While acupuncture has found a home in America as an alternative and complementary treatment to common stress, pain and anxiety ailments, its power to relieve the suffering caused by other serious illnesses is also becoming known. Sufferers of mesothelioma cancer, in particular, have found welcome relief from the pain associated with their condition. As this ancient Chinese treatment gains more respect from medical professionals in this country, many insurance companies are also recognizing its value in treating patients and have begun covering this form of medicine.

History of Acupuncture

Although relatively new to the United States, acupuncture actually dates back thousands of years. Many ancient artifacts point to its successful use in places like Mongolia and China, where it might have been discovered as wounded warriors suffering chronic pain received relief from arrow punctures. However, these theories about its discovery remain uncertain.

Nevertheless, the existence of artifacts like sharpened stones, Bian shi, support the theory that acupuncture was utilized for medical relief in ancient times. The earliest Chinese medical text describing the use of acupuncture, “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine,” dates back to around 305–204 B.C.

Modern Use of Acupuncture

This successful alternative treatment continued to spread throughout Asia, eventually ending up in modern-day countries that include Korea, Japan and Vietnam. However, acupuncture did not spread to America until the 1970’s, when American tourists returning from China gave extraordinary reports of patients undergoing surgery with this method acting as the only form of anesthesia. Spurred by these initial stories, the practice quickly took root in the medical community of America. Acupuncture continues to steadily gain acceptance for the treatment of numerous ailments today.

How Acupuncture Works

Although initially perplexing to the casual observer, acupuncture is actually a medical procedure that relies on the treatment of a patient’s entire body, opposed to a specific location. Utilizing fine needles placed in specific pressure points, the ancient Chinese believed acupuncture returned balance between the four parts of the body: Yin, Yang, Qi and blood. Manipulating the flow of these internal factors, these peoples believed acupuncture returned harmony to the body of the patient.

Although several modern theories about how acupuncture produces relief exist, the results of this treatment are undeniable. One particular theory explains the success of acupuncture as resulting from the release of endorphins that accompany the treatment’s use of needles. These endorphins then produce mild feelings of euphoria and block pain. Another theory explains that pain transmission can be altered at many sites in the brain and that acupuncture effectively does this.

Acupuncture and Mesothelioma Treatment

Recently, acupuncture has become one of the most widely accepted treatment alternatives for sufferers of asbestos-related cancers. Like other patients benefitting from acupuncture, sufferers of mesothelioma, the cancer resulting from asbestos exposure, report tremendous relief as they cope with the pain, anxiety and stress associated with their diseases. In addition, even many sufferers of asbestosis, a chronic inflammatory condition resulting from the inhalation and retention of asbestos fibers, reported pain and breathing relief.

The actual practice of acupuncture initially begins with the acupuncturist asking the patient a series of questions to determine their medical state. The specialist then examines the patient to determine the best treatment process, deciding which pressure points need to receive manipulation to produce maximum effect.

Once these specific pressure points have been determined, the acupuncturist inserts thin, sterilized needles into these locations. The patient may then be left to rest for several minutes before the acupuncturist removes the needles.

Side Effects of Acupuncture

Although acupuncture is by its very definition an invasive process, the risks to patients are very small, especially when skilled acupuncturists are used. Some of the side effects that can result are minor bleeding from the needle site, bruising or dizziness. Nevertheless, when compared to other courses of treatment, the National Institutes of Health found the risks associated with this proven treatment to be very low.    As with all alternative therapies, it is important for patients to consult a health professional to determine whether this treatment is appropriate for them.