Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese technique of inserting thin just under the skin into particular points of the body to pain and other symptoms. The practice is based on the belief vital energy, called qi, flows freely in the body. Pain occurs is blocked; acupuncture normalizes the flow of qi.
Acupuncture points are sensitive parts of the body used to bring the body's qi into balance. They run along certain pathways, called channels or meridians, on and in the body. An acupuncturist will diagnose a patient by observing and questioning her, paying special attention to her face and tongue, listening for particular sounds, noticing unusual body odors, feeling the muscles, and asking the “seven inquires”: chills and fever; perspiration; appetite, thirst and taste; urination and elimination; pain; sleep; and periods and vaginal discharge.
Traditional Chinese medicine divides the body into 12 meridians or channels, some of which correspond to organs in the body, such as the heart, lung, stomach, large intestine, small intestine, gallbladder, bladder, spleen, liver, and kidney. These meridians run along the hands up to the head, the feet to the chest, and the face down to the feet; they comprise three complete circuits of the body.
Once the diagnosis is made, the acupuncturist inserts thin stainless steel, silver, or copper needles into the skin. Although treatments vary from person to person, on average, the needles stay in about 25 minutes. Most people describe the insertion painless and even relaxing once all the needles are inserted.
There are different types of acupuncture, including Japanese, Korean, and classical Chinese. Licensed acupuncturists receive between 2,500 and 4,000 hours of training. Other health-care providers, such as dentists, physicians, and chiropractors, also may practice acupuncture; however, they generally have less training.
Acupuncture as a PMS Treatment
A 2002 Croatian study, published in the Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, found that acupuncture significantly reduced PMS symptoms such as anxiety, breast pain, insomnia, nausea, gastrointestinal disorders, phobias, headaches, and migraines. When compared to a placebo, acupuncture was 77.8 percent effective, while the placebo was only 5.9 percent effective.