Western Medicine and Complementary Therapies
Western medicine has proved to be highly effective in the treatment of many diseases and conditions. It has helped to increase the lifespan of humans and to reduce suffering in the world. Many experts predict that one day almost all ailments will have an effective cure and humans will live a lot longer than they do now. Despite the value of current western medicine it has not proved to be 100% effective in treating all conditions and symptoms. There are many individuals who find that these treatments do not offer a solution to their symptoms or that they only offer a partial remedy. Such people will often turn to [complementary therapies](http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam/) for a solution.
Complementary therapies are not there to replace western medicine but to complement it. The aim is to use them in conjunction with medical treatments to ensure that people get the best possible care. This is why many hospitals now offer such therapies alongside standard medical treatment. They have proved to be particularly effective in helping people cope with chronic pain and stress. The most widely practiced of all complementary therapies is acupuncture.
[Acupuncture](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acupuncture) is said to be effective in preventing and curing many physical as well as mental conditions. It has been used for at least 2,000 years in China and other parts of Asia. This makes it one of the [oldest surviving healing practices](http://nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/) on the planet.
How Acupuncture Works
Acupuncture is based on the idea that physical and mental symptoms are caused by imbalances within the body. Chinese medicine views such imbalances as leading to blockages of [Qi/Chi](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_Chinese_medicine#Qi). The ability of Qi to move unimpeded is important because this is the life force. When this force gets trapped it leads to mental or physical symptoms. There are 14 major energy paths in the body and these are called meridians. Along these meridian paths are hundreds of acupuncture points.
Acupuncture uses tiny needles to promote the flow of Qi. These [needles are placed in specific acupuncture points](http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Acupuncture/Pages/Introduction.aspx) depending on the problem. The acupuncturist needs to conduct a full assessment of the individual before deciding on the best course of treatment. This involves a lot more than just considering the physical symptoms. Once the location of the blockage to Qi is determined the acupuncturist will work to restore the flow. This should relieve any physical symptoms and remedy the underlying condition.
Regardless of the traditional theories, real efficacy is found in acupuncture practice. Recent science-based research has discovered the [molecular and chemical foundation](http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/index.cfm?id=2880) of the practice. A chemical known as [Adenosine](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adenosine) is stimulated deep in teh tissue, with natural pain-killing and anti-inflammatory effects.
How Acupuncture is Used
Some practitioners of acupuncture claim that it can be effective in the treatment of almost any condition. This belief in the power of this complementary treatment as a complete cure-all is not backed by empirical evidence. However, it is fairly well-accepted that [acupuncture can be beneficial in the treatment of certain conditions](http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Acupuncture/Pages/Evidence.aspx) including:
* Nausea (in particular post-op nausea)
* Dental pain
* Long-term back pain
* Menstrual cramps
* Muscle pain
* Neck pain
* Spastic colon
The acupuncturist will insert sterile needles into client as required. These need to be placed at different depths – usually between 1 and 2 inches below the skin. It is not as painful as an injection because the needles used are a lot thinner. Most individuals will just experience a tiny prick of pain as each needle is inserted.
Acupuncture and the Treatment of Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms
Acupuncture has been used in the treatment of addiction [since at least 1972](http://www.acupuncture.com/newsletters/m_july04/main1.htm). It is not viewed as a complete treatment for withdrawals but it has [proved to reduce the strength some of the more unpleasant symptoms](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12596615). Acupuncture is believed to be beneficial because of its ability to:
* Increase circulation
* Boost the immune system
* Increase the level of certain endorphins
* Improve functioning in the central nervous system
It is claimed that the effects of acupuncture in the treatment of addicts includes:
* Less severe withdrawal symptoms
* Reduced experiences of craving
* Improved ability to sleep at night
* Reduced anxiety
* Less depression
There is good reason to believe that acupuncture can help people who are dealing with addiction withdrawals. It is not advisable that this type of alternative treatment should replace required medical care, however it can be effective as a complementary therapy. Those individuals who are chronic alcoholics or have been addicted to barbiturates are at risk of life threatening withdrawal symptoms. It is therefore vital that they get proper medical care. Acupuncture can be of help for dealing with symptoms. Many rehabs now offer such treatments to clients.
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