated (to varying degrees) to alleviate low back pain, headache, pain from osteoarthritis, neck pain, musculoskeletal and myofascial pain, organic pain, and pain before and after surgery. Acupuncture has also been used for the treatment of postoperative and chemotherapy-induced nausea, neurologic dysfunction, gynecologic and obstetric conditions, asthma, and substance abuse.