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Say 'Aaah' | Staywell

A Pointed Approach

May 17, 1999|BARBARA J. CHUCK

For some people, being needled isn't a bad thing.

Acupuncture is an ancient form of Chinese medicine that has many devotees in this country. Behind the treatment is the belief that energy, or "life force," flows throughout the body. Improving that flow, patients and practitioners believe, may also enhance health.

Acupuncturists focus on a vital energy called chi. They believe that chi flows through a complex network of pathways called meridians. Thin needles are inserted into the body at precise locations, called acupoints.

Doing so, it's believed, can improve or unlock chi as it flows through the meridians. Depending on which acupoint is targeted, the health effect may be different. In some cases, heated herbs may be held near an acupoint. Using herbs in this manner is called moxibustion. Patients may also be given oral herbal remedies to improve chi flow.

Is acupuncture right for what ails you? You will want to discuss that with acupuncturists, who are licensed by most states, including California (Acupuncture Board, [916] 263-2680, or http://www.dca.ca.gov/acup).

Some questions you may want to ask are:

* Where did you receive your training?

* How long have you been practicing?

* What risks do I need to know about?

* How long will treatment take, and how much will it cost?

* Do you use disposable needles?

* Have you successfully treated problems like mine?

When seeking any type of complementary care, including acupuncture, it's a good idea to let your medical doctor know of any treatment you undergo. Ideally, you, your physician and your complementary care provider would work together as a team to get the best care. Acupuncturists, for example, often use herbal treatments, which can affect other medications you may be taking, and your medical doctor should know about this.

If you think you're a candidate for acupuncture, do some research in your library, on the Internet or call the American Assn. of Oriental Medicine, (610) 433-2448.

Source: StayWell Co.

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