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Acupuncture Benefits and Side Effects

woman undergoing facial acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese art. Although still unproven, it is incredibly popular and many doctors recommend acupuncture treatment to patients as an alternative to chemical medications. Acupuncture works on the understanding that all living beings have energy, which is known as qi. Qi travels along twelve meridians, or energy lines, that are found within the body. Sometimes, the qi becomes blocked and this leads to problems we know as pain and illnesses, both physical and mental. During an acupuncture sessions, needles are inserted into specific body points, which restores the natural flow of qi.

So does this really work and what are potential side effects?

Does Acupuncture Really Work?
Acupuncture has been around in the same way as it is now for thousands of years. This is a clear indication that it is definitely working. However, scientific studies offer mixed reviews. Patients who have used it often report that there is a definite improvement in terms of pain. However, some say that this is simply what is known as the placebo effect. This means that it only works because they believe it will. Some studies have taken place in which acupuncture needles were placed in the right points with patients, whilst being inserted in random points on other patients and the reviews were mixed. This means that the placebo effect certainly comes into force, but it doesn’t mean that it is only the placebo effect.

The results did show that “sham” acupuncture wasn’t any more or less effective than real acupuncture on lower back pain. However, physicians and physiotherapists still recommend it, because even if it is the placebo effect, there is still an improvement in the quality of life of patients, who report less pain. Others, however, fully believe acupuncture to be highly effective and truly believe in the benefits of acupuncture. It is often recommended for people who are recovering from surgery and are in considerable pain. Some evidence shows that acupuncture is very good to stop nausea and vomiting after surgery as well.

The problem with acupuncture is that it is almost impossible to design an experiment that conclusively demonstrates whether the benefits are 100% placebo effects, or whether it is a combination of actual benefits and the placebo effect. To date, from a scientific standpoint, the jury is out.

Acupuncture Side Effects
One of the great things about acupuncture is that it has only minor side effects. About 1% of patients have a few minor problems after they have had the procedure. The most common acupuncture side effects include:
• Fainting
• Light headedness
• Pain where the needles were inserted
• Nausea
• Bleeding
• Bruising

One of the best arguments for using acupuncture is that the side effects are so minor. In essence, trying it will never harm a patient and can only have benefits, even if it is a placebo effect. This is as opposed to using medication, where the side effects can be very serious and debilitating to patients. In fact, it is very common for people to end up on a cocktail of drugs, each drug designed to combat the side effects of another. Acupuncture may not be scientifically proven to be beneficial, but it certainly won’t harm.

The Bottom Line
It must be said once again that acupuncture is unproven by modern science. However, modern science isn’t the be all and end all of everything. Acupuncture has been around for a long time and most people who have undergone procedures categorically state that there are many acupuncture benefits. Because there are little no dangerous side effects, most physicians agree that acupuncture treatments are a good and safe alternative to chemical medications and certainly worth a try from conditions ranging from sickness and diarrhea to fertility problems and even cancer.

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