The benefits of acupuncture are:
- When performed correctly it is safe
- There are very few side effects
- It is a very effective combination treatment
- It is effective in controlling some types of pain
- It may be considered for patients who do not respond to pain medications
- It is a useful alternative for patients who do not want to take pain medications
Research has shown that acupuncture reduces nausea and vomiting after surgery and chemotherapy. It can also relieve pain. Researchers don’t fully understand how acupuncture works. It might aid the activity of your body’s pain-killing chemicals. It also might affect how you release chemicals that regulate blood pressure and flow.
Who may benefit from acupuncture treatment?
Even though acupuncture is commonly used on its own for some conditions, it is becoming very popular as a combination treatment by doctors in Western Europe and North America. The use of acupuncture to alleviate pain and nausea after surgery is becoming more widespread. Even the US Air Force began teaching “Battlefield Acupuncture” to physicians deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan in early 2009. Using acupuncture before and during surgery significantly reduces the level of pain and the amount of potent painkillers needed by patients after the surgery is over, a study revealed.
Acupuncture is also starting to make inroads into veterinary medicine. This article explains how a mare which had an infection in her ankle was treated by a vet at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech with a combination of acupuncture and traditional therapy.
As more and more physicians accept acupuncture, a wider range of illnesses and condition are being considered for acupuncture treatment. A study found that acupuncture may help indigestion symptoms commonly experienced by pregnant women. Another study found that acupuncture does offer effective relief from hot flashes in women who are being treated with the anti-estrogen tamoxifen following surgery for breast cancer, another study found.
As it is very difficult to devise clinical studies that measure the effectiveness of acupuncture against a placebo, it is hard to create a definitive list of conditions in which acupuncture may be effective. However, some studies have indicated that acupuncture may help in treating low back pain (according to the SPINE trial), fibromyalgia (Mayo Clinic trials), migraines, post-operative dental pain (the Cochrane review), hypertension (Center for Integrative Medicine at UC Irvine study) and osteoarthritis (according to researchers at the University Medical Center in Berlin, Germany), as well as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Other studies have shown that acupuncture may help women with painful periods. A Cochrane trial found that although acupuncture helps people with headaches, fake acupuncture also seems to help them.
Exercise and electro-acupuncture treatments can reduce sympathetic nerve activity in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, a study found.
How did acupuncture become popular in the USA?
James Reston, who worked for the New York Times had his appendix removed (appendectomy) during a visit to China in 1971. After surgery he experienced some discomfort and was treated for this with acupuncture. He was surprised to find that the acupuncture treatment helped his discomfort tremendously. He subsequently wrote an article that year titled “Now, About My Operation in Peking”. Many believe this article triggered intense interest in acupuncture in the USA. Reston wrote that the acupuncturist “inserted three long, thin needles into the outer part of my right elbow and below my knees and manipulated them…That sent ripples of pain racing through my limbs and, at least, had the effect of diverting my attention from the distress in my stomach. Meanwhile, Doctor Li lit two pieces of an herb called ai, which looked like the burning stumps of a broken cheap cigar, and held them close to my abdomen while occasionally twirling the needles into action. All of this took about 20 minutes, during which I remembered thinking that it was rather a complicated way to get rid of gas… but there was a noticeable relaxation of the pressure and distension within an hour and no recurrence of the problem thereafter.”
As stated by Medical News Today