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Why Acupuncture?

Why Acupuncture?

Recent Reports in Main Stream Media about Acupuncture:

HEALTH JOURNAL

March 22, 2010
Decoding an Ancient Therapy

High-Tech Tools Show How Acupuncture Works in Treating Arthritis, Back Pain, Other Ills

By MELINDA BECK

Acupuncture has long baffled medical experts and no wonder: It holds that an invisible life force called qi (pronounced chee) travels up and down the body in 14 meridians. Illness and pain are due to blockages and imbalances in qi. Inserting thin needles into the body at precise points can unblock the meridians, practitioners believe, and treat everything from arthritis and asthma to anxiety, acne and infertility.

WSJ’s health columnist Melinda Beck tests out acupuncture as an alternative means to reduce her neck and back pain.

Does It Work?

While scientists say further research is essential, some studies have provided evidence of acupuncture’s effects.

Arthritis of the Knee: Acupuncture significantly reduced pain and restored function, according to a 2004 government study.

Headaches: Two 2009 reviews found that acupuncture cut both tension and migraine headaches.

Lower Back Pain: Acupuncture eased it in a big study last year, but so did a sham treatment where needles didn’t penetrate the skin.

Cancer: Has proven effective in reducing nausea and fatigue caused by chemotherapy.

Infertility: Improves the odds of pregnancy for women undergoing in-vitro fertilization, according to a 2008 review of seven clinical trials.

Addiction: Often used to help quit smoking, drinking, drug use and overeating, but there is no conclusive evidence that it works.

After decades of cynicism, Western medical experts are using high-tech tools to unravel the ancient mysteries of how acupuncture works. WSJ’s Health columnist Melinda Beck joins Simon Constable on the News Hub to discuss.

As fanciful as that seems, acupuncture does have real effects on the human body, which scientists are documenting using high-tech tools. Neuroimaging studies show that it seems to calm areas of the brain that register pain and activate those involved in rest and recuperation. Doppler ultrasound shows that acupuncture increases blood flow in treated areas. Thermal imaging shows that it can make inflammation subside.

Scientists are also finding parallels between the ancient concepts and modern anatomy. Many of the 365 acupuncture points correspond to nerve bundles or muscle trigger points. Several meridians track major arteries and nerves. “If people have a heart attack, the pain will radiate up across the chest and down the left arm. That’s where the heart meridian goes,” says Peter Dorsher, a specialist in pain management and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. “Gallbladder pain will radiate to the right upper shoulder, just where the gallbladder meridian goes.”

Many medical experts remain deeply skeptical about acupuncture, of course, and studies of its effectiveness have been mixed. “Something measurable is happening when you stick a needle into a patient—that doesn’t impress me at all,” says Edzard Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter in England and co-author of the book, “Trick or Treatment.” Acupuncture “clearly has a very strong placebo effect. Whether it does anything else, the jury is still out.”

Even so, the use of acupuncture continues to spread—often alongside conventional medicine. U.S. Navy, Air Force and Army doctors are using acupuncture to treat musculoskeletal problems, pain and stress in stateside hospitals and combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. Delegations from Acupuncturists Without Borders are holding communal ear-needling sessions to reduce stress among earthquake victims in Haiti. Major medical centers—from M.D. Anderson in Houston to Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York—use acupuncture to counteract the side effects of chemotherapy.

In a 2007 survey, 3.2 million Americans had undergone acupuncture in the past year—up from 2.1 million in 2001, according to the government’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The most common uses are for chronic pain conditions like arthritis, lower back pain and headaches, as well as fatigue, anxiety and digestive problems, often when conventional medicine fails. At about $50 per session, it’s relatively inexpensive and covered by some insurers.

It is also generally safe. About 10% of patients experience some bleeding at the needle sites, although in very rare cases, fatalities have occurred due to infections or injury to vital organs, mostly due to inexperienced practitioners.

Most states require that acupuncturists be licensed, and the Food and Drug Administration requires that needles be new and sterile.

Diagnoses are complicated. An acupuncturist will examine a patient’s tongue and take three different pulses on each wrist, as well as asking questions about digestion, sleep and other habits, before determining which meridians may be blocked and where to place the needles. The 14 meridians are thought to be based on the rivers of China, and the 365 points may represent the days of the year. “Invaders” such as wind, cold, heat, dampness, dryness factor into illness, so can five phases known as fire, earth, metal, water and wood.

Using Acupuncture to Treat Stress

“It’s not like there’s a Merck Manual for acupuncture,” says Joseph M. Helms, who has trained some 4,000 physicians in acupuncture at his institute in Berkeley, Calif. “Every case is evaluated on an individual basis, based on the presentation of the patient and the knowledge of the acupuncturist.”

Dr. Helms notes that Western doctors also examine a patient’s tongue for signs of illness. As for qi, he says, while the word doesn’t exist in Western medicine, there are similar concepts. “We’ll say, ‘A 27-year-old female appears moribund; she doesn’t respond to stimuli. Or an 85-year old woman is exhibiting a vacant stare.’ We’re talking about the same energy and vitality, we’re just not making it a unique category that we quantify.”

Studies in the early 1980s found that acupuncture works in part by stimulating the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, much like vigorous exercise does. Now, a growing body of research suggests that it may have several mechanisms of action. Those include stimulating blood flow and tissue repair at the needle sites and sending nerve signals to the brain that regulate the perception of pain and reboot the autonomic nervous system, which governs unconscious functions such as heart beat, respiration and digestion, according to Alejandro Elorriaga, director of the medical acupuncture program at McMaster University in Ontario, which teaches a contemporary version to physicians.

“You can think Western, you can think Eastern. As long as your needle goes to the nerve, you will get some effect,” Dr. Elorriaga says.

What’s more, an odd phenomenon occurs when acupuncture needles are inserted into the body and rotated: Connective tissue wraps around them like spaghetti around a fork, according to ultrasound studies at the University of Vermont. Helene Langevin, research associate professor of neurology, says this action stretches cells in the connective tissue much like massage and yoga do, and may act like acupuncture meridians to send signals throughout the body. “That’s what we’re hoping to study next,” she says.

Meanwhile, neuroimaging studies at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have shown that acupuncture affects a network of systems in the brain, including decreasing activity in the limbic system, the emotional part of the brain, and activating it in the parts of the brain that typically light up when the brain is at rest.

Other studies at the Martinos Center have shown that patients with carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful compression of nerves in the wrist, have heightened activity in parts of the brain that regulate sensation and fear, but after acupuncture, their brain patterns more closely resemble those of healthy subjects. Brain scans of patients with fibromyalgia show that both acupuncture and sham acupuncture (using real needles on random points in the body) cause the release of endorphins. But real acupuncture also increased the number of receptors for pain-reducing neurotransmitters, bringing patients even more relief.

The fact that many patients get some relief and register some brain changes from fake acupuncture has caused controversy in designing clinical trials. Some critics say that proves that what patients think of as benefit from acupuncture is mainly the placebo effect. Acupuncture proponents counter that placebos that too closely mimic the treatment experience may have a real benefit.

“I don’t see any disconnect between how acupuncture works and how a placebo works,” says radiologist Vitaly Napadow at the Martinos center. “The body knows how to heal itself. That’s what a placebo does, too.”

Write to Melinda Beck at HealthJournal@wsj.com

Six Science-Based Benefits of Acupuncture Therapy 

Research shows acupuncture therapy can be an effective alternative treatment for everything from headaches to obesity. 

By Emily Main

Has your doctor ever prescribed you a round of acupuncture? Probably not. Alternative treatments often get short shrift in standard healthcare because doctors are generally unaware of the science showing that they really are effective alternatives to drugs and medication. But a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine may (hopefully) change that.

The researchers pooled data from nearly 18,000 people who had participated in studies examining the effectiveness of acupuncture and found that, yes, it really is a good treatment for chronic pain and that doctors should start recommending it as treatment for arthritis and other chronic ailments.

Chronic pain is certainly one of the most common reasons people seek out acupuncturists, but here are six other scientifically studied ways that acupuncture therapy can alleviate what’s bothering you: 

#1: Eases your aching back. Using acupuncture therapy to successfully relieve chronic back pain is well documented in scientific literature, and acupuncturists say that it’s the leading reason that people visit their clinics. A study published in May’s issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine even found that people who were given “simulated acupuncture,” where pressure was place on certain acupuncture points but no needles were actually used, saw as much as a 15 percent greater improvement in their symptoms (equal to the improvements seen in people who were receiving true acupuncture) than people who were taking medications and undergoing standard chiropractic care.

#2: Boosts the effectiveness of pharmaceuticals. A study from China, published in the August issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that a low-dose of fluoxetine (Prozac) combined with acupuncture therapy was just as effective at reducing anxiety in patients being treated for depression as full-dose medication. Cutting the dose and adding acupuncture also reduced the drug’s side effects, which can include nausea, weight gain, and a decreased sex drive.

#3: Soothes the burning in your stomach. This June, Brazilian researchers published research finding that acupuncture therapy alleviated heartburn and indigestion in pregnant women. One group of pregnant women was given a combination of acupuncture and medications, and another group was counseled on dietary changes and given medications if needed. Over the course of the study, 75 percent of the women in the acupuncture group saw heartburn intensity, and antacid use, decline, while only 44 percent of women in the standard-treatment group saw those same effects.

#4: Counteracts the effects of radiation. Cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment are likely to suffer a variety of side effects, depending on the part of the body being treated. However, acupuncture therapy has been found to have some effect on the perception of how bad those effects can be, particularly for nausea and dry mouth, common in patients receiving radiation to the head and neck. A review of studies published in CA, a journal of the American Cancer Society, found that people undergoing radiation treatment perceived fewer negative side effects of radiation even though the side effects may still be there. For instance, in one study, patients who wore acupressure bands during treatment said they felt less nausea, although they still had the same occurrence of vomiting as they did before wearing the band, and in another study, people said they had less of a problem with dry mouth, even though measures of their saliva showed that levels remained the same. The acupuncture didn’t actually alleviate the symptoms, but it did help improve patients’ quality of life after treatment.

#5: Dulls persistent headaches. A review of 22 studies involving acupuncture therapy, migraines, and tension headaches found that regular acupuncture therapy was effective at preventing tension headaches and migraines from becoming a problem, and that it was an effective treatment for existing headaches.

#6: Ends obesity? The influence of acupuncture therapy on obesity isn’t as well-documented as the other examples we’ve listed, but there’s enough evidence to suggest that it could be an effective weight-loss treatment. Researchers from Korea analyzed 31 studies on a total of 3,013 people, and found that acupuncture therapy led to greater decreases in body weight than lifestyle changes or medications. However, they note in their findings, published February in the journal Obesity, that flaws in many of the studies made it difficult to see how effective acupuncture therapy would be on obesity in the long run. But for people willing to try it, adding a weekly acupuncture session to daily exercise and a smart diet could lead to healthy gains.

RODALE, Where Health Meets Life

The Ten Benefits of Acupuncture

By Pamela Peterson LicAc., NCCAOM

1. Improved Health and Quality of Life
This is achieved because acupuncture balances the body’s energy systems. Our life styles, thought patterns and diets create imbalance in the body (and emotional pain). Acupuncture helps to balance these energy systems through acupuncture points. These points are gateways to the body’s energy flow. They help to take the “load” off of excess and redirect that Qi (loosely translated as energy) to the areas in your body that are deficient.

2. Stress Reduction
This is also accomplished by balancing your body’s energy. A little stress is actually good for you, but most people today experience far too much of it. Experience these high stress levels day after day makes it very difficult for your body to relax and balance; regular acupuncture treatments are a powerful way to enable this relaxation and balance.

3. Pain Reduction
Helping with chronic and acute pain is one of the most common applications of acupuncture. Arthritis, neck pain, back pain, menstrual pain, carpal tunnel, plantar fasciitis, joint sprains & strains, digestive pain etc. are very commonly helped by acupuncture. If you experience migraine, cluster and other headaches you can often find relief right there on the table. The results can be amazing.

4. Improved and Faster Recovery from Injury, Illness and Surgery
This can be accomplished using acupuncture to increase circulation, reduce inflammation and reduce scaring. “Weekend warrior” types of injuries are known to heal much faster with acupuncture. Many professional sports teams have staff acupuncturists.

5. Emotional Balance
Achieving emotional balance can be both the primary focus of acupuncture treatment and is also a positive “side effect” when you use acupuncture for other reasons. Depression, anxiety, frustration, and worry are a few emotional imbalances treated. Acupuncture points have a physical and emotional aspect to their function and most times both of those aspects are accessed during the acupuncture treatment.

6. Respiratory Health
This can be very effectively achieved with acupuncture! Allergies, asthma, sinusitis, rhinitis are conditions that are positively impacted with acupuncture everyday. Being aware of indoor pollutants – cleaning chemicals, out gassing of plastics & fabrics, molds etc. and taking steps to reduce them can also reduce respiratory imbalances. Nasal irrigation is also very helpful.

7. Insomnia Relief
Insomnia and other sleep issues are also very commonly addressed by acupuncture. Since insomnia and sleep disturbances can be caused from stress, injury, pain and emotional imbalance, good sleep can also be a positive “side effect” when acupuncture is used for other primary reasons. An acupuncture treatment can easily be focused on insomnia and sleep disturbances.

8. Strengthening Your Immune System
This can be accomplished through balancing your body’s energy systems with acupuncture. Stress, illness, environmental toxins, and allergies, are just a few of the causes of a weakened immune system.

9. Premenstrual (PMS) and Menopausal Symptom Relief
I would venture to say that every experienced acupuncturist has helped with PMS and relieving menopausal symptoms. These conditions are very common, of course, and acupuncture is very effective in treating the symptoms associated with them. Headaches, cramping, sleep disturbances, mood swings, night sweats, cycle length and duration, and pimples are just a few of the common symptoms.

10. Reduction of Side Effects of Chemo and Radiation Therapies
This can also be a very powerful benefit of acupuncture. Please head to www.cancer.gov and input “acupuncture” in their search box for much more detailed information including studies that have been conducted showing acupuncture’s effectiveness. The side effects acupuncture can help include (but are not limited to) coughing, fever, anxiousness, nausea, depression, night sweats, dry mouth, pain, diarrhea, and constipation. Improved quality of life is, without a doubt, experienced by every cancer patient I have treated.

FIVE WAYS ACUPUNCTURE CAN FIX HEALTH PROBLEMS
Men’s Health magazine

For weeks, Nathan Suver had a serious pain in the neck. It was a recurring problem, related to a back injury, and nothing made it go away. Until, that is, his doctor jabbed him with pins. “He did it as part of a routine visit,” recalls Suver, a 35-year-old software developer from Southington, Connecticut. “He hasacupuncture training. He just said, ‘This will help with the pain,’ and stuck 10 little needles in me. He first put one in my neck, and then one in my wrist. It felt like lightning shooting through my body from my neck to my wrist. But it was actually only slightly uncomfortable.”

The treatment was worth that slight discomfort, because Suver’s pain went away. A week later, he bragged about the success on Facebook. “What’s even more amazing is that while I was convinced it wouldn’t work, it did anyway,” he wrote. “So much for the placebo effect.”

Acupuncture, from an Eastern perspective, is all about energy and its flow through your body. If that flow is blocked, the thinking goes, pain or illness results. By gently tapping as many as 20 thin needles into your body at strategic points, acupuncturists try to reestablish the flow. That’s a compelling but not necessarily convincing explanation. So Western medicine is working to understand the mechanisms of acupuncture. “There are many details we still don’t understand, but essentially, acupuncture seems to stimulate specific muscles and nerves, activating changes that reduce pain and symptoms and promote healing,” says Kwokming James Cheng, M.D., whose June review in Acupuncture in Medicine aimed to identify the precise neurological significance of common “acupoints”—areas targeted in acupuncture.

How acupuncture works may be unclear, but the benefits stick out. Research shows that this ancient therapy can be an effective treatment for a wide variety of ailments, from back pain and sciatica to headaches, nausea, and asthma. We consulted experts and recent studies to find out which conditions seem to benefit most from acupuncture. If you’re struggling with one of the following ailments, you might consider going under the needle.

Read more: http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/acupuncture_benefits/index.php#ixzz28Pjt66hd

6 Science-Based Benefits of Acupuncture Therapy 

Research shows acupuncture therapy can be an effective alternative treatment for everything from headaches to obesity. 

By Emily Main

Has your doctor ever prescribed you a round of acupuncture? Probably not. Alternative treatments often get short shrift in standard healthcare because doctors are generally unaware of the science showing that they really are effective alternatives to drugs and medication. But a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine may (hopefully) change that.

The researchers pooled data from nearly 18,000 people who had participated in studies examining the effectiveness of acupuncture and found that, yes, it really is a good treatment for chronic pain and that doctors should start recommending it as treatment for arthritis and other chronic ailments.

Chronic pain is certainly one of the most common reasons people seek out acupuncturists, but here are six other scientifically studied ways that acupuncture therapy can alleviate what’s bothering you: 

#1: Eases your aching back. Using acupuncture therapy to successfully relieve chronic back pain is well documented in scientific literature, and acupuncturists say that it’s the leading reason that people visit their clinics. A study published in May’s issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine even found that people who were given “simulated acupuncture,” where pressure was place on certain acupuncture points but no needles were actually used, saw as much as a 15 percent greater improvement in their symptoms (equal to the improvements seen in people who were receiving true acupuncture) than people who were taking medications and undergoing standard chiropractic care.

#2: Boosts the effectiveness of pharmaceuticals. A study from China, published in the August issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that a low-dose of fluoxetine (Prozac) combined with acupuncture therapy was just as effective at reducing anxiety in patients being treated for depression as full-dose medication. Cutting the dose and adding acupuncture also reduced the drug’s side effects, which can include nausea, weight gain, and a decreased sex drive.

#3: Soothes the burning in your stomach. This June, Brazilian researchers published research finding that acupuncture therapy alleviated heartburn and indigestion in pregnant women. One group of pregnant women was given a combination of acupuncture and medications, and another group was counseled on dietary changes and given medications if needed. Over the course of the study, 75 percent of the women in the acupuncture group saw heartburn intensity, and antacid use, decline, while only 44 percent of women in the standard-treatment group saw those same effects.

#4: Counteracts the effects of radiation. Cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment are likely to suffer a variety of side effects, depending on the part of the body being treated. However, acupuncture therapy has been found to have some effect on the perception of how bad those effects can be, particularly for nausea and dry mouth, common in patients receiving radiation to the head and neck. A review of studies published in CA, a journal of the American Cancer Society, found that people undergoing radiation treatment perceived fewer negative side effects of radiation even though the side effects may still be there. For instance, in one study, patients who wore acupressure bands during treatment said they felt less nausea, although they still had the same occurrence of vomiting as they did before wearing the band, and in another study, people said they had less of a problem with dry mouth, even though measures of their saliva showed that levels remained the same. The acupuncture didn’t actually alleviate the symptoms, but it did help improve patients’ quality of life after treatment.

#5: Dulls persistent headaches. A review of 22 studies involving acupuncture therapy, migraines, and tension headaches found that regular acupuncture therapy was effective at preventing tension headaches and migraines from becoming a problem, and that it was an effective treatment for existing headaches.

#6: Ends obesity? The influence of acupuncture therapy on obesity isn’t as well-documented as the other examples we’ve listed, but there’s enough evidence to suggest that it could be an effective weight-loss treatment. Researchers from Korea analyzed 31 studies on a total of 3,013 people, and found that acupuncture therapy led to greater decreases in body weight than lifestyle changes or medications. However, they note in their findings, published February in the journal Obesity, that flaws in many of the studies made it difficult to see how effective acupuncture therapy would be on obesity in the long run. But for people willing to try it, adding a weekly acupuncture session to daily exercise and a smart diet could lead to healthy gains.

RODALE, Where Health Meets Life

FIVE WAYS ACUPUNCTURE CAN FIX HEALTH PROBLEMS
Men’s Health magazine

For weeks, Nathan Suver had a serious pain in the neck. It was a recurring problem, related to a back injury, and nothing made it go away. Until, that is, his doctor jabbed him with pins. “He did it as part of a routine visit,” recalls Suver, a 35-year-old software developer from Southington, Connecticut. “He has acupuncture training. He just said, ‘This will help with the pain,’ and stuck 10 little needles in me. He first put one in my neck, and then one in my wrist. It felt like lightning shooting through my body from my neck to my wrist. But it was actually only slightly uncomfortable.”

The treatment was worth that slight discomfort, because Suver’s pain went away. A week later, he bragged about the success on Facebook. “What’s even more amazing is that while I was convinced it wouldn’t work, it did anyway,” he wrote. “So much for the placebo effect.”

Acupuncture, from an Eastern perspective, is all about energy and its flow through your body. If that flow is blocked, the thinking goes, pain or illness results. By gently tapping as many as 20 thin needles into your body at strategic points, acupuncturists try to reestablish the flow. That’s a compelling but not necessarily convincing explanation. So Western medicine is working to understand the mechanisms of acupuncture.

“There are many details we still don’t understand, but essentially, acupuncture seems to stimulate specific muscles and nerves, activating changes that reduce pain and symptoms and promote healing,” says Kwokming James Cheng, M.D., whose June review in Acupuncture in Medicine aimed to identify the precise neurological significance of common “acupoints”—areas targeted in acupuncture.

How acupuncture works may be unclear, but the benefits stick out. Research shows that this ancient therapy can be an effective treatment for a wide variety of ailments, from back pain and sciatica to headaches, nausea, and asthma. We consulted experts and recent studies to find out which conditions seem to benefit most from acupuncture. If you’re struggling with one of the following ailments, you might consider going under the needle.

Read more: http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/acupuncture_benefits/index.php#ixzz28Pjt66hd