Let’s face it, in many health clinics in Canada you will see “acupuncture” listed as a service. In reality, acupuncture came from the East, it’s rooted in ancient Chinese culture. Western medical professions basically adopted some of its methods and claimed it under their scope of practice. See the photo below to understand the difference.
The mechanisms of how and why acupuncture works are profound and varied. When you have an injury or ill-health condition, here’s what can happen from a Western Medical Perspective:
1. Circulatory Explanation: Acupuncture stimulates the body’s innate ability to heal, for example bringing blood and Qi to a distressed area. Blood and Qi are filled with nutrients to help heal damaged tissue.
Example: when you are experiencing inflammation of a tendon or a slight strain of a muscle, the Acupuncturist may insert a needle at or near the site of injury. The stimulation increases microcirculation in the area, thus increasing blood to the tissues that are injured.
2. Neurological Explanation: Acupuncture stimulates the brain: Prefrontal Cortex, Limbic Cortex and Sensory Cortex. The Acupuncture Stimulus (AS) travels to the brain and releases neuro-chemicals: Beta Endorphins and Enkephalin (suppresses pain / the body’s natural pain killers).
3. Musculoskeletal Explanation: Some acupuncture points are located at trigger points in the muscles. These often painful areas get relief when they are massaged, or in acupuncture’s case, needled. Some of the important points are at motor points, which is where the nerve innervates the muscle. These sites would point to the effectiveness of acupuncture being mediated through the nervous and musculoskeletal systems.
4. Immune System Explanation: Research shows acupuncture can help to increase white blood cells. It can also help cleanse the lymphatic system through detoxification.
5. Nervous System Balance: Acupuncture effects the relaxation of the fight/flight response, Sympathetic Nervous System, and promotes the restorative Parasympathetic Nervous System.
Just some of the numerous research studies done on ACUPUNCTURE, including its benefits for people suffering with anxiety, depression, digestive issues, arthritis, and back pain. Acupuncture is a drugless therapy (by the way).
Source: American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 2007
It is accepted that emotional disturbances lead to immune impairment, and that treatment could restore the immune system. This study looked at the effect of acupuncture on anxiety. The acupuncture protocol involved needling 19 acupoints, with sessions lasting 30 minutes, performed on women aged 30-60 suffering from anxiety as measured by the Beck Anxiety Inventory. Before and after receiving the acupuncture treatment blood samples were taken. The results showed that the most favorable effects of acupuncture on immune functions appear 72 hours after the single session and persist one month after the end of the complete treatment.
Source: National Medicine Journal, 2012
This study looked at the effects of acupuncture over 12 weeks on 68 sufferers of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, a form of lung disease. The results revealed far less breathlessness in the group given acupuncture.
3. DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
Source: Cochrane Collaboration, 1986-2015
They looked at 59 studies during this period and found that the effectiveness of wrist acupoint PC-6 for stimulation of postoperative cases of nausea and vomiting to be comparable to that of anti-nausea drugs.
4. SKELETAL SYSTEM
Source: Arthritis and Rheumatology Review, 2008
Looked at eight acupuncture studies involving 536 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and found that, ”five studies revealed a reduction in erthrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), three reported a reduction in C-reactive protein (CRP) and one noted a large decrease in both.” Both ESR and CRP are markers of inflammation in the body. Arthritis is a disease that causes painful inflammation.
Source: Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal, 2008
Study shows that electro-acupuncture–a modified form of acupuncture treatment that involves a tiny, pulsating electrical current–was conducted on patients with lumbar spinal stenosis and that those patients experienced varying reductions in lower back pain and the distance they were able to walk increased.
Source: University of Arizona
34 women with depression underwent acupuncture targeted at specific points. Reduced symptoms were found in 43% of the women who received acupuncture. Eight weeks after the start of the study, more than half of the women who received targeted acupuncture were no longer experiencing depression. Some credit these results to acupuncture’s potential to release endorphins which act as natural painkillers in the body as well as to its ability to reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
* Studies found in Newsweek: Nature’s Remedies, 2017
Acupuncture to the abdomen, boosted by an electric current, helped relieve severe constipation, a new study found.
Chinese researchers studied 1,075 patients with severe functional constipation, which means they were unable to have a complete bowel movement more than twice a week. The study subjects all reported a number of unpleasant symptoms, including hard stools, a sensation of incomplete evacuation and often needing to strain when going to the bathroom. They were randomly assigned to receive either a form of acupuncture or a sham procedure, according to the report published today in Annals of Internal Medicine.
For the treatment group, the researchers used electro-acupuncture, in which low-voltage currents are passed through acupuncture needles. Trained acupuncturists inserted needles at six acupuncture points in the abdomen deep enough to puncture the muscle layer of the abdominal wall, and then passed current through attached wires for 30 minutes. The control group received shallow needles at nonacupuncture points, with electrical wires attached in the same way, but with no current passing through them. The procedures were repeated in 28 sessions over eight weeks.
Participants in both groups were allowed to use a laxative every three days if needed, and they recorded their use in diaries.
During the eight weeks of treatment, 31.3 percent of people in the treatment group showed improvement (measured by three or more bowel movements per week without the need for laxatives) compared with just 12.1 percent in the control group who improved. Over the 12 weeks of follow-up, 37.7 percent of the treatment group reported similar levels of improvement, compared to 14.1 percent of the patients in the control group.
Source: The New York Times, Author:
One of the most common uses for acupuncture is in treating chronic pain. One analysis of the most robust studies available concluded that acupuncture has a clear effect in reducing chronic pain, more so than standard pain treatment. Study participants receiving acupuncture reported an average 50 percent reduction in pain, compared to a 28 percent pain reduction for standard pain treatment without acupuncture.
Even fibromyalgia pain, which can be difficult to treat and is associated with sleep problems, fatigue and depression, may be improved. In one study, 10 weeks of acupuncture decreased pain scores in fibromyalgia patients by an average of 41 percent, compared with 27 percent in those who received a sham procedure.
Acupuncture also appears to be a safe and effective treatment for relieving chronic pain in children. In a study of 55 children with chronic pain, those who received eight acupuncture sessions (each lasting about 30 minutes) reported significant reductions in pain and improved quality of life.
Archives of Internal Medicine 2012 Sep 10:1-10 [Epub ahead of print]
Acupunct Med. 2016 Feb 15.
Alternative and Complementary Therapies. December 2015, 21(6): 255-260.
While we are getting closer to the official Winter date (December 21), we can still revisit a few things from Oriental Medicine when it comes to the Fall Season. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine the season of Autumn is associated with the element of Metal, which governs organization, order, communication, the mind, setting limits, and protecting boundaries. It’s a good time to finish projects that you began in Spring and Summer – harvesting the bounty of your hard work. Of course, it’s also the perfect time to begin more introspective, indoor projects.
During the Summer, which is ruled by the Fire element, we deal more with the external – traveling and playing outdoors. Fall, on the other hand, is a time of organizing your life for the Winter season ahead and coming more inside your body and mind to reflect on your life.
The lung and large intestine are the internal organs related to Fall and the Metal element. Lung is associated with the emotion of “letting go.” The Fall is an ideal period to release what no longer serves your higher potential.
Sleep is an important aspect of staying healthy in the Fall. The ancients advised that people should retire early at night and rise with the crowing of the rooster during the Autumn.
Lung is considered by Oriental medicine to be the “tender organ.” This is because the lung is the uppermost organ in the body and especially susceptible to wind and cold. During the change in temperature, be sure to dress for the weather so as to not give an open invitation for coughs, sore throats, and the common cold.
The lungs control the circulation of the Wei-Qi, which is the defensive Qi that protects you from the invasion of flu and colds. The Wei-Qi circulates on the surface between the skin and muscles and works to warm the body. If the Wei-Qi is weak, the skin and muscles will not be warmed properly. This is why people tend to feel cold when they’re sick. A weakness in the lungs can lead to a weakness in the Wei-Qi, making a person prone to frequent colds. TCM Acupuncture helps to regulate Wei-Qi.
The nose is the opening to the lungs, and you can prevent colds by keeping your nose and sinuses clean and clear. If you suffer from a runny nose or sinus infections, acupuncture can help to alleviate that problem.
What you eat also greatly affects the health of your lungs. Eating excess cold and raw foods creates dampness or phlegm which is produced by the spleen and stored by the lungs. Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, cream, and butter also create phlegm, while moderate amounts of pungent foods like garlic, onions, ginger, horseradish, and mustard are beneficial to the lungs.
Research studies now show that Acupuncture may enhance the immune system response. Having a strong immune system (Wei-Qi) helps you to ward off colds and flus. Even if you already feel healthy, getting regular TCM Acupuncture sessions does help to regulate your Energy System (Meridian Pathways, Wei-Qi Energy).
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Lana Marconi is a Registered Acupuncturist.
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Article Credit / Sources:
https://www.acufinder.com/Acupuncture+Information/Detail/Enjoy+the+Energy+of+Fall+Autumn+and+Traditional+Chinese+Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17265549. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/acupuncture-pdq
Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion 2014, 6, pages 35-38
Annals of Internal Medicine 2004 Dec 21;141(12):901-10
Acupuncture has long been recognized as an effective treatment for chronic pain. In 2012, a study found acupuncture was better than no acupuncture or simulated acupuncture for the treatment of four chronic pain conditions:
- Back and neck pain
- Osteoarthritis (your doctor may call it “degenerative joint disease” or “wear and tear” arthritis)
- Chronic headache
- Shoulder pain
The National Institute of Health calls the study “the most rigorous evidence to date that acupuncture may be helpful for chronic pain.”
Now, doctors are eager to find a drug-free approach to pain treatment light of the dangers of opioids — the class of powerful pain medications that includes codeine, morphine, OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin. In March, the CDC called deaths from opioid overdoses “an epidemic.”
“Now, you’re like, ‘OK, well, if we’re not using opioids, what should we use?'” says Houman Danesh, MD, director of integrative pain management at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital. That dilemma has many people giving acupuncture a second look when it comes to treating pain.
“If a lot of people recognize the value of acupuncture,” Hui says, “it will be one of the components of addressing the prescription drug epidemic that we’re talking about in our country right now.”
Depression is a mood disorder characterized by both physical and psychological symptoms that can be detrimental to one’s normal daily functioning. Depressed individuals often suffer from poor sleeping habits, crying spells, anxiety, worry, poor memory, inability to concentrate, body aches, stomach disturbances and a lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed. In extreme cases, individuals become helpless and hopeless about their lives.
In Canada and the United States, the DSM-IV, a diagnostic tool for appropriately categorizing psychological disorders, is widely used in the diagnosis and treatment for depression. Modern medicine typically treats depression with a form of psychotherapy and/or anti-depressant drugs.
Based on a holistic approach, acupuncture consists of fine needles inserted along various points in the body, with the purpose of stimulating the body’s flow of energy and functionality, known as Qi.
Psychologist John Allen, from the University of Arizona in Tucson, and Acupuncturist Rosa Schnyer, conducted a controlled study on treating depression symptoms with acupuncture in the Western scientific world. In a double blind randomized study, 34 depressed female patients who met the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria were assigned to one of three treatment groups for eight weeks.
The first group received acupuncture treatment specifically tailored to their depression symptoms. The second group received a general acupuncture treatment not specific to depression, and the third group was placed on a waiting list for acupuncture treatment, but received no treatment. The study found that those in the tailored acupuncture treatment experienced a significant reduction in symptoms, compared to those in the non-specific treatment. Moreover, over 50% of the participants no longer met the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for depression after the study.
The study findings suggest that using acupuncture alone could be as effective as other types of treatments for relieving depression symptoms typically used in Western medicine, such as psychotherapy and drugs.
Article by: Indira Samayoa-Bettner
When used in conjunction with Western fertility treatments, acupuncture increases conception rates by 26%. A recent study from Tel Aviv University reports, “When combining IUI with TCM treatments, 65.5 percent of the test group were able to conceive, compared with 39.4 percent of the control group, who received no herbal or acupuncture therapy.” For the 4.5 million couples experiencing infertility each year, acupuncture may be just what the doctor ordered.
Acupuncture can increase fertility by reducing stress, increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs and balancing the endocrine system, according to several studies and medical research. “The goal of an infertility treatment from a Chinese Medicine perspective is not just to get pregnant, but to stay pregnant and to have a healthy baby,” says Deb Davies, LAc, a Pacific College alumnus who practices at Herbin Acupuncture and Wellness in San Diego. Among many other benefits, acupuncture can provide better blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, creating a stronger chance for an egg to be nourished and carried to term.
Acupuncture consists of the gentle insertion and stimulation of thin, disposable sterile needles at strategic points near the surface of the body. Over 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body connect with 14 major pathways, called meridians. Chinese medicine practitioners believe that these meridians conduct qi , or energy, between the surface of the body and internal organs. It is qi that regulates spiritual, emotional, mental and physical balance. When the flow of qi is disrupted through poor health habits or other circumstances, pain and/or disease can result. Acupuncture helps to keep the normal flow of this energy unblocked, thereby increasing a couple’s chances of conceiving.
While the fertility drugs commonly prescribed for women can produce a 20 to 60 percent pregnancy rate, they also commonly include such side effects as abdominal tenderness, bloating, fluid retention, weight gain, and nausea. Some studies show that they may also cause breast cancer.
Source: Pacific College of Oriental Medicine