Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical therapy. There is documented research that supports the physiological and therapeutic effect of acupuncture. It has a wide variety of medical uses that include regulating menstruation, reducing the cramps of irritable bowel syndrome, treating tinnitus (ringing in the ears), stimulating immune cells, and inducing anesthesia for surgery. It can be especially helpful in dealing with musculoskeletal problems, such as arthritic symptoms, bursitis, neck pain, and joint pain.
Practitioners use needles, moxibustion, or cupping to stimulate acupoints on the yang channels that flow down the back and legs, such as the Small Intestine, Kidney, and Bladder meridians, to relieve pain and restore the circulation of qi ("life energy"). In Chinese medical theory, the meridians represent paths of energy flow, but Western science has discovered that the nodes are physiologically located at junctures of the autonomic nervous system. Stimulation of the nodes thus affects the nervous system and can cause effects at some distance from the actual point of stimulation.
Many pain clinics now use acupuncture routinely, which can sometimes be helpful in dealing with persistent back pain. In the 1980s, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that acupuncture restored blood flow, relaxed muscle spasms, and strengthened weak muscles. In other US studies, patients receiving acupuncture for back and neck pain improved more than control groups.
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