Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical procedure that relieves pain and treats disease by restoring the normal flow of energy through the body. A typical acupuncture treatment involves the insertion of a dozen or so hair-thin needles into specific points that connect with deeper organs and tissues elsewhere in the body. The World Health Organization (WHO), the health branch of the United Nations, lists more than 40 conditions for which acupuncture may be useful.

Acupuncture originated in China thousands of years ago, but just because this therapy has its roots in ancient history doesn't mean that it's primitive. Traditional Chinese medicine, which developed the practice of acupuncture, is a highly sophisticated medical discipline based on the concept of Qi (pronounced "chee"), the life energy that flows through everyone. When Qi is blocked by stress, fatigue, poor diet, and other disturbances, the result is discomfort or disease. The goal of acupuncture is to restore the flow of Qi, bringing the body into healthy balance.

Researchers have identified several physiological mechanisms to explain the effects of acupuncture. First, acupuncture stimulates electromagnetic signals in the body to be relayed at a greater rate than normal. Some of these signals start the flow of pain-killing bio-chemicals such as endorphins, while others mobilize immune system cells to specific sites that are injured or vulnerable to disease. Placing needles at specific acupuncture points also activates opioids in the brain that relieve pain and promote sleep.

Finally, acupuncture promotes the release of neurotransmitters and hormones that affect the body's organ systems in beneficial ways. Some of these chemicals help restore balance to the immune system. Others affect basic metabolic functions such as blood pressure, blood flow, body temperature, and blood sugar levels.

Though it is most frequently used for pain relief, acupuncture's wide-ranging effects make it a useful therapy for conditions affecting the digestive system, musculoskeletal system, respiratory system, nervous system, and more.These conditions include the following:
  • Digestive
    Abdominal pain, Constipation, Diarrhea, Hyperacidity, Indigestion

  • Eye-Ear-Throat
    Cataracts, Gingivitis, Poor vision, Tinnitis, Toothache

  • Musculoskeletal
    Arthritis, Back pain, Muscle cramping, Muscle pain and weakness, Neck pain, Sciatica

  • Respiratory
    Asthma, Bronchitis, Common cold, Sinusitis, Smoking cessation, Tonsillitis

  • Emotional
    Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia, Nervousness, Neurosis

  • Gynecological
    Infertility, Menopausal symptoms, Premenstrual symptoms

  • Neurological
    Headaches, Migraines, Neurogenic bladder dysfunction, Parkinson's disease, Postoperative pain, Stroke

  • Miscellaneous
    Addiction control, Athletic performance, Blood pressure regulation
The more severe the pain or illness, the more severe will be the necessary changes. These may involve breaking bad habits, or acquiring some new and better ones.
Peter McWilliams, Life 101

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