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Acupuncture is an ancient form of Chinese medicine. Behind this treatment is the belief that energy (or “life force”) flows throughout your body. By improving that flow, you also may enhance your health.
Acupuncturists focus on a vital energy called qi (pronounced "chee"). They believe that qi flows through a complex network of pathways (channels). Thin needles are inserted into the body at precise locations called acupoints. This can then unblock or improve the flow of qi through the channels. Depending on which acupoint is targeted, the health effect may be different. In some cases, certain herbs are burned in a controlled manner near an acupoint. Using herbs in this manner is called moxibustion.
Acupuncturists are trained to spot problems with qi flow early. They do this by asking health questions, checking your pulse at the wrist, and by looking at your tongue. Using this diagnostic process helps them locate a problem sometimes before you can tell that something’s wrong.
A committee of the National Institutes of Health (a U.S. government agency) has said that acupuncture may be effective for treating certain conditions. These include addiction withdrawal, pain, nausea, hay fever, and some other health problems. Acupuncturists will often treat an even wider range of conditions. For instance, acupuncture may be done to treat anxiety disorders or depression, among many other conditions.
Before you decide whether to have acupuncture to treat a health problem, talk with an acupuncturist. Asking him or her some of these questions may help you make an informed decision:
What is your training? How long have you been practicing?
What risks do I need to know about?
Have you treated problems like mine?
What will a typical visit be like?
Do you use disposable needles?
Will I feel the needles?
How long will treatment take and how much will it cost?
Will my insurance pay for your services?
Research acupuncture in your local library, on the Internet, or by contacting:
American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine www.aaaomonline.org
National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicinewww.nccaom.org