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Acupuncture as a therapeutic intervention is now widely practiced in the United States, and has been for centuries in the Orient. While there have been many studies of its potential usefulness, many of these studies provided mixed results because of design, sample size, and other factors. The issue is further complicated by inherent difficulties in the use of appropriate controls, such as placebos and sham acupuncture groups.

However, promising results have emerged, for example, showing efficacy of acupuncture in adult post-operative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and in post-operative dental pain. There are other situations such as addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and asthma where acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative or be included in a comprehensive management program. Further research is likely to uncover additional areas where acupuncture interventions will be useful.

There are many websites dedicated to the topic of acupuncture likeAcupuncture.com and AcupunctureToday.com which will help give you an idea if this form of treatment is for you.

Another site,The Ultimate Acupuncture Guide is a good summary of the history and benefits of acupuncture.
 

 
 

Acupuncture can help with the following:
 
 
Addictions  Current Smoker
 Simple ear electroacupuncture was shown to be significantly more effective in helping volunteers to quit smoking than a placebo treatment. [Brit Journal of General Practice, Aug 1998;48:pp.1487-1490]

Allergy

  Allergic Rhinitis / Hay Fever
 Treatment with acupuncture can help promote both immune system function and drainage of lymphatic fluid.

Autoimmune

  Multiple Sclerosis / Risk
 Acupuncture treatments for Multiple Sclerosis have had much success in reducing pain and decreasing spasticity. Another area of success is improved bladder and bowel control. The reduction of stress and the improved feeling of well being contribute to an improvement in quality of life. The acupuncture treatments must be given frequently in order to maintain the improvements of symptoms, but Multiple Sclerosis is known for its cycles of remission. During periods of remission, the frequency of the acupuncture treatments can be reduced.

A Canadian study involved a survey of 217 people with MS who used acupuncture. The preliminary findings from this study indicate that approximately two-thirds reported some type of beneficial effect. Improvement was noted in many symptoms, including fatigue, pain, spasticity, walking difficulties, bowel and bladder difficulties, tingling and numbness, weakness, sleep disorders, incoordination, optic neuritis, and MS attacks (arranged from most-reported to least-reported). Approximately 10% experienced side effects, the most common of which were pain, soreness at the needle site, and worsening of some symptoms (fatigue, spasticity, dizziness, and walking unsteadiness).

Circulation

  Hypertension
 A doctor Arabinda Das, MD reported using acupuncture points LIV-3, SP-9 and GB-34 bilaterally. After 2-3 visits he sutured the points. He reported immediate and lasting normalization of pressure in 80% of cases.[Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, Aug/Sept 2002; p.66]

A separate study suggests 12 treatments over a course of 6 weeks.

It was found that acupuncture at the Heart otoacupoint produced marked immediate depressor effects, with a short-term effective rate of 100% and long-term effective rate of 63%. [Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1992 Jun, 12(2): pp.133-6 ]

Diet

  Excess Sugar Consumption
 One common use of acupuncture is to control various addictions. In the case of people who feel their sugar cravings or other food cravings are out of control and want to cut down on these foods, acupuncture can be very useful. Professionals who deal with addictive behavior do not expect will power alone to be effective. The first thing you can try with a sugar craving is to substitute naturally sweet foods for sugar-added foods. Try eating dates, apples, sweet potatoes, squash or dried fruits when your sweet tooth acts up. If this doesn't work, then consider acupuncture treatments.

Mental

  Anxiety
 32 subjects underwent ear acupuncture using relaxation, tranquilizer and master cerebral points on the ear. There was a greater reduction in anxiety in the ear acupuncture group compared with the other two groups (one receiving conventional acupuncture and one control. [Anesth Analg 2001;93; pp.1178-1180]

Acupuncture has been successfully used to treat general feelings of anxiety, stress, migraines, insomnia and even nervous ticks.

Metabolic

  Headaches, Migraine/Tension
 Subjects (400) were randomly chosen to receive either usual care (typically medication), or acupuncture treatments for a
period of one year. Those receiving acupuncture were restricted to a maximum of 12 treatments every three months
and also had the option of using medication in instances where the acupuncture failed. During the study period, each
subject kept a diary, rating the severity of headaches with a six-point scale.

When the diaries were analyzed, researchers found that, compared with the usual care group, those in the acupuncture
group had an average of 22 fewer days with a headache, and some had well over 30. Acupuncture patients also used 15% less medication, made 25% fewer visits to the doctor and had 15% fewer sick days off from work.

Based on these uniformly positive outcomes, the authors of the study concluded that acupuncture leads to "clinically
relevant benefits for primary care patients with chronic headache."[BMJ 1999;319: pp.973-976]

Researchers in Germany divided 270 patients with similar symptoms into three groups for a randomized, controlled trial. Over an eight-week period, one group was treated with full traditional acupuncture, one with minimal acupuncture, and one with neither method.

Headache rates dropped by almost half among those in the “traditional acupuncture” group. On average, they experienced 7 fewer days of headaches in the four weeks following the trial than they did in the four weeks preceding it. Those in the “minimal acupuncture group” fared almost as well, with an average drop of 6.6 days with headaches. The third group only saw an average drop of 1.5 days - just a tenth less than what they had experienced prior to the study.

The researchers concluded that acupuncture works as well or better for tension headaches than treatments already accepted. [British Medical Journal, July 29, 2005]


A new study of acupuncture (2012) — the most rigorous and detailed analysis of the treatment to date — found that it can ease migraines, arthritis and other forms of chronic pain.

The findings provide strong scientific support for an age-old therapy used by an estimated three million Americans each year. Though acupuncture has been studied for decades, the body of medical research on it has been mixed and mired to some extent by small and poor-quality studies. Financed by the National Institutes of Health and carried out over about half a decade, the new research was a detailed analysis of earlier research that involved data on nearly 18,000 patients. [Arch Intern Med. Published online September 10, 2012. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3654]

Musculo-Skeletal

  Osteoarthritis
 A new study of acupuncture (2012) — the most rigorous and detailed analysis of the treatment to date — found that it can ease migraines, arthritis and other forms of chronic pain.

The findings provide strong scientific support for an age-old therapy used by an estimated three million Americans each year. Though acupuncture has been studied for decades, the body of medical research on it has been mixed and mired to some extent by small and poor-quality studies. Financed by the National Institutes of Health and carried out over about half a decade, the new research was a detailed analysis of earlier research that involved data on nearly 18,000 patients. [Arch Intern Med. Published online September 10, 2012. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3654]

Nervous System

  Trigeminal Neuralgia / Facial Pain
 For facial neuralgias, the evidence for acupuncture appears to be mostly anecdotal. Some have reported pain relief for long periods of time, others have had their pain worsen. People with classical TN seem to have very little success, whereas people with atypical TN report success slightly more often. Anecdotal information also suggests that acupuncture has been used for TN connected with multiple sclerosis, with some success, but reliable statistics cannot be found. There are a vast number of aches and pains that are often described as neuralgic. Many of these occur as facial pain and most of them cause severe discomfort. It is always worth while to attempt to alleviate these pains by using acupuncture. Some people respond and others do not; it is impossible to give figures for success, or even estimates, without going into great detail about the exact cause and type of neuralgia being treated.

This report evaluated the effect of meridian acupuncture treatment on trigeminal neuralgia. Ten patients aged 26 to 67 years (mean 55.4 years) with TN who visited the outpatient Dental Anesthesiology Clinic at Tsurumi University Dental Hospital from 1985 to 1990 were studied. The patients underwent meridian treatment by acupuncture alone or acupuncture combined with moxibustion. The acupuncture method used was primarily basic treatment employing only needles without electrical stimulation. Meridian acupuncture treatments were repeated from two to four times a month.

Five patients were restored to a pain-free state. The other five patients noted a decrease in pain, but with some level of pain remaining (significant pain in one patient). It is concluded that meridian acupuncture treatment is useful and can be one therapeutic approach in the management of trigeminal neuralgia. [Practical application of meridian acupuncture treatment for trigeminal neuralgia. Anesthesia and Pain Control in Dentistry, 1992 Spring, 1(2): pp.103-8]

Organ Health

  Prostatitis
 In the present series of observations, 360 cases of prostatitis were treated with acupuncture of Sishenchong (EX-HN 1), etc. and self-drafted prescription I, II and III. After 4 courses (28 sessions) of treatment, 321 cases (89.17%) were cured, 35 cases (9.72%) had improvement and 4 cases (1.11%) failed. The total effective rate was 98.89%. [World Journal of Acupuncture-Moxibustion, Vol.10 No.1, March, 2000]

Pain

  Low Back Pain / Problems
 Users of acupuncturist claim that it can be helpful by reducing swelling and inflammation, and by doing so, relieving pain. Even for people who have injuries, degradation of spinal disks, or have arthritic changes in the spine, acupuncture is often useful.

The results of a study provide further proof that acupuncture is a safe and effective procedure for low-back pain, and that it can maintain positive outcomes for periods of six months or longer without producing the negative side-effects that often accompany more traditional pain remedies. [Clinical Journal of Pain 2001;17(4): pp.296-305]

Risks

  Increased Risk of Alzheimer's / Dementia
 The Chinese consider acupuncture to be an effective therapy for Alzheimer's disease. There is solid evidence that acupuncture increases certain neurotransmitters in the brain and can actually stimulate nerve regeneration. Increased serotonin levels probably explain why acupuncture is so effective in controlling pain and managing stress. Acupuncture also promotes blood circulation to the brain and improves memory and concentration so there is good reason for people who have Alzheimer's, or who are at risk for developing it, to try acupuncture.

Tumors, Benign

  Nasal Polyps
 Electric acupuncture has shown some positive results in the treatment of nasal polyps.

Uro-Genital

  Erectile Dysfunction (ED, Impotence)
 The only placebo-controlled study of acupuncture found that the placebo also produced a large improvement in sexual function that was close to the effect of acupuncture. Controlled trials with larger groups of men are necessary to better test the efficacy of acupuncture therapy for men suffering from erectile dysfunction. [Scand J Urol Nephrol 31: pp.271-4, 1997]
 
 


KEY
May do some good
Likely to help
Highly recommended







GLOSSARY

Asthma:  A lung disorder marked by attacks of breathing difficulty, wheezing, coughing, and thick mucus coming from the lungs. The episodes may be triggered by breathing foreign substances (allergens) or pollutants, infection, vigorous exercise, or emotional stress.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:  A common, painful defect of the wrist and hand. It is caused by pressure on the middle nerve in the carpal tunnel. The syndrome is seen more often in women, especially in pregnant and in menopausal women. Symptoms may result from a blow, swelling, a tumor, rheumatoid arthritis, or a small carpal tunnel that squeezes the nerve. Pain may be infrequent or constant and is often most intense at night.

Chemotherapy:  A treatment of disease by any chemicals. Used most often to refer to the chemical treatments used to combat cancer cells.

Fibromyalgia:  (FMS): Originally named fibrositis, it is a mysteriously debilitating syndrome that attacks women more often than men. It is not physically damaging to the body in any way, but is characterized by the constant presence of widespread pain that often moves about the body. Fibromyalgia can be so severe that it is often incapacitating.

Nausea:  Symptoms resulting from an inclination to vomit.

Placebo:  A pharmacologically inactive substance. Often used to compare clinical responses against the effects of pharmacologically active substances in experiments.

Stroke:  A sudden loss of brain function caused by a blockage or rupture of a blood vessel that supplies the brain, characterized by loss of muscular control, complete or partial loss of sensation or consciousness, dizziness, slurred speech, or other symptoms that vary with the extent and severity of the damage to the brain. The most common manifestation is some degree of paralysis, but small strokes may occur without symptoms. Usually caused by arteriosclerosis, it often results in brain damage.