Acupuncture and Pain
Overview & Description
Acupuncture literally means needle piercing. It is the practice of inserting very fine needles into the skin to stimulate specific points. This stimulation balances the movement of energy in the body.
Who is a candidate for the procedure?
When it is practiced by a qualified practitioner, acupuncture is safe for everyone. Young children often respond very well. It can even be used on pregnant women to stimulate labor and reduce labor pain. However, unnecessary procedures should be avoided during pregnancy.
The most common use of acupuncture is to treat muscle and joint pain. The technique is often applied for arthritis, back pain, sports injuries, and other similar problems.
How is the procedure performed?
Every acupuncture treatment begins with four types of examinations. These are:
To receive a treatment, the person lies down on a table. He or she needs to remove enough clothing for the acupuncturist to reach the key points on the body. Very fine, sterile, stainless steel needles are inserted into the skin at the relevant points. Because the needles are so thin, they do not cause any bleeding. Other techniques can also be used as part of the acupuncture treatment. These include:
Preparation & Expectations
What happens right after the procedure?
A person may feel a pinprick sensation followed by a tingling or numbness when the needles are inserted. The amount of sensation will depend on the point being treated and the depth to which the needle is inserted. Needles can be inserted and removed in seconds. They can also be left in place for up to a half hour. The length of treatment depends on the type of illness that is involved. The person may have immediate pain relief. Other benefits usually take a couple of days to appear.
Home Care and Complications
What happens later at home?
Some people feel no different after treatment. Others report feeling sleepy or a little "spaced out." It is important for the individual to pay attention to her or her reactions and allow time for the treatment to take effect.
What are the potential complications after the procedure?
The following complications may occur after acupuncture:
Any indication of infection at the sites where the needles were inserted should be reported to the practitioner. Signs of infection include:
Author:Dr. Karen Wolfe, MBBS, MA
Editor:Slon, Stephanie, BA
Reviewer:Alison Kallman, MD
The One Spirit Encyclopedia of Complementary Health. Published by Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd, 2000