Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice that involves the insertion of very fine steel needles into the skin to stimulate specific points all over the body. This stimulation is thought to activate the central nervous system, releasing chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain that can boost the body's natural healing capacity and promote physical and emotional well-being. Acupuncture is primarily used as a complementary therapy to relieve a health problem or symptom, such as pain. Western medical acupuncture (dry needling) is the use of acupuncture after a medical diagnosis. The goal of acupuncture is to balance the vital forces known as Qi, which are responsible for different health problems.
Professionals must be licensed to perform acupuncture procedures, and scientific studies have confirmed its effectiveness for some conditions. Acupuncture carries little risk of side effects, and it can be used to treat a wide range of health conditions. Western professionals view acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) advises people not to use acupuncture as a substitute for conventional medical aid. Therefore, acupuncture aims to help people achieve balance or qi and, as a result, to alleviate many ailments. Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique to balance the flow of energy or life force known as chi or qi (chee), which is believed to flow through the body's pathways (meridians).
These naturally released substances are likely to be responsible for the beneficial effects of acupuncture. Each person who performs acupuncture has a unique style, often combining aspects of Eastern and Western medicine approaches. The benefits of acupuncture are sometimes difficult to measure, but many people find it useful as a means of managing a variety of painful conditions. The risks of acupuncture are low if you have a competent, certified acupuncturist using sterile needles. The cost of an acupuncture session depends on where you live and whether or not your doctor contracts your insurance. Acupuncture has a calming effect, so it's recommended that you be taken home after your appointments, especially the first one.
Ask your acupuncturist and insurance company about coverage, including the number of treatments your plan will cover.