The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) define integrative medicine as, “medicine that combines mainstream medical therapies and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.” In other words, integrative medicine ‘cherry picks’ the very best, scientifically validated therapies brom both conventional and CAM systems for optimal health.
Inside of you is an intelligent, energetic system that maintains health and balance. Acupuncture balances the body and stimulates it to heal itself on a profound level and has been studied extensively for thousands of years. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the body is an energetic system first. The vital energy that flows through this system is called, ‘qi’ and the paths in which they flow are called, ‘meridians’. The substance of the body and all of its functions are dependent on this flow of ‘qi’. When there is a blockage in the flow of ‘qi’, disease develops.
Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body’s internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy production activities, and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians. The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system.
The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture
Acupuncture is an alternative medicine methodology originating in ancient China that treats patients by manipulating thin, solid needles that have been inserted into acupuncture points in the skin. According to Traditional Chinese medicine, stimulating these points can correct imbalances in the flow of qi through channels known as meridians.
Current scientific research supports acupuncture’s efficacy in the relief of certain types of pain and post-operative nausea. The use of acupuncture for certain conditions has been tentatively endorsed by the United States National Institutes of Health, the National Health Service of the United Kingdom, the World Health Organization, and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. There is general agreement that acupuncture is safe when administered by well-trained practitioners using sterile needles but does carry a small (five in one million) risk of serious adverse effects.
The mechanisms underlying pain relief from insertion of needles are unknown, but it has been suggested that it may involve recruitment of the body’s own pain reduction system, possibly attended by an increased release of endorphins, serotonin, norepinephrine, or gamma-aminobutyric acid.
Acupuncturists in the United States are required to attend a four-year graduate level, accredited program to be licensed. Each state has their own licensure agencies and confer different titles ranging from the Acupuncture Physician in Florida to Licensed Acupuncturist in Texas. The abbreviation “Dipl. Ac.” stands for “Diplomate of Acupuncture” and signifies that the holder is board-certified by the NCCAOM.
In 1996, the United States Food and Drug Administration changed the status of acupuncture needles from Class III to Class II medical devices, meaning that needles are regarded as safe and effective when used appropriately by licensed practitioners.
As of 2004, nearly 50% of Americans who were enrolled in employer health insurance plans were covered for acupuncture treatments.