ACUPUNCTURE, which originated in China, is a way of adjusting the body's "life energy" (qi or chi) flow. It involves the insertion of fine needles into carefully selected acupuncture points along the meridians (energetic pathways) of the body. Points are selected on the basis of pulse and tongue diagnosis, observation, and questioning. The points affect the meridian system. Each meridian has a specific effect on a specific body system or organ of the body. Needles are inserted on the points and then manipulated, either by twirling or by a gentle pumping action. This removes blockages or stimulates energy flow. Stagnant energy can be dispersed and the whole energy flow regulated (too much energy in one area adjusted and too little stimulated). Acupuncture can be used to relieve symptoms as well as to promote general health and well-being.
RELATED FORMS OF TREATMENT: Moxibustion and cupping are two forms of treatment that are closely related to acupuncture. Both rely on the meridian or channel theory and treat selected points along the meridians. In moxibustion, preparations of the herb moxa (mugwort) are burned close to the skin to have a warming effect. When this is used in conjunction with acupuncture, the moxa is burned on the needles to intensify their effect. Moxa sticks can also be held above the skin and burned. When moxa is burned it becomes extremely hot, and great care is always taken by the practitioner. In cupping, a vacuum is created by burning tapers in purpose-made glass or bamboo cups. The cups are quickly placed on acupuncture points on the body and the vacuum creates suction that draws blood to the surface. Acupuncture is often performed in conjunction with either moxibustion or cupping.
Acupuncture needles are made of stainless steel, silver, or gold and are either disposable or rigorously sterilized. The needles vary in diameter and length according to the area of the body where they are to be used. Longer, thicker needles are used in "padded" areas such as the buttocks, and the finer, shorter ones where the flesh is thin and close to the bone (as on the forehead). The thinnest are not much thicker than a human hair. The needles are inserted into the skin at varying depths. They are sometimes simply left in place, but usually they are gently manipulated to remove blockages and enhance the flow of chi along the meridians either by lifting the needle, or by rotation, flicking, or stroking. Acupuncture is one of the most widely practiced and accepted forms of natural medicine in the world today. There are over 500,000 acupuncturists in China, over 50,000 in Japan, over 6,000 in the United States, and around 10,000 in Europe. Acupuncture is used for the relief of common ailments, for the prevention of disease, for health promotion, for anesthesia, for some symptoms of pregnancy, and in childbirth.

Acupuncture is rarely used in the treatment of infectious diseases and is never performed on a person who is suffering from a high fever or is under the influence of alcohol or non-medicinal drugs. Some of the conditions that acupuncture can help are:
  Respiratory problems
  Arthritis and rheumatism
  Headaches and migraine
  Insomnia and back pain
  Urinary infections
  Menstrual imbalances
  Sinusitis
  Tinnitus
  Eye problems
  Allergies
  Allergies
  Digestive disturbance
  Palpitation and anxiety
  Mental and emotional problems
  Morning sickness and labor pains
  Childhood illnesses
CAUTIONS AND CONTRADICTIONS: Acupuncture can be safely used for most common ailments but should only be practiced by a qualified practitioner. There is no risk of contracting AIDS or hepatitis if you consult a registered practitioner who follows correct hygiene and sterilization procedures or uses disposable needles. Care must be taken when treating the chronically sick and the elderly.
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