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Though acupuncture has been practiced for nearly 2,000 years, it’s only recently seen a surge in popularity in the Western world. By stimulating certain points on the body with hair-thin, virtually painless needles, the process unlocks life energy, known as Qi, allowing it flow freely. When balance is restored within the body systems, illness and pain can be alleviated. From a Western medical standpoint, acupuncture is thought to release natural, pain relieving chemicals from the brain. It also hastens the body’s own healing response. Before turning to pharmaceutical interventions and their slew of side effects, consider acupuncture for the following 5 conditions:

1. Arthritis:

Research shows that acupuncture is effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. A study conducted in China revealed that traditional acupuncture and electro-acupuncture both decreased the tenderness associated with arthritis.

A German study followed individuals who received 15 acupuncture sessions for osteoarthritis in the knee. When combined with their regular medical care, most participants experienced a decrease in discomfort and stiffness, improved mobility, and an enhanced quality of life, as compared to those who underwent regular medical care alone.

2. Depression:

Acupuncture can serve as a complementary treatment along with Western medical methods. Or it can replace medication altogether. However, do not abruptly stop taking medication without speaking to your physician.

Researchers at the University of Arizona in Tucson, under the guidance of psychologist John Allen and acupuncturist Rosa Schnyer, compared two groups of women with depression. One group received acupuncture specific for depression, while the other received non-specific acupuncture. The participants who received acupuncture tailored to depression experienced a sizeable decrease in symptoms, as compared to their counterparts. In addition, almost half of those who received acupuncture for depression, no longer fit the medical criteria for depression.

3. Migraines:

Acupuncture is highly effective in treating migraines and more and more Western physicians are referring patients to acupuncturists for integrative therapy. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, published research that uncovered acupuncture alleviated pain during a migraine episode and also over a long period of time. The study’s author stated, “Data showed improvement greater than 33% for 60% of patients at a 3-year-follow-up. Drug intake was reduced to 50% and did not re-increase until follow-up.”

4. Allergic Rhinitis:

Typically referred to as allergies or hay fever, allergic rhinitis is when the nasal passages become inflamed after inhaling an allergen. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology studied 5,237 people with allergic rhinitis. One group received their typical medical care along with acupuncture for three months, while the other group only received routine care. Subjects in the acupuncture group experienced a significant improvement in symptoms and a better quality of life. At the three-month and six-month follow-ups the benefits were still evident.

5. Low Back Pain:

Surgery, steroid injections, and chiropractic adjustments can be put on hold. Acupuncture can provide long-lasting relief for low back pain, regardless of the cause. A team of researchers at the University of Maryland analyzed a number of studies that focused on acupuncture for low back pain. They found that acupuncture was more successful in treating the pain than standard care. The participants experienced “significant” long-term relief.

This list is by no means exhaustive. In fact, the World Health Organization declared, “acupuncture has been proved – through controlled trials – to be an effective treatment” for nearly 30 diseases, conditions, or symptoms, including those listed above. The organization also stated that there are over 60 “diseases, symptoms or conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed.” As studies concerning acupuncture continue to crop up, more conditions will likely be added to the list.

Before you rush off to the nearest acupuncturist, be aware that the practitioner’s name should be followed by the abbreviation, L.Ac. This ensures they are a licensed, fully trained acupuncturist. Many medical acupuncturists, chiropractic acupuncturists, and physical therapist are certified but not licensed. This means that they’ve completed 300 hours of training or less. A licensed acupuncturist has over 2,000 hours of education in traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, along with hundreds of hours of clinical experience, under their belt. An unqualified practitioner can cause uncomfortable, sometimes serious side effects, and healing may not occur. When treated by a licensed, professional, there are little to no side effects and the practitioner’s wealth of knowledge and experience will bring relief.

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6 Responses

  1. Aaron Ratner

    Does acupuncture “cure” anything that isn’t subjective? Don’t answer that. It was rhetorical.

    • Mimir Commun

      If people admit to saying acupuncture alleviated their “subjective” pain, it’s effectiveness is worth noting. Even Western Medical Doctors use placebos to treat patients. Now, is acupuncture a placebo? Who knows, but if it works – might I ask – why can’t we just say it works and leave our own subjectivity out of it?

      • Su

        Each individual has his or her own belief and/or different causes, even though the illness is looked alike. We just can’t say–oh, acupuncture is work for everything. Medical Doctors used placebos to treat their patients; however, Acupuncturists cannot use placebos to treat their patients. While no one promises for anything but Acupuncturists would try their best to heal their patients’ problems.

      • Aaron Ratner

        Medical doctors absolutely do NOT use placebo to treat their patients. In fact, they aren’t even allowed to. It’s considered unethical. Placebo is only used in the testing phase of a medication. Acupunture is complete nonsense and wants to bypass the rules of the scientific method. But it doesn’t work like that. Science works and is demonstrable. Nothing about acupunture is. Read the peer reviewed papers. There isn’t a single one that shows it’s better than placebo or that it’s effective for treating anything other than subjective illnesses. People are entitled to beleive whatever they wish but that doesn’t mean it works.

  2. Nels Arvidson

    Do placebos work for animals? Acupuncture does, Which suggests to me there is more to it than the placebo effect in relieving pains of any kind. Even more important, It also increases the effectiveness of regular pain medications.

    • Aaron Ratner

      Show me the peer reviewed literature that says acupunture works on animals.


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