Acupuncture has slowly become a hot topic in Western countries, gaining popularity as an alternative treatment for everything from chronic pain to digestive issues.
But even though its origins can be traced back thousands of years to Traditional Chinese Medicine, widespread awareness of the benefits and different types of acupuncture remains elusive in many Western societies.
When asked, most people would envision an acupuncture treatment with a patient lying down with tiny needles inserted at various points throughout the body. And while this is a reasonably accurate, if not oversimplified, representation of traditional Chinese acupuncture, it is far from the only style of acupuncture treatment available today.
Perhaps the most widely used and well-known form of acupuncture, traditional Chinese acupuncture focuses on restoring the proper flow of the body’s natural energy force – the Qi – along meridian pathways. TCM believes that imbalances or blockages along these meridians are responsible for several ailments, including acute and chronic pain, gastrointestinal issues, and mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.
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Abdominal acupuncture treatment is a relatively new addition to traditional Chinese acupuncture. Developed by Professor Zhiyun Bo in the early 1970s, abdominal acupuncture treatments focus on the abdominal meridian system (AMS). Dr. Bo’s method has received much praise since its introduction, with patients and practitioners extolling its many benefits, including quick healing and painlessness.
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Like the hand or foot, the ear is also considered a microsystem, a smaller representation of the whole body. But despite its small size, the ear holds more than 200 acupoints reaching organs and systems throughout the body. Using targeted acupoints, acupuncturists can help treat issues ranging from headaches to chronic back pain and nausea. And because so few needles need to be inserted, auricular acupuncture can be an excellent introduction to acupuncture for patients nervous about needles.
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While scalp acupuncture holds its roots in TCM, it is a more contemporary form of acupuncture, combing ancient practices with modern knowledge of neurological and endocrine systems. Scalp acupuncture targets specific points throughout the scalp to help stimulate neurons and energize brain cells that may be functioning to their fullest capacity. Scalp acupuncture has been shown particularly effective for treating patients dealing with post-stroke symptoms and brain-related conditions.
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Like acupuncture, cupping is another ancient TCM practice aimed at restoring the optimal flow of the body’s natural energy force. Following traditional TCM meridians, cupping uses suction to help remove toxins and blockages preventing Qi from flowing smoothly. Often, cupping is used in conjunction with acupuncture treatments; cupping first encourages a decrease in tension and increase in blood flow, followed by acupuncture which helps support the healing process.
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Patients who have not yet undergone acupuncture treatments often worry about the pain. After all, how can dozens of tiny needles inserted into the skin not hurt? If you have been waiting to try acupuncture because you’re concerned it will hurt, you’ll be happy to learn that acupuncture treatments are completely painless. Many patients find the treatments relaxing and even cathartic as they feel the release of blocked energy. Some patients even fall asleep during treatment.
Acupuncture needles are extremely thin and very sharp (less than a quarter of the diameter of a standard sewing needle). Needles are inserted between ¼ and ½ inches into the skin; patients may feel a quick pinch as the needle penetrates the skin, but the sensation is not painful. Mild discomfort may persist for 24 hours after an acupuncture treatment, but once again, not painful.