Sutter Center for Integrative Holistic Health
Acupuncture is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, a system of healing that has been used for centuries. It is based on the theory that there is energy, called chi or qi, flowing through the body. Chi is thought to flow along energy pathways called meridians. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, blockage or imbalance of this chi was felt to result in illness; traditional Chinese medicine practitioners seek to unblock and rebalance the flow of chi to restore health.
Acupuncture has been used to relieve pain, especially chronic pain; it has also been used to relieve post-operative pain, as well as the nausea and vomiting that can occur with chemotherapy; some people have also found it useful for asthma and allergies. In China, acupuncture has also been used as anesthesia during surgery. Western medical researchers who have studied acupuncture believe that it may reduce pain by stimulating the production of the body's own natural pain-killers.
Traditional Chinese acupuncture is usually done by putting very thin needles into the skin at certain points on the body to produce energy flow along the body's meridians. Other types of acupuncture may use heat, pressure, or mild electrical current to stimulate energy flow along these meridians. Acupuncture in general is felt to be very safe and likely produces fewer side effects than traditional western medicine. It is important that only sterile, single-use disposable needles are used by the practitioner. In addition, skin infection at the site of needle insertion has been reported, so the skin ideally should be wiped with alcohol before needles are inserted.