Does Acupuncture actually work or is it a myth?

Acupuncture is a craze in today’s world, but does it actually work and what is the evidence to support it? Celebrities far and wide are promoting it to help weight loss, beat stress, and to relieve pain. Where did this strange act of needling our body come from?

Acupuncture originated in China over 3000 years ago. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, illness and pain occur if the body’s “qi” or vital energy cannot flow freely. Physical or emotional stress, infection or poor nutrition can contribute to this. Traditionalist acupuncturists believe that by inserting an ultra-fine sterile needle into specific acupuncture points, the flow of energy can be restored by triggering the natural healing process.

Acupuncture can be a controversial topic – does it work? Is it all psychological? I strongly agree with the Chinese theory that the physical, emotional and mental state are interdependent. If one is out of sync, it can affect the other states. I have not yet been persuaded that acupuncture helps relieve stress, aids weight loss, promotes conception, and facilitates hair growth…

From my clinical practice, I have seen the positive effects of acupuncture where it stimulates healing following a physical injury, and it relieves pain. In the western world, many studies have been carried out to try and understand how acupuncture works. The effectiveness of acupuncture has been tested using functional MRI by capturing pictures of the brain whilst patients experienced a pain stimuli with and without acupuncture. According to researchers, after having acupuncture, activation of brain areas involved in pain perception was shown to be significantly reduced as was the areas governing patients’ expectations of pain.

Acupuncture does not work for everyone. It is however very safe and can produce excellent results when used in conjunction with traditional physiotherapy. I have given acupuncture to treat people with neck spasms, shoulder pains, hamstring injuries and the outcomes has been successful. Have I convinced you that acupuncture is worth giving a go?

Written by Hily Perpinyal, Chartered Physiotherapist

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