and has been practiced there for thousands of years. Although there are records of acupuncture
being used hundreds of years ago in Europe, it was during the second half of
the twentieth century it began to spread rapidly in Western Europe, the China United States and . Canada
Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles through the patient's skin at specific points on the body - the needles are inserted to various depths. The medical community is not in conclusive agreement about how acupuncture works scientifically. However, we do know that it does have some therapeutic benefits, including pain relief and alleviation from nausea caused by chemotherapy.
According to traditional Chinese medical theory, acupuncture points are located on meridians through which gi vital energy runs. There is no histological, anatomical or scientific proof that these meridians or acupuncture points exist. Acupuncture remains controversial among Western medical doctors and scientists.
Creating case studies that use proper scientific controls is difficult because of the invasive nature of acupuncture - a clinical study involves and compared to the targeted treatment. It is very hard to devise a sham acupuncture control that one can compare to proper acupuncture. While some studies have concluded that acupuncture offers similar benefits to a patient as a placebo, others have indicated that there are some real benefits. This article in a peer-reviewed British Medical Journal explains that the principles of acupuncture are firmly grounded in science, and you don't need Chinese philosophy either to make it work, or to practice it.
According to WHO (World Health Organization) acupuncture is effective for treating 28 conditions, while evidence indicates it may have an effective therapeutic value for many more.
People with tension headaches and/or migraines may find acupuncture to be very effective in alleviating their symptoms, according to a study carried out at the Technical University of Munich, Germany. Another study at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center found that twice weekly acupuncture treatments relieve debilitating symptoms of xerostomia - severe dry mouth - among patients treated with radiation for head and neck cancer.
How does acupuncture work?
Traditional Chinese medicine explains that health is the result of a harmonious balance of the complementary extremes of yinand yang of the life force known as gi or chi. Qi is said to flow through meridians (pathways) in the human body. Through 350 acupuncture points in the body, these meridians and energy flows may be accessed. Illness is said to be the consequence of an imbalance of the forces. If needles are inserted into these points with appropriate combinations it is said that the energy flow can be brought back into proper balance.
In Western societies and several other parts of the world, acupuncture is explained including concepts of neuroscience. Acupuncture points are seen by Western practitioners as places where nerves, muscles and connective tissue can be stimulated. Acupuncture practitioners say that the stimulation increases blood flow while at the same time triggering the activity of our own body's natural painkillers.
How is acupuncture treatment carried out?
Acupuncture generally involves several weekly or fortnightly treatments. Most courses consist of up to 12 sessions. A visit to an acupuncturist will involve an exam and an assessment of the patient's condition, the insertion of needles, and advice on self-care. Most sessions last about 30 minutes.
The patient will be asked to lie down, either face-up, face-down or on his/her side, depending on where the needless are inserted. The acupuncturist should use single-use disposable sterile needles. As each needle is inserted the patient should feel them, but initially without pain. However, when the needle reaches the right depth there should be a deep aching sensation. Sometimes the needles are heated or stimulated with electricity after insertion. Once inserted, the needles will remain there for about twenty minutes.
What are the health benefits and risks of acupuncture?
The possible benefits of acupuncture are:
1. When performed correctly it is safe
2. There are very few side effects
3. It is a very effective combination treatment
4. It is effective in controlling some types of pain
5. It may be considered for patients who do not respond to pain medications
6. It is a useful alternative for patients who do not want to take pain medications.
The possible risks of acupuncture are:
1. It is dangerous if the patient has a bleeding disorder
2. It the dangerous if the patient is taking blood thinners
3. There may be bleeding, bruising and soreness at the insertion sites
4. The needle may break and damage an internal organ (very rare)
5. Unsterilised needles may infect the patient
6. When inserted deeply into the chest or upper back there is a risk of collapsed lung (very rare).
1. Helps Reduce Headaches and Migraines:
In 2009, after researchers from the Center for Complementary Medicine at the
reviewed over 11 studies
involving 2,137 acupuncture patients, they concluded that acupuncture “could be
a valuable non-pharmacological TOOL in patients with frequent chronic
tension-type headaches.” University of Munich
The review looked at multiple clinical trials comparing the effects of acupuncture sessions to “sham” (placebo-type of acupuncture) sessions and to receiving no treatment at all for the relief of migraine headache pain. In particular, both the group that had needles randomly placed and the group that had strategically placed needles experienced a reduction in headache symptoms. The control group did not experience any change.
However, in the follow-up survey, the group that had the real acupuncture treatment continued to have both a decrease in the number of headache days and headache pain intensity.
2. Improves Chronic Pain:
Including for the Back, Neck, Knee or Arthritis Pain Acupuncture was proven to be more effective for improving chronic back pain than no acupuncture treatment in a 2006 study done by the University Medical Center of Berlin. In patients with chronic low back pain, there was a significant difference in pain reported between groups of patients receiving acupuncture over eight weeks versus those not receiving any treatment.
Even more impressive is a 2012 study done by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics aimed to determine the effect of acupuncture for four chronic pain conditions: back and neck pain, arthritis, chronic headache and shoulder pain.
The researchers reviewed clinical trials involving over 17,000 patients, and the results showed that patients receiving acupuncture had less pain than patients in the placebo control group for back and neck muscle aches and pain, osteoarthritis, and chronic headaches. The conclusion was that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is “more than just a placebo effect, therefore it’s a reasonable referral option for doctors.”
3. Helps Treat Insomnia:
Beijing University of Chinese Medicine conducted large meta-analyses in 2009 that showed a beneficial effect of acupuncture on reducing insomnia symptoms, compared with no treatment. The analysis found that in patients who were taking medications or herbal treatments to help with sleep, adding acupuncture therapy showed better effects than taking the medications or herbs alone.
Another benefit was that unlike many sleep medications, the acupuncture sessions had no adverse side effects at all.
4. Improves Cancer and Chemotherapy Recovery:
According to the National Cancer Institute, several studies show that acupuncture can help boost immunity and speed up recovery following cancer treatments. One randomized trial, for example, found that acupuncture treatment enhanced immunity, platelet count and prevented a decrease in healthy cells after radiation therapy or chemotherapy when compared to receiving no acupuncture.
Researchers reported that the patients in both acupuncture treatment groups also experienced less pain from treatments, improvements in quality of life and a decrease in various negative side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea.
5. Helps to Prevent Cognitive Decline:
Some early research has showing new information about the effectiveness of acupuncture on Parkinson’s. Studies show that can relieve age-related cognitive decline symptoms as it generates a neural response in areas of the brain — such as the putamen and the thalamus — that are particularly affected by Parkinson’s disease.
In a 2002 study done by the Department of Neurology at the
, after 20 Parkinson’s patients
were treated with acupuncture for 16 sessions, 85 percent of patients reported
subjective improvements of individual symptoms, including tremor, walking,
handwriting, slowness, pain, sleep, depression and anxiety. There were no
adverse effects. University Of Maryland
School Of Medicine
6. Pregnancy, Labor and Postpartum Health:
Many doctors are now recommending acupuncture as a treatment to reduce stress, balance hormones, and ease the anxiety and pain of pregnancy and labor.
It’s considered a safe treatment for many of the common symptoms during pregnancy — to ease the physical and emotional strain on the body — as well as after the baby is born to help with any mood, depression, mental or physical symptoms the mother may experience. It can even be used right before the baby is due to prepare the body for labor.