Acupuncture is defined as the insertion of sterile and very thin needles in selected anatomical points of the body that, according to traditional Chinese medicine, correspond to energy meridians.
Acupuncture has been used for more than 3,000 thousand years in traditional Chinese medicine. At present, this practice is recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a therapy for the integral management of pain and other clinical conditions.
There are more than 300 acupuncture points located on the surface of the body. Most often these points are located between muscles, near nerve endings and in regions with high blood demand.
In the clinical environment there are many ways to apply acupuncture: two of the most common uses are pain management (analgesia) and as an adjunctive treatment in the symptomatic management of cancer patients.
The analgesic effect of acupuncture is obtained through the stimulation of pain-receiving fibers in the skin and muscles, which drive nerve impulses that reach the brain with information that causes painful stimuli from the periphery to be inhibited and perception of pain reduced, generating the release of beta-endorphins and meta-encephalin in the brain, thus modulating pain centrally in the hypothalamus and the limbic system in the brain.
When performing acupuncture, the vascularisation or blood that reaches the tissues and the immune system modulation factors that are implicit in inflammation are also increased.
Most frequent uses of Acupuncture
The most common use of acupuncture is for chronic pain when it is resistant to conventional treatment.
However, as with other treatment modalities, the faster it starts, a better approach to the patient can be achieved, reducing pain and suffering.
In a systematic review of studies performed on postoperative patients who received acupuncture, it was concluded that acupuncture could reduce the adverse effects produced by potent analgesics called opioids, such as nausea, dizziness, itching, sedation and urine retention.
Acupuncture treatment is useful for the management of lower back pain, cervicalgia, chronic knee pain, osteoarthritis, shoulder pain and acute dental pain.
In the treatment of cancer it also serves to modulate the adverse effects of chemotherapy medication such as nausea and vomiting, fatigue, weight loss, anxiety, depression, insomnia, low appetite, dry mouth, heat waves, neuropathies, constipation, diarrhea and pain control.
Acupuncture is used by many cancer patients to treat psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety and insomnia that alter and improve their quality of life.