Friday, December 17, 2010

Health Care and Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the practice of inserting thin needles into specific body points to improve health and well-being, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It originated in China more than 2,000 years ago. American practices of acupuncture use medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea and other countries. In the United States, the best-known type involves putting hair-thin, metallic needles in your skin, and research has shown that acupuncture reduces nausea and vomiting after surgery and chemotherapy. It can also relieve pain. Researchers don't fully understand how acupuncture works. It might aid the activity of your body's pain-killing chemicals. It also might affect how you release chemicals that regulate blood pressure and flow.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Traditional Chinese theory explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as qi or chi (chee) — believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance. In contrast, many Western practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. This stimulation appears to boost the activity of your body's natural painkillers and increase blood flow.

Needles are put just deep enough into the skin to keep them from falling out and are usually left in place for a few minutes. Skilled acupuncturists cause virtually no pain. The acupuncturist may twirl the needles or apply heat or a weak electrical current to enhance the effects of the therapy, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Sonopuncture is similar to acupuncture, but needles are not used. Instead, an ultrasound device that transmits sound waves is applied to the body's acupoints. Sonopuncture is sometimes combined with tuning forks and other vibration devices. Proponents claim this approach is useful to treat many of the same disorders as acupuncture.

Electroacupuncture, according to the ACS, is considered an enhanced version of traditional acupuncture. It uses tiny electrical charges, with or without needles, to stimulate the same acupoints that are used in traditional acupuncture. Electroacupuncture devices are sometimes promoted for diagnosis or testing. In acupressure, a popular variation of acupuncture, therapists press on acupoints with their fingers instead of using needles. This technique is used by itself or as part of an entire system of manual healing, such as in shiatsu. In other variations of acupuncture, heat, friction, suction, magnets, or laser beams are directed to acupoints. Acupuncture is sometimes used along with less well-known traditional healing techniques, such as moxibustion and cupping. Acupuncture may sometimes be referred to as Zhenjiu, which is the standard Mandarin word for needle.

Originally, 365 acupoints were identified, corresponding to the number of days in a year. Over time, the number of acupoints grew to more than 2,000. Traditional acupuncture needles were made of bone, stone, or metal, including silver and gold. Modern acupuncture needles are made of very thin sterile stainless steel and are disposable. In 1996, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of acupuncture needles by licensed practitioners. By law, needles must be labeled for one-time use only to prevent infection and the transmission of germs, according to the ACS. In China, acupuncture is commonly accepted as a treatment for many diseases. Acupuncture has also become quite popular in the United States and Europe, where the technique is mainly used to control pain and relieve symptoms of disease, such as nausea caused by chemotherapy, but not to cure the disease itself. In 2010, there are an estimated 18,000 licensed acupuncturists in the United States. More than 40 states have set up training standards for licensing or certification to practice acupuncture. There are also about 8,000 medical doctors in the United States who have been trained to practice acupuncture. Medicare does not cover acupuncture, but it is covered by some private health insurance plans and HMOs.

According to the NIH, acupuncture has been studied for a wide range of pain conditions, such as postoperative dental pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, headache, low-back pain, menstrual cramps, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, and tennis elbow. Overall, it can be very difficult to compare acupuncture research results from study to study and to draw conclusions from the cumulative body of evidence. This is because studies may use different acupuncture techniques (e.g., electrical vs. manual), controls (comparison groups), and outcome measures. People use acupuncture for various types of pain. Back pain is the most commonly reported use, followed by joint pain, neck pain, and headache, and it is being studied for its efficacy in alleviating many kinds of pain. There are promising findings in some conditions, such as chronic low-back pain and osteoarthritis of the knee; but, for most other conditions, additional research is needed. Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed correctly. Tell all your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

If you are planning to use acupuncture service, it is important to understand about payment before you begin treatment according to the NIH. Here are some questions to ask the practitioner:

--Costs: What does the first appointment cost? What do follow-up appointments cost? How many appointments am I likely to need? Are there any additional costs (e.g., tests, equipment, supplements)?

--Insurance (if you have a health insurance plan): Do you accept my insurance plan? What has been your experience with my plan's coverage for people with my condition? Do I file the claims, or do you take care of that?

--Payment options (if it would be difficult for you to pay the full fee for each visit): Could you arrange a payment plan over time? Do you offer a sliding-scale fee (i.e., fees based on income and ability to pay)? Much more info can be found at this site: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/financial/ .

You may be concerned about complications with acupuncture. According to the ACS, when done by a trained professional, acupuncture is generally considered safe. Relatively few complications have been reported, but there is a risk that a patient may be harmed if the acupuncturist is not well trained. Traditional needle acupuncture can cause dizziness, fainting, local bleeding or bruising, internal bleeding, convulsions, dermatitis, nerve damage, and increased pain. Rarely, punctured lungs have happened, resulting in a few deaths. Traditional acupuncture also poses risks such as infection from contaminated needles or improper delivery of treatment. In the United States, sterile, single-use needles are required by law. This minimizes the risk of infection from diseases like hepatitis B or C, as well as the risk of local infection where the needle was put into the skin. People who are taking anticoagulants (blood thinners) may have bleeding problems with traditional needle acupuncture. People with cardiac pacemakers, infusion pumps, or other electrical devices should avoid electroacupuncture. Relying on this type of treatment alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer, may have serious health consequences. More information about this can be found at this website: http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/ManualHealingandPhysicalTouch/acupuncture?sitearea=ETO .

No special preparation is required before acupuncture treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you're considering acupuncture, do the same things you would do if you were choosing a doctor:

■Ask people you trust for recommendations.
■Check the practitioner's training and credentials. Most states require that nonphysician acupuncturists pass an exam conducted by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).
■Interview the practitioner. Ask what's involved in the treatment, how likely it is to help your condition and how much it will cost.
■Find out whether the expense is covered by your insurance.

Don't be afraid to tell your doctor you're considering acupuncture. He or she may be able to tell you about the success rate of using acupuncture for your condition or recommend an acupuncture practitioner for you to try. Each person who performs acupuncture has a unique style, often blending aspects of Eastern and Western approaches to medicine, according to the Mayo Clinic. To determine the type of acupuncture treatment that will help you the most, your practitioner may ask you many questions about your symptoms, behaviors and lifestyle. He or she may also closely examine:
■The parts of your body that are painful.
■The shape, coating and color of your tongue.
■The color of your face.
■The strength, rhythm and quality of the pulse in your wrist.

This initial evaluation may take up to 60 minutes. Subsequent appointments usually take about a half-hour. A common treatment plan for a single complaint would typically involve six to 12 treatments, scheduled over a few months. Several maintenance sessions a year also may be recommended. Before you start treatment, make sure that your acupuncture practitioner uses single-use, sterile packaged needles. You can visit this site and see more about acupuncture: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/acupuncture/MY00946/METHOD=print , or you can visit this site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/acupuncture/MY00946 .

If you are open to complementary alternative medicine, choose a CAM provider that is licensed and credentialed. Also, make sure that they will work with you concerning appointments. Careington International (http://www.careington.com/) has a great discount plan for wellness that includes a network for these types of providers. For a low monthly membership fee for a program called MyWellCare, you can use the plan as often as you wish and get a substantial discount off the cost of services on an unlimited basis. If you have an FSA or HSA, use those pre-tax dollars to pay for treatments and make your money work for you as well as feel better. Pain reduction and relaxation therapy are at least two good results from using acupuncture. Just make sure you are a good candidate and let your primary care physician know you are taking treatments. After all, saving money and better health are key ingredients to a better quality of life.

Until next time. let me know what you think.

3 comments:

Syrius said...

Informative post. Acupuncture treatment give us solution of all type health problems.

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Jessica Mador said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica Mador said...

Some people swear that regular sessions of acupuncture help relieve their back pain and headaches. Fertility acupuncture san mateo