When it comes to alternative healing therapies, acupuncture is certainly one of the more well-known. Thousands of years old, acupuncture is Chinese in origin. Practitioners believe that the insertion of thin needles at designated points along meridians rebalance your chi (also sometimes referred to as qi). Chi is the term used to describe your life force or energy flow. In traditional practice, acupuncture is believed to improve health by preventing illness, direct treatment of medical conditions, and generally promoting good health.
The use of acupuncture in the West has been increasing for the past 30 years. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the use of acupuncture for a variety of medical conditions including digestive problems (constipation, diarrhea, spastic colon, gastritis), urinary, menstrual or reproductive disorders (for relief of menstrual cramps, for example), respiratory conditions (bronchitis, sinusitis, asthma), and neurological or muscular conditions (tendinitis, sciatica, headaches, neck and back pain, tennis elbow, osteoarthritis). Acupuncture is also frequently used to treat chronic pain, as well as various emotional and stress related conditions, labor pain, fibromyalgia, and some side effects of chemotherapy (nausea and vomiting).
Practitioners of this ancient Chinese healing art believe that acupuncture can also help reduce your risk of heart disease (heart attack, coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, and congenital heart disease). Globally, heart disease remains a leading cause of death. Despite education, heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. Heart disease can be reduced, and in some instances even prevented, by lifestyle changes. Acupuncture may be able to assist in reducing your risk of heart disease in five major risk factor areas:
1. High blood pressure: increases risk of stroke, heart attack, and kidney disease. Opioids released by acupuncture decrease heart’s need for oxygen and lowers blood pressure.
2. Smoking: increases risk of heart disease, lung cancer, breathing problems. Acupuncture assists smoking cessation by managing withdrawal symptoms (cravings, irritability).
3. Weight/obesity: increases risk of coronary artery disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, heart failure, and diabetes. Acupuncture is used to control appetite and overeating, manage anxiety, increase energy, and assist in nutrient absorption.
4. Manage stress: contributes to high blood pressure, heart disease, chest pain, emotional or psychological problems, and irregular heartbeats. Acupuncture and other Oriental alternative medicines (herbal medicines, meditation, Qi Gong exercises, and acupressure) have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, and improve mental health.
5. Sleep: sleep deprivation or poor sleep increases risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure and heart attack, obesity, atherosclerosis, and diabetes. Acupuncture treats the “disharmony” disturbing sleep, thereby not only improving sleep, but improving overall mental and physical health as well.
Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM, 5 Steps to a Healthy Heart with Acupuncture, Acufinder.com, http://www.acufinder.com/Acupuncture+Information/Detail/5+Steps+to+a+Healthy+Heart+with+Acupuncture
Acupuncture: What You Can Expect, The Mayo Clinic, 11 Dec 2009, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/acupuncture/MY00946/DSECTION=what-you-can-expect
Doctor, What’s This Acupuncture All About?, American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, Acupuncture, http://www.medicalacupuncture.org/acu_info/articles/aboutacupuncture.html
5 Steps to a Healthy Heart With Acupuncture, 2 Apr 2010, Many Lives Chinese Medicine, http://www.manylivescm.com/2010/04/02/5-steps-to-a-healthy-heart-with-acupuncture/