The basic premise of acupuncture and Eastern Medicine as a whole is that when an energetic imbalance arises – and this happens cumulatively, over the course of a lifetime, and due to various factors – illness, disease, and pain result. Most people are generally aware that acupuncture can be used to treat pain. Luckily, this medicine's scope goes well beyond that. Theoretically, if all pathologies result from energy, or qi, not moving (or not moving in the correct manner), re-balancing this energy with needles, dietary considerations, and supplements and/or herbal remedies can treat a wide array of symptoms. Here are just a few that you might not have been aware of:
1) Allergies and Asthma - Acupuncture helps to moderate the function of the immune system so that your body does not “overreact” to environmental allergens. It does this by modulating histamine output, which, in large quantities, makes you feel stuffy and itchy. Needling specific acupoints on the lung meridian have also been clinically demonstrated to increase lung capacity in asthmatic patients.
2) Side Effects of Cancer Treatments - While not recommended to treat cancer in and of itself, acupuncture can certainly decrease unfavorable reactions to chemotherapy and radiation treatments – specifically, nausea, body aches and pains, dry mouth, and insomnia.
3) Arthritis - Acupuncture has been clinically proven to decrease the body's inflammatory response. This is at the root of many of the conditions for which people seek out treatment, but it is especially true for arthritis – both rheumatoid and osteo arthritis are local inflammations of the joints.
4) Diabetes - By regulating blood sugar and enhancing glucose metabolism (in addition to the individual maintaining a proper diet and exercise regimen), acupuncture can help to resolve both types I and II diabetes.
5) Labor Induction - Not recommended for expectant moms before 40 weeks, acupuncture can stimulate (and simulate, with the aid of electricity) uterine contractions necessary for labor to commence. This is achieved by moving as much blood and energy as possible by needling all points that are contraindicated in normal pregnancy. Even if the treatments are not successful in inducing labor, they will certainly prepare the uterine muscles for the process of childbirth.
6) Facial Rejuvination (AKA, Cosmetic Acupuncture) - This increasingly popular technique enhances the quality of facial collagen, and therefore the elasticity of the skin. While not as dramatic as a facelift, patients report a decrease in fine lines, an increase in tightness, and a general glow about the face after a series of treatments.
7) Insomnia - Always an issue to be worked on with acupuncture treatments, good sleep is centrally important to how the body functions. Acupuncture can help recalibrate the body's natural circadian rhythm, controlled by the pineal gland. When you are sleeping soundly and peacefully, the body's yin energy is optimal, and is more able to to heal, nourish, and replenish.
8) Childhood ADD/HD - Acupuncture improves the brain-body connection by enhancing focus and clarity of thought. This technique is especially powerful in conjunction with specific dietary considerations.
9) Glaucoma - By focusing on a series of points on the gallbladder meridian, which is responsible the health of the eyes in Chinese Medicine, it is actually possible to decrease ocular pressure in patients in the early stages of glaucoma, or in those individuals predisposed to this condition.
10) High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) - Increasing systemic blood circulation, increasing the elasticity of veins and arteries, and increasing peripheral blood flow in the hands and feet is important in any good acupuncture treatment, but is especially relevant for treatments focused on decreasing blood pressure.
Michael A. Sassack is a licensed and board certified acupuncturist serving the northwest suburbs of Chicago.