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What is Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a safe, painless and highly effective way to treat a wide variety of medical problems. Acupuncture is the main component of Asian Medicine, which can be traced back at least 2,500 years. Other components of Asian Medicine include herbology, nutrition, cupping and Qi Gong which also includes breathing techniques, meditation and exercise. The general theory of acupuncture is based patterns of energy (qi) that runs through meridians or channels throughout the body. There is a strong interconnectedness of these meridians with every system of the body. It is all perfectly laced together like a web. If there is upset in one part of the body there is a cause (root) and an effect or symptom (branch) from another part. Disruptions of this connection are believed to be responsible for all disease. Acupuncture corrects imbalances at identifiable points close to the skin using thin, metal needles.

There are no negative side effects of acupuncture. Acupuncture has been used safely and effectively for thousands of years to treat many conditions and diseases.

The United States National Institutes of Health, the National Health Service of the United Kingdom, the World Health Organization, and the National Health Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine all recognize and endorse the use of Asian medicine. As stated by the World Health Organization website the following studies have been conclusive.

Diseases and disorders that can be treated with acupuncture

The diseases or disorders for which acupuncture therapy has been tested in controlled clinical trials reported in the recent literature can be classified into four categories as shown below.

  1. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture has been proved-through controlled trials-to be an effective treatment:
    • Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
    • Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
    • Biliary colic
    • Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
    • Dysentery, acute bacillary
    • Dysmenorrhoea, primary
    • Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
    • Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
    • Headache
    • Hypertension, essential
    • Hypotension, primary
    • Induction of labour
    • Knee pain
    • Leukopenia
    • Low back pain
    • Malposition of fetus, correction of
    • Morning sickness
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Neck pain
    • Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
    • Periarthritis of shoulder
    • Postoperative pain
    • Renal colic
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Sciatica
    • Sprain
    • Stroke
    • Tennis elbow
  2. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed:
    • Abdominal pain (in acute gastroenteritis or due to gastrointestinal spasm)
    • Acne vulgaris
    • Alcohol dependence and detoxification
    • Bell’s palsy
    • Bronchial asthma
    • Cancer pain
    • Cardiac neurosis
    • Cholecystitis, chronic, with acute exacerbation
    • Cholelithiasis
    • Competition stress syndrome
    • Craniocerebral injury, closed
    • Diabetes mellitus, non-insulin-dependent
    • Earache
    • Epidemic haemorrhagic fever
    • Epistaxis, simple (without generalized or local disease)
    • Eye pain due to subconjunctival injection
    • Female infertility
    • Facial spasm
    • Female urethral syndrome
    • Fibromyalgia and fasciitis
    • Gastrokinetic disturbance
    • Gouty arthritis
    • Hepatitis B virus carrier status
    • Herpes zoster (human (alpha) herpesvirus 3)
    • Hyperlipaemia
    • Hypo-ovarianism
    • Insomnia
    • Labour pain
    • Lactation, deficiency
    • Male sexual dysfunction, non-organic
    • Ménière disease
    • Neuralgia, post-herpetic
    • Neurodermatitis
    • Obesity
    • Opium, cocaine and heroin dependence
    • Osteoarthritis
    • Pain due to endoscopic examination
    • Pain in thromboangiitis obliterans
    • Polycystic ovary syndrome (Stein-Leventhal syndrome)
    • Postextubation in children
    • Postoperative convalescence
    • Premenstrual syndrome
    • Prostatitis, chronic
    • Pruritus
    • Radicular and pseudoradicular pain syndrome
    • Raynaud syndrome, primary
    • Recurrent lower urinary-tract infection
    • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
    • Retention of urine, traumatic
    • Schizophrenia
    • Sialism, drug-induced
    • Sjögren syndrome
    • Sore throat (including tonsillitis)
    • Spine pain, acute
    • Stiff neck
    • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
    • Tietze syndrome
    • Tobacco dependence
    • Tourette syndrome
    • Ulcerative colitis, chronic
    • Urolithiasis
    • Vascular dementia
    • Whooping cough (pertussis)
  3. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which there are only individual controlled trials reporting some therapeutic effects, but for which acupuncture is worth trying because treatment by conventional and other therapies is difficult:
    • Choroidopathy, central serous
    • Colour blindness
    • Deafness
    • Hypophrenia
    • Irritable colon syndrome
    • Neuropathic bladder in spinal cord injury
    • Pulmonary heart disease, chronic
    • Small airway obstruction
  4. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture may be tried provided the practitioner has special modern medical knowledge and adequate monitoring equipment:
    • Breathlessness in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
    • Coma
    • Convulsions in infants
    • Coronary heart disease (angina pectoris)
    • Diarrhoea in infants and young children
    • Encephalitis, viral, in children, late stage
    • Paralysis, progressive bulbar and pseudobulbar

    Acupuncture & Chronic Low Back Pain

    Many studies have been conducted, evaluated, and researched to determine the effect of acupuncture on chronic low back pain in comparison to conventional physical therapy and against sham (not true) acupuncture. One particular study showed that acupuncture was two times greater at providing pain relief at 6 months of treatment than conventional therapy (including physical therapy, massage, heat therapy, etc.) This study suggests that acupuncture indeed has an effect on the central nervous system and pain signal transmission as it relates to chronic low back pain.

    A German study published in 2007 was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness on chronic lower back pain of conventional therapy and two types of acupuncture, Verum and Sham. Conventional therapy includes exercise and physical therapy, Verum acupuncture was administered based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Sham acupuncture was defined as “superficial needling at non-acupuncture points,” which was developed specifically for this study and meant to differentiate between actual physiological effects of acupuncture and the psychological effects of it. Sham acupuncture does not elicit Qi in the way that Verum acupuncture does. In a sample of 1139 adult patients with lower back pain for 6 months or longer, each patient was randomly assigned to conventional therapy, Verum acupuncture, or Sham acupuncture treatments, on average twice a week. Their progress was measured using the Von Korff Chronic Pain Grade scores, at the beginning of the study, 1.5 months in, 3 months in, and 6 months in. The primary goal of this study was to see improvement at 6 months of at least 33% on 3 items in the Von Korff Chronic Pain Grade score. In a statistically significant finding, at 6 months, almost 50% of the patients enrolled in either type of acupuncture treatments had benefitted, while only 27% of patients enrolled in conventional therapy had benefitted. Interestingly, there was no statistical difference in outcome from Verum acupuncture to Sham acupuncture. This study raised questions about the effectiveness of conventionally accepted treatments for chronic low back pain, and suggests that acupuncture indeed does have an effect on pain signals and transmission in the body, and an effect on the central nervous system that is greater (almost two times greater!) than conventional therapies, including physical therapy, massage, electrotherapy, and heat therapy.

    Haake M, MüLler H, Schade-Brittinger C, et al. German Acupuncture Trials (Gerac) For Chronic Low Back Pain: Randomized, Multicenter, Blinded, Parallel-Group Trial With 3 Groups. Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(17):1892-1898. doi:10.1001/Archinte.167.17.1892.

    A study conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center showed that acupuncture provided true pain relief to chronic low back pain patients. In this study, over 2100 patients in 33 studies were evaluated based on benefit from acupuncture treatments. The researchers concluded that acupuncture was indeed effective for chronic low back pain management and a very viable option to those wary of traditional pain management courses, including physical therapy and medication.

    The National Institute of Health conducted research on existing studies of acupuncture effects on chronic pain management. They cite acupuncture’s effectiveness on low back pain, fibromyalgia, postoperative dental pain, carpal tunnel, headaches, menstrual cramps, osteoarthritis and knee pain, and tennis elbow. Acupuncture is safe and has little to no side effects while still being more effective than conventional therapies. The NIH found that both acupuncture and simulated (or sham) acupuncture were almost twice as effective in pain relief for chronic low back pain than conventional therapies.

    Acupuncture & Arthritis

    Studies have been conducted by major health groups including the National Institute of Health on acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating osteoarthritis of the knee. Acupuncture has been shown to provide pain relief and increase functionality of the knee in patients affected with osteoarthritis, with lasting results. These results have been compared to both conventional arthritis treatment methods and sham acupuncture, which is not conducted according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. True acupuncture has been shown to provide greater results than both of these interventions.

    NCCAM, a division of the National Institute of Health conducted a study based on patients’ with osteoarthritis of the knee and evaluated progress in both knee pain and knee function. Patients received treatment for 26 weeks. By 8 weeks, patients who were receiving acupuncture treatments showed a statistically significant increase in knee function and by week 14 patients showed a significant decrease in pain. This established that acupuncture is an effective treatment for arthritis in regards to both pain and function.

    Another study evaluated 570 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. There were significant increases in function and decreases in pain index at short term 8 weeks and long term 26 weeks. This study resulted in actual differences between results of true and sham acupuncture. At 8 weeks, patients receiving true acupuncture were showing greater improvement in function than those receiving sham acupuncture. At 26 weeks, the patients receiving true acupuncture showed significant improvement in both function and pain as compared to the sham acupuncture patients.

    It should be no wonder why acupuncture is the fastest growing health care method in the United States. However, the practice of acupuncture is not new by any means, as it has a history that exceeds a documented 2000 years of practice and has treated literally billions of people with a wide variety of symptoms, conditions, injuries and diseases.

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