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Acupuncture: Does it Actually Work?

By Stephanie Guler - Senior Content & Social Media Developer | January 30th, 2012



A recent study has shown that acupuncture might be able to help some women become pregnant through in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

Although there have been numerous studies on IVF and acupuncture, results have been mixed throughout the years. Some infertility clinics worldwide offer and encourage acupuncture as one of many complementary treatments to standard infertility procedures, while others shun the idea of “alternative medicine” completely.

The general consensus, however, seems to be somewhere in between, unsure of acupuncture’s true healing abilities.

Dr. Frederick Licciardi, head of the New York University Fertility Center’s mind/body program told Reuters Health, “I counsel women that literature is not convincing yet that (acupuncture) helps you get pregnant.”

Still, many patients report that acupuncture has helped them to become pregnant and it is also known for treating a wide range of other physical and mental ailments.

Since acupuncture has been used for thousands of years, one has to ask: Does it actually work?

Despite the mixed feelings about acupuncture and other alternative therapies, there have been cases where acupuncture has been reported to be effective.

According to the Mayo Clinic, acupuncture is a key aspect of Traditional Chinese medicine, and it works by puncturing the skin with extremely thin needles at strategic points around the body. Because the needles are so slim, patients generally feel little to no discomfort during the treatment.

The practice of Traditional Chinese medicine uses acupuncture to balance the qi or chi – which is known as the flow of energy or life force. Qi or chi flows through a complex pathway around the body, and by inserting needles into certain areas, Traditional Chinese acupuncturists believe this will re-balance the flow.

The Mayo Clinic also reports that practitioners of Western medicine use acupuncture points to stimulate nerves, muscles and joints. The therapy is seen as a way to enhance the body’s natural pain-killing receptors and increase blood circulation throughout the body.

Dr. Oz explained his views of acupuncture in the April 2010 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. He wrote: “Those little pinpricks can be an effective way to manage pain. Specifically, studies show that acupuncture can alleviate the debilitating symptoms of osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. There are several theories as to why acupuncture works. One is that it triggers the release of endorphins, part of the body's pain-control system. Another is that it increases blood flow to the areas of needle insertion. Regardless, find a practitioner who is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.”

Whichever way you see it, acupuncture is used to provide relief to a variety of health conditions including, headaches, childbirth pain, mental health disorders, neck and back pain, toothaches, tennis elbow, chemotherapy side effects and more.

While not everybody is a good candidate for acupuncture and results vary between individuals, it is worth taking a look at a few recent studies and patient testimonials that have shown acupuncture as an effective therapy in conjunction with conventional medicine:


Infertility:
A recent analysis of previous studies has shown that women who receive acupuncture therapy while undergoing IVF have a slightly higher chance at becoming pregnant, compared to those who don’t do acupuncture.

The report was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, and it involved an analysis of 24 small clinical trials by Chinese researchers.

According to Reuters Health, the trials varied widely, but researchers paid special attention to a group of five studies that used real acupuncture therapy in one group and blunt needles as the control. The results showed that 41 percent of the participants became pregnant after acupuncture, while 37 percent of those who didn’t receive the therapy weren’t pregnant. In the end, the researchers theorized that the blunt needle might be an effective placebo-type alternative.

Still, many experts aren’t completely convinced. There isn’t any hard evidence to show it acupuncture make that big of an impact on IVF success, but many doctors believe that if it makes the patient feel better, then why not?

Dr. Licciardi told Reuters, “If acupuncture helps you feel well, if it helps you get through the IVF (process), then great.”


Orthopedic Care:
A recent study in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences has shown that acupuncture may be effective in treating the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

The study involved 72 patients, all suffering from the debilitating condition. Over the course of four weeks, half of the participants received eight acupuncture treatments, while the other half received splints, “sham” acupuncture, and vitamin B1 and B6 supplements. The results showed that the acupuncture group had significant physical improvements, and the patients reported the therapy as effective for pain relief.

Another positive report about acupuncture came out of the LA Times. In response to an article on alternative medical treatment, one reader named Melissa Stoller wrote, “I had a very large Baker's cyst in my knee. Surgically removing it was deemed too risky. The orthopedist drained it several times; the fluid (more than 65 cc) returned by the next day. He thought repairing my torn meniscus might solve the problem; the fluid returned days after surgery. I eventually turned to acupuncture. After several months of treatment, the cyst shrank so much that I could not detect it. It remains that way many years later. Perhaps one day a researcher will figure out why. Meanwhile, I hope research into acupuncture and other promising "alternative" methods continues.”


ADHD: A local Florida ABC News affiliate recently reported about an 8-year-old boy who received relief from his ADHD through acupuncture treatments. The article reported the boy, named Alex Karaszi, was diagnosed with ADHD after experiencing mood swings, nightmares and temper tantrums.

His mother discovered acupuncture and turned to Dr. Laura Waters, a pediatrician and acupuncture practitioner at USF Heath at the University of South Florida in Tampa for help.

Dr. Weathers told ABC News, “More recently we’ve been using it for attention-deficit disorder, allergies and asthma.”

Alex started his treatments 6 months ago, and his parents are so convinced that acupuncture has helped their boy, that they pay $85 per treatment, when they could pay just $4 a month for the ADHD medication he was prescribed.

His mother told ABC she noticed a difference after 3 to 4 weeks of acupuncture. She said, “Big changes. He became calmer.”

Alex’s father said, “I was working out of town and would come home on the weekends, so I really noticed the change.”

Despite these reports that acupuncture may actually work for various conditions, there still isn’t enough hard evidence for it to get the medical community’s full support.

Regardless, alternative medical treatments like acupuncture, chiropractic care, hypnosis, aromatherapy, and massage have shown to provide relief to all sorts of patients, from infants to elderly.

Even though science cannot explain everything, by judging from the existing information out there, acupuncture might be a complementary therapy worth considering.

To learn more about acupuncture treatment options, contact an acupuncturist near you.



References:

Reuters Health. “Does acupuncture boost IVF success?” Web. Jan. 29, 2012. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/29/us-ivf-acupuncture-idUSTRE80S0PI20120129

Mayo Clinic. “Acupuncture”. Web. Jan. 30, 2012. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/acupuncture/MY00946

O, The Oprah Magazine. “Does Acupuncture Really Work?” Web and print. April 2010. http://www.oprah.com/health/Dr-Ozs-Thoughts-on-Acupuncture

HealthCare Medicine Institute. Continuing Education Online. “Acupuncture Relieves Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – New Research”. Web. Jan. 28, 2012. http://www.healthcmi.com/index.php/acupuncturist-news-online/484-acupunctureceuscarpaltunnelsyndrome

Los Angeles Times Health. “Letters: Many views of ‘alternative’ treatment”. Web. Jan. 30, 2012. http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-letters-20120130,0,1312788.story?page=1

ABC Action News. “One boy’s parents say acupuncture has alleviated his ADHD”. Web. Jan. 26, 2012. http://www.abcactionnews.com/dpp/news/health/One-boys-parents-say-acupuncture-has-alleviated-his-ADHD

 













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