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Acupuncture And The Body

Acupuncture And The Body

Steven Tan (Acupuncturist) gives expert video advice on: How many acupuncture 'entry points' are there on the human body?; What neurological disorders are helped by acupuncture treatments?; Can acupuncture be used to treat 'addiction'? and more...

How many acupuncture 'entry points' are there on the human body?

There are approximately 360 acupuncture points on the body. There are other extra points that exist as well, so at last count no one is quite sure how many acupuncture points. But traditionally speaking, somewhere between 300 and 400 classically described acupuncture points. These points are located literally all over the body. There are points on the scalp, There are points on the head, there are points on the chest, abdomen, extremities. So from head to toe these points exist.

What are 'endorphins'?

Endorphins are chemicals that are produced by our own bodies that help do a lot of positive things for us. Primarily they help in controlling pain. For instance, when we exercise a lot, when we're running long distances, that can trigger a lot of muscle related pain. And what helps to get through that pain is the endorphins throughout our body. So endorphins are pain-killing chemicals that our own bodies produce. The other things that endorphins can do is also elevate our moods. Endorphins are feel-good hormones so people with a lot of endorphins usually have an elation of positive feeling, maybe more energy as well.

What is 'serotonin'?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is part of our natural being. We all have serotonin floating around. Its primarily thought of as a neurotransmitter, meaning that its a chemical involved in our nervous system and in our brain. Of the many chemicals that we think controls our mood serotonin is one of the major things to determine whether we're anxious or depressed or felling normal.

How does acupuncture affect endorphins?

Acupuncture is used to treat not only pain but mood issues as well. And we think that it has this effect by boosting endorphins in our bodies. So, similar to the high that you get when you have a good aerobic workout, acupuncture can give you that same elation, that pickup, as well as the pain modulation effects that endorphins normally give.

How does acupuncture affect serotonin?

Acupuncture boosts serotonin levels throughout the body. As a result, it's often used to treat mood issues such as anxiety or depression, also, to elevate energy levels throughout the body.

What is 'cholecystikinin CCK'?

Cholecystikinin, which is known as CCK for short, is sort of the opposite hormone or chemical that is produced by the body to balance out endorphins. So, whereas endorphins help to lift our mood and control pain, CCK tends to neutralize those effects. It's thought that acupuncture causes a shift in the balance between endorphins and CCKs, in favor of the endorphins, so that we have a net beneficial effect of having better mood and pain control.

What neurological disorders are helped by acupuncture treatments?

There are may neurological disorders that can be helped by acupuncture. The major one that is also endorsed, for instance, by the National Institutes of Health for Acupuncture Use are headaches -- migraine headaches, tension headaches, cluster headaches -- generally acupuncture is good for all types of headaches. And it can almost have immediate effect. And it's also very good for preventing recurrent headaches, for people who are chronic sufferers of headaches. It can also be helpful, in terms of, neural degenerative disorders. These are disorders, where the nerves stop functioning. Again, one of the ways to try to stimulate nerve function is to insert a needle, into that nerve area to try to wake it back up. If that's not strong enough, we can also use electrical stimulation. Other neurological conditions that acupuncture can help treat include: stroke rehabilitation and when there's been damage following a stroke. It can also be helpful for things such as tremors.

What respiratory disorders are helped by acupuncture treatments?

Respiratory conditions that acupuncture can help treat include things such as asthma. In fact, for asthma, the studies are so convincing that the national institutes of health recommends acupuncture for use in treatment. Can also help for something as common as the common cold, bronchitises, things such as that.

Can acupuncture be used to treat 'addiction'?

Acupuncture can be very helpful for addiction issues, such as smoking cessation, such as food addiction, and certainly drug withdrawal. In fact, its origins in use for addictions goes back to China, where they were trying to treat opium addicts. Acupuncture was adopted here in the United States back in the 1970s in a local drug rehab program in New York. And since then, it's been shown to be helpful in curbing cravings. And as such, we've now applied it for tobacco as well as food.

What gastrointestinal disorders are helped by acupuncture treatments?

There are several studies that show that insertion of acupuncture needles into specific digestive-oriented points can do many things to the body, including decreasing stomach acidity as well as promoting smooth contraction of our bowels.

What muscle-skeletal disorders are helped by acupuncture treatments?

Muscular-skeletal issues are probable one of the most common things that acupuncture is used to treat, because it has such great effects on modulating pain, on reducing pain. So, for instance, conditions such as myofascial pain syndrome, which is a fancy word to describe severe muscle tension and knots all over the body in the neck, upper back, low back. Great therapy is acupuncture for the treatment of these conditions. In fact, it's NIH-endorsed.The other muscular-skeletal conditions that acupuncture is wonderful for are things such as tendonitis, strains, inflammation of the bursum, any of these inflammatory conditions. Finally, the other thing that studies have shown that acupuncture is very strong for is the treatment of osteoarthritis, which is the inflammation that we get when we overuse our joints or as we age.

Is acupuncture a suitable treatment for pain management?

Acupuncture is a great pain management therapy. It has so many effects on pain controlling chemicals in our body. It helps to stimulate endorphins, dynorphins and kefalins, our own indigenous opioids, which are natural pain killing hormones. Acupuncture helps to stimulate anti-inflammatory chemicals in our body. So it can be used for the vast majority of pain conditions including nerve related pain, muscle related pain, inflammation related pain, as well as conditions such as fibromyalgia which is thought to be an imbalance in neurotransmitters and causes hypersensitivity to pain.

Can acupuncture be used in conjunction with western medicine?

Acupuncture can be used very safely and effectively with conventional therapy. For instance, with medications that generally have side affects we use a goal to try to take our patients off medications or try to decrease the dose so they suffer less from the side effects. The nice thing about acupuncture is, generally speaking, it doesn't interact with these medications and it works through mechanisms and pathways that can help us to control the symptoms and to heal the body, and in doing so decrease the requirements that someone needs for medications.

Can acupuncture be used in conjunction with cancer treatment?

Acupuncture is actually a very nice therapy to be used in cancer patients for a variety of reasons. The first reason is most chemotherapy and radiation therapies can trigger nausea in patients and studies have found time and time again that acupuncture can help alleviate vomiting and nausea rates in patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. In fact, this is probably the strongest reason why the National Institute of Health recommends acupuncture use. The other thing too with acupuncture is that again it doesn't interfere with or interact with the chemotherapeutic agents. So in patients who are already on a lot of medications, which is the case in most cancer therapies, we really want to minimize yet another medication to control some of the symptoms that really weigh in on cancer patients such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue and pain.