What used to be the bane of Western medicine is being used in hospitals and is even recommended by a major medical organization.
Brandy Valentine spent eight years getting her master's in acupuncture and is a licensed acupuncturist in Oklahoma. She works for a hospital that integrates acupuncture with traditional cancer treatment in relieving pain and nausea for cancer patients.
"A lot of time, nausea limits a patient's cancer treatment because it prevents them from continuing their cancer treatment, and acupuncture helps relieve nausea," Valentine said.
Acupuncture stimulates our bodies to do what they were made to do, which is heal, she said.
"It’s not the acupuncture that’s a miracle or the acupuncturist that’s a healer, it’s the body that is miraculous and heals itself. Sometimes, it just needs a little push," Valentine said.
Most acupuncture is for pain, nausea, neuropathy and constipation, Valentine said.
"Western medicine pain medication has a tendency to create constipation, and acupuncture tends to relieve constipation in most cases," she said.
The biggest fear most people have (of acupuncture) is first of all pain, and second, the fear of catching hepatitis or HIV from using secondhand needles, said Tim Williamson, president of the Oklahoma Acupuncture Association.
Acupuncturists use solid small needles that are .2 millimeters in width or 7,000th of an inch. The size of a human hair is about 5,000th of an inch, Williamson said.
Needles used by acupuncturists are solid, used once, then disposed of in biohazardous waste, he said. How deep the needle is inserted, from one-eighth of an inch up to an inch, depends upon the part of the body into which it's being inserted.
Treatments take about an hour, and your body responds physiologically for a couple of days, Valentine said.
"But if you take a couple of treatments a week, the acupuncture treatments will build on each other, which means that your body is learning how to heal without using the needles," she said.
Some of the biggest uses for acupuncture is pain management, reducing inflammation and resolving disabling headaches like migraines and cluster headaches, Williamson said.
Williamson said he has seen amazing results from acupuncture.
"I've personally seen people in wheelchairs due to such excruciating pain and walk out pushing the wheelchair after acupuncture treatment," he said.
Acupuncture is not good for cardiac dysrhythmia, blood pressure or broken bones. Acupuncture is more suited for longer-term illnesses like long-term high blood pressure in conjunction with medication or to help stabilize glucose in a diabetic, though it won't heal them.
"If you’re seeing a trained, certified acupuncturist there is no risk from any type of side affects or injury even in combination with medication or other treatments like physical therapy," Valentine said.
The World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health recognize the viability and effectiveness of acupuncture, she said. In February, the American College of Physicians recommended acupuncture to treat acute or subacute low back pain.
Several major insurance companies pay for acupuncture treatment. Check your insurance policy for specifics, because there are some limitations.
To find a licensed acupuncturist go to http://www.nccaom.org/ and enter your zip code.