So many of us leave our health to chance, yet we practice preventative medicine or maintenance for our cars, homes, and gardens with regular cleaning, decluttering, and repairs. But isn’t your body your most precious possession? If your body isn’t working properly, life can be miserable.
Acupuncture makes sense as preventative medicine because it can minimize downtime due to illness, catch problems before they require hospitalization, and generally ensure you have an efficient and reliable body in which to live.
Most people know that acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the meridians, which can be compared to highways for energy in the body. In addition to treating specific health conditions, acupuncture can also be used as a preventative medicine to maintain overall health and well-being, as it helps to balance the flow of energy, or qi, in the body.
Below are just five ways acupuncture plays a role in promoting optimal health:
1. Boosting the immune system
In a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers found that acupuncture can increase the production of natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell that helps fight off infections and cancer cells. The Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine published a study that found that acupuncture can increase the production of cytokines. These proteins help to regulate the immune system. While there is no claim that acupuncture will cure serious illnesses, the studies prove that acupuncture can boost the immune system and may be valuable as an additional therapy for patients with immune-related disorders.
2. Reducing stress
By managing stress levels, acupuncture can help prevent stress-related illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure, and digestive disorders. A research paper found that acupuncture can reduce the levels of stress hormones in the body, such as cortisol. Strangely, though, acupuncture can also raise cortisol levels if necessary for treatment – it all depends on which acupuncture points are activated. Good news for individuals suffering from chronic stress comes from a review of multiple studies published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies. The review concludes that acupuncture can effectively reduce stress levels and improve overall quality of life. Additionally, a review published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that acupuncture can regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, crucial in regulating stress-related hormones.
3. Improving sleep
We all have the odd bad night’s sleep when we are worried, but imagine going through life battling night after night with sleep disorders. We find it difficult to function effectively if we haven’t slept well. Several research studies have shown that acupuncture can help with sleep disorders as it affects the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing us to relax. In fact, people are often warned that after acupuncture, they will feel so relaxed they probably shouldn’t drive immediately afterwards. Additionally, a meta-analysis of 46 randomized controlled trials found that acupuncture was more effective than medication for improving sleep quality.
4. Managing pain
People with chronic pain find its negative impact extends beyond the physical, often affecting their mood and, consequently, their relationships with loved ones. Acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins, natural painkillers produced by the body. Over the years, numerous studies have been conducted to investigate the effectiveness of acupuncture in managing pain. These studies have shown that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for various types of pain, including chronic pain, back pain, neck pain, and headaches. Acupuncture has also been shown to reduce inflammation and improve blood circulation, which can help alleviate pain, particularly that associated with arthritis.
Acupuncturists caution that if you have been dealing with pain issues for years, it may take longer to unblock the system. Usually, they start with two to three sessions a week, then slow it down as they see improvement. On the other hand, some patients report that their pain has all but disappeared within a couple of sessions! It is hard to know how each individual will react to treatment.
5. Balancing hormones
Hormonal imbalances can lead to various health problems, including infertility, menstrual disorders, and mood swings, but by regulating hormone levels through the stimulation of multiple points with acupuncture needles, the body’s energy flow can be brought into a state of balance. One study published in the Journal of Endocrinology found that acupuncture can regulate the secretion of estrogen, progesterone, and luteinizing hormone. Another study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that acupuncture can improve polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) symptoms, a condition caused by hormonal imbalances.
In recent years, acupuncture has gained popularity as a preventative medicine. Incorporating acupuncture into your healthcare routine can be valuable for maintaining overall health and preventing future illnesses, however you should always consult with your healthcare professional for any health concerns or conditions.
Remember – preventative maintenance for your body comes before your car or home – because you can’t buy a new body.