As people become more aware of options in modern medicine, many turn to holistic approaches to manage pain.
One approach is acupuncture, which is a traditional Chinese technique that started more than 2,000 years ago. It is now practiced throughout the world, particularly in China, Korea and Japan, and is gaining momentum in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Acupuncture is described as a technique that balances the flow of energy or life force, called gi or chi, that is believed to flow through the pathways of the body. These pathways, called meridians, can be accessed through specific points using an extremely thin needle to rebalance the flow of energy.
The procedure is performed by certified acupuncture practitioners or physicians and is used to treat certain medical disorders. Depending on the training of the practitioner and the specific problem that is being addressed, certain different types of acupuncture might be used.
For instance, the use of electric current through the needle is referred to as electro acupuncture. Heat through the needle is called moxibustion. And pressure through the needle is called acupressure.
In western medicine, however, practitioners of acupuncture look at the acupuncture points as places where nerves, muscles and connective tissue can be stimulated. That stimulation seems to boost the body's natural painkilling ability to control the pain by increasing the blood flow.
Acupuncture has been proven to provide symptomatic relief of different diseases and conditions. A sample of these includes chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, fibromyalgia, headaches, migraines, labor pain, lower back pain, menstrual cramps, osteoporosis, tennis elbow and dental pain.
Like most medical procedures, some risk is involved with acupuncture that patients should be aware of. But if done with a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner, the risks are minimal.
Patients might experience soreness, minor bleeding or bruising where the needles are inserted or organ injury if the needles are pushed in too deeply.
Licensed acupuncturists are required to use sterile, disposable needles. However, infections like hepatitis can be transferred if a needle is reused.
Further, some situations are not good candidates for acupuncture, including those with bleeding disorders or those on blood thinners; those with a pacemaker, since electrical pulses in the needles might interfere with the pacemaker's functioning; and women who are pregnant, since acupuncture could result in premature delivery.
Another form of acupuncture, called cupping, has been getting some attention from those who have tried the technique.
According to Acupuncture Today, cupping uses glass cups warmed with a cotton ball or other flammable substance that is soaked in alcohol. Through burning a substance inside the cup, the oxygen is removed, which creates a vacuum.
The practitioner then places the cup over specific areas of the body. The skin is drawn up into the cup, opening the skins' pores, which helps stimulate the flow of blood, balances and realigns the flow of gi, breaks up obstructions and creates an avenue for toxins to be drawn out of the body.
Depending on the area being treated, the cups may remain in place for five to ten minutes. Some practitioners also may apply small amounts of medicated oils and herbal oils to the skin just before the cupping procedure, allowing the cups to be moved up or down along certain meridians.
Acupuncture has been proven to provide many benefits. In fact, Dr. Andrew Kim, a practitioner of Ancient Art, uses the traditional technique on patients from doctors to surgical nurses with overwhelming success.
Kim is the founder of Dr. Kim's Acupuncture PLLC and is a skilled acupuncturist with more than 30 years experience.
"He has a great reputation," said his wife and assistant, Brenda Kim.
From their practice in Spring Hill, Dr. Kim has been using the traditional techniques with straight needles as the basis for his success in the art of pain management. Through his extensive experience in acupuncture, Dr. Kim has used various techniques, including cupping, burning herbs and laser techniques.
"But he doesn't like them," Brenda Kim said. Cupping, she said, leaves marks on the body and could open the patient up to diseases such as MRSA. She also stressed that using certain herbs on the body might conflict with a patient's medications.
For those reasons, Dr. Kim chooses instead to practice traditional methods of acupuncture.
"It is a powerful wellspring of healing for millions of people worldwide," notes Dr. Kim's website. "Versatile in its benefits, this enduring method of healing is also proving its worth in modern times.
It originates in the Orient and is a medical art that uses natural healing to treat the body holistically.
The benefits of acupuncture can be difficult to measure. But those who stand by the technique have shown dramatic results in terms of pain management and control of painful conditions. Studies have proven that the technique seems to work best in those who believe in it.
"Based on an intricate system of principles that targets the importance of balanced energy flow, acupuncture is now taking its placed proudly beside traditional forms of Western medicine. Logically, it has a legion of new devotees, patients who report that when all else has failed, it has given them back their lives."
For more information about acupuncture or Dr. Andrew Kim's practice, visit their office located at 5330 Spring Hill Drive, Suite C. Contact the office at (352) 688-8088. Or visit their website at www .drandrewkim.com.