It's used to treat everything from migraine headaches to arthritis and depression - medical acupuncture. As a general practitioner, Dr. Kendra Unger is treating a growing number of patients in her family medicine practice with medical acupuncture.
Medical acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine, performed by a trained physician certified in acupuncture. Very thin needles are inserted in strategic points of the body to boost natural painkillers and increase blood flow. "The use of acupuncture needles have been shown to decrease pain perception by overwhelming pain preceptors. And so a patient will often have a decrease in pain due to the needle simply being placed into the muscle. There is also an endogenous release of opioids in the brain and so it's like taking a pain pill without needing one," said Dr. Unger, Medical Acupuncturist at the WVU School of Medicine.
Medical Acupuncture patient Danielle Conaway sought out acupuncture to relieve shoulder pain and tension headaches. " I'd never tried it before and it really just feels like somebody maybe pinching your skin for a second when the needle is inserted into your skin but then that really goes away quickly and I don't even really feel the needles," said Conaway.
Medical acupuncture can provide relief for a host of medical conditions including, headaches, backaches, asthma, PMS, depression, and addictions. "The most important aspect about acupuncture that I would like people to remember is that it doesn't replace good medicine. It can often be used as an adjunct and it can often be used in parallel with good medical advice to enhance the treatments that you're already receiving from your physician," according to Dr. Unger.
Some of the benefits of seeing a medical acupuncturist, according to Dr. Unger, include having the overall health expertise of a trained doctor. She advises patients to do their homework and make sure the medical acupuncturist is properly certified.