Oriental medicine is a comprehensive health care system encompassing a variety of traditional health care therapies that have been used for more than 3,000 years to diagnose and treat illness, prevent disease and improve well-being.
Acupuncture is one of the essential elements of Oriental medicine. Other elements include Chinese herbology, bodywork (e.g., acupressure, shiatsu), diet and exercise (e.g., tai chi, qi gong) based on traditional medicinal principles.
All Oriental medicine modalities are intended to improve the flow of qi (pronounced "chee"). Qi regulates the body's spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance and is influenced by the opposing forces of yin (negative energy) and yang (positive energy). According to traditional Chinese medicine, when yin and yang are balanced, they work together with the natural flow of qi to help the body achieve and maintain health.
According to a National Institutes of Health consensus panel of scientists, researchers, and practitioners who convened in November 1997, clinical studies have shown that acupuncture is an effective treatment for nausea caused by surgical anesthesia and cancer-related treatments, as well as for dental pain experienced after surgery. The panel also found that acupuncture is useful by itself or combined with conventional therapies to treat addiction, headaches, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, asthma, and to assist in stroke rehabilitation.
Outside the United States, the World Health Organization (WHO), the health branch of the United Nations, lists more than 40 conditions for which acupuncture may be a useful treatment.
In response to the public’s increased use of complementary and alternative medicine such as acupuncture and Oriental medicine, an Office of Alternative Medicine was established at the National Institutes of Health. The Center became the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) in 1998 and now has an annual budget of more than $100,000,000.
An estimated 36% of U.S. adults use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), according to a new survey by the NCCAM. When megavitamin therapy and prayer specifically for health reasons is included in the definition of CAM, the number of U.S. adults using some form of CAM rises to 62%. Among the common CAM practices identified by the survey where acupuncture, acupressure, herbal medicine, tai chi and qi gong.
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