Acupuncture: A Proven Form Of Alternative Medicine
Learn About the Ancient Practice
1 December, 2010 by

Conventional western medicine has its good points . . . but it's also got its limitations.

And western medicine's biggest limitation is the blinders it wears when it comes to other forms of healing. There's a world of healing wisdom out there. Many forms of alternative medicine. But too often medical researchers, doctors and institutions choose to ignore it, limiting our options when it comes to getting the healthcare we need.

One of these "alternative" approaches to medicine is acupuncture. Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years, much longer than conventional medicine. Acupuncture is effective, safe, painless, and supported by research. Furthermore - unlike many conventional medical approaches - acupuncture has no side effects.

Acupuncture continues to provide results for people suffering from a range of health problems. Research has shown acupuncture can:
-Treat inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and Crohn's disease.
-Prevent death from infections like sepsis that kills 25,000 people each year.[1]
-Stop migraines.[2]
-Calm dental patients.[3]
-Help relieve hot flashes.[4]

This list continues to grow as more scientists test acupuncture's traditional applications and get solid results. In 2010, the British government's National Institute For Health And Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommended it as a course of treatment for many forms of lower back pain. A study published around the same time demonstrated it worked better than conventional treatment for chronic lower back pain.[5]

Even more impressively, for over four decades, Chinese medical teams have combined acupuncture with lower doses of drugs to provide anesthesia for open heart surgery. A recent review of this startling use of acupuncture found the patients who used it in combination with low doses of drugs had quicker recoveries with less chance of infection than patients who used only drugs.[6]

How Acupuncture Works 

While a growing body of research shows acupuncture is effective in treating health problems, western scientists are still just learning how it works.

Brain scans have shown acupuncture turns off certain areas of the brain linked to pain.[7] Acupuncture also seems to directly impact the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis which governs our stress response and much of our hormonal activity. [8]

For centuries, eastern practitioners have described acupuncture's mechanism effectively using technical terms rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). According to TCM, acupuncture helps unblock and redirect the flow of "qi", or life energy, in the body. Qi is the energy that allows our body to work. Qi allows us to move our legs, take a breath and digest our food. By stimulating both the central and peripheral nervous system in a strategic way, acupuncture changes the flow of energy in your body and consequently changes your state of health.

Make Sure You Find A Licensed Acupuncturist

Like all forms of healthcare, acupuncture works most reliably if practiced by a trained professional. Unfortunately, because acupuncture is still so new in the west, there is no mandatory national accrediting agency. Licensing laws vary from state to state. California, for instance, has its own strict licensing exam and requirements. And California does not accept any national certifications, exams etc.

Be sure to check with your state regulations on acupuncture. You can then look up any licensed acupuncturist online and verify they meet your local requirements. The most well-known accrediting agency is the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). NCCAOM is used by many states as their accrediting agency.

A growing number of MD's and DO's are also becoming trained in acupuncture under a special program for conventional doctors administered by UCLA. You can find these practitioners through the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (AAMA). However, be aware that while these MD's are fully credentialed to practice western medicine, the training offered by the AAMA is minimal. Some of the trainings are short weekend courses. In general, its trainings are not adequate for competent diagnosis and treatment according to eastern medicine.

Once you've found someone who meets your state's licensing requirements, you should also add your own evaluation in. A properly trained acupuncturist will work with you to ensure any treatment they prescribe does not interfere negatively with other medical treatments you're currently undergoing. In the United States, they also use sterile, single-use needles.

About Abigail S. Allred, L.Ac., M.S.O.M.
Abigail S. Allred earned her Master of Science in Oriental Medicine from Samra University in Los Angeles, California, and is a licensed acupuncturist. Abigail was selected to complete an internship at the Samra Acupuncture Spinal Center, and was also chosen to participate at the Minority AIDS Project located in downtown Los Angeles. Abigail traveled to Beijing, China, in 2009, where she received intense hospital training and attended advanced acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine colloquiums. Abigail is dedicated to providing quality, individual, holistic care through education and support. She is also an esteemed member of the Sun Chlorella Advisory Board.

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[1] Torres-Rosas R et al. Dopamine mediates vagal modulation of the immune system by electroacupuncture. Nature Medicine, 2014. 
[2] Collins S. Acupuncture May Be Effective For Migraines. Web MD. Jan 11, 2012. 
[3] Karst M et al. Auricular acupuncture for dental anxiety: a randomized controlled trial. Anesth Analg. 2007 Feb;104(2):295-300. 
[4] Chiu H-Y et al. Effects of acupuncture on menopause-related symptoms and quality of life in women on natural menopause. Menopause, 2014. 
[5] Asghar et al. Acupuncture needling sensation: The neural correlates of deqi using fMRI. Brain Research, 2010. 
[6] Zhou J et al. Acupuncture anesthesia for open heart surgery in contemporary China. International Journal of Cardiology; 150(1), 2011. 12-16 
[7] Asghar et al. Acupuncture needling sensation: The neural correlates of deqi using fMRI. Brain Research, 2010. 
[8] Eshkevari L et al. Acupuncture Blocks Cold Stress-Induced Increase in Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis in Rat. Journal of Endocrinology, 2013. 

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