Acupuncture is a drug-free way to relieve pain and is surprisingly relaxing. The insertion of fine acupuncture needles is usually painless. If you are needle-phobic, there are other ways to stimulate the acu-points - electricity, heat, laser or fingertip pressure can be used. As it is so gentle, acupuncture is an ideal treatment choice for the elderly.
The Chinese believe that good health is to be regarded as a state of energy balance within the body. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is believed that an energy called 'chi', flows along invisible energy channels called 'meridians' which are believed to be linked to internal organs. Sticking needles in particular points along these meridians is believed to increase or decrease the flow of energy. A balance has to be kept between two opposing yet complementary natural forces called 'yin' (female) and 'yang' (male). The aim of Chinese medicine is to correct any imbalance in these forces, since this is the cause of disharmony and disease, and to allow the body's natural healing mechanisms to do the rest. Yin force is seen as being passive, tranquil and represents darkness, coldness, moisture and swelling. Yang force is seen as being aggressive and stimulating and represents light, heat, dryness and contraction.
This ancient method of Chinese medicine relaxes the nervous system by controlling central pain pathways. It also promotes the release of the body's own pain relieving hormones (endorphins). Endorphins have almost the same chemical structure as morphine, hence acupuncture being so effective for any condition that has pain and stress related to it. Today there is more scientific understanding of how acupuncture works. Not only have the endorphins and pain blocking mechanisms of acupuncture been proven, but also it is a fantastic way to stimulate circulation to a particular area.
One of the principals of acupuncture is to improve the blood supply to the area of pain. Acupuncture works because a needle is perceived by the body as something foreign (literally a foreign body) and the body's defence system sends an increase of blood supply to fight off potential infection. In so doing the area is engorged with blood. With the increase of blood supply toxic build up in the muscle tissue can be flushed through and eliminated. Nowadays, disposable needles are used to ease the fears of cross-infection.