Does Acupuncture Work? More Reasons to Try This Ancient Chinese Remedy
Does acupuncture really work? How is it possible that sticking a few needles into someone who has chronic pain can relieve the pain? Or help a woman conceive? Or make IBS go away?
Even though Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine are still considered “alternatives” in terms of medical practices in the United States, there’s quite a lot of research on acupuncture for some conditions.
Having said that, there are a few kinds of conditions that respond best to acupuncture.
Does Acupuncture Really Work? (No… Like Seriously)
You might wonder “how does acupuncture work?” but are still on the fence whether you should try the treatment yourself. And it’s quite understandable why:
(1) Acupuncture is not widely accepted yet as a treatment in the United States,
(2) There are conflicting studies on the practice, and
(3) Voluntarily seeking to be poked with needles is not something that everyone is down with.
Here’s the thing: Acupuncture works for most illnesses and pains. But it’s not a cure-all treatment. There are conditions that consistently respond well to acupuncture more than others.
What Acupuncture is and What it is Not
Everyone has expectations and cynicism when it comes to medical treatments. A lot of people favor conventional biomedicine (“western medicine”) because it’s scientifically proven to work – and it works fast.
However, acupuncture has been around for a very long time, with a long history in the east of its clinical efficacy.
Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years. Although there are myths and so-called studies that supposedly shed light on what a sham acupuncture is, the fact remains that this form of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) works.
And as far as safety is concerned, there are hundreds of thousands more people who die yearly from medical malpractice than from an acupuncture session gone wrong. Acupuncture benefits outweigh common side effects such as dizziness, fatigue, and soreness.
Here are some conditions that commonly respond very well to acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine treatments.
# 1 – Acupuncture For Chronic Pain
If you’ve been suffering from chronic pain for a long period of time, your mental health and day-to-day life are greatly affected. Usually, when people feel pain (whether it’s lower back pain, headaches, or pain in any part of the body), the first thing we do is pop a pill and the symptoms are (hopefully) gone within minutes.
But that’s the thing. With western medicine, what we often treat are the symptoms and not the underlying cause of the disease. Unlike medications, the benefits of acupuncture treatments last longer.
Fibromyalgia pain, for instance, can be difficult to manage with medications alone. According to a study, fibromyalgia patients who went through needle acupuncture with electrical stimulation felt less pain after six sessions.
"People who had needle acupuncture with electrical stimulation rated their pain to be 13 points lower on a 100-point scale (absolute improvement) after six sessions of treatment." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4105202/
The participants also rated their well-being to be 52 (on a scale of 0 to 100 with higher scores meaning better function) after going through acupuncture with electrical stimulation.
# 2 – Acupuncture For Infertility
Fertility is an issue that many women have to deal with. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 6% of married women aged 15-44 in the US find it difficult to get pregnant or carry a baby to full term.
When women have trouble conceiving, the usual route is to take medications such as Clomiphene citrate (Clomid), gonadotropins, and metformin. But sometimes, the meds don’t result in pregnancy.
IVF is often the last resort, but this costs thousands of dollars and does not always guarantee that a woman can conceive once she goes through the process.
Fertility acupuncture as an alternative treatment offers more promising results when it comes to conception. In one study, patients who received acupuncture treatments conceived faster than those who received traditional treatments and went through lifestyle modification only.
"Those receiving the acupuncture conceived within an average of 5.5 weeks compared to 10.67 weeks for the lifestyle only group." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4868913/
In a different study, women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) experienced higher ovulation frequency than the control group.
"During the study period, ovulation frequency was higher in the acupuncture group than in the attention control group (0.76 ± 0.27 vs. 0.41 ± 0.28 ovulations per month, P = 0.002)." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4116535/
Acupuncture helps increase blood flow to the endometrium, readying the uterus for pregnancy.
Although acupuncture alone has shown encouraging results, combining it with the use of Chinese medicinal herbs showed even more favorable outcomes.
"...management of female infertility with Chinese Herbal Medicine can improve pregnancy rates 2-fold within a 4 month period compared with Western Medical fertility drug therapy or IVF." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22036524
So if you are planning to get pregnant or are seeking treatment for infertility, giving acupuncture a try may help increase your chances of conception.
# 3 – Acupuncture For Allergies
The beauty of acupuncture is that it works with all sorts of conditions including seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR). If you suffer from seasonal allergies, then you know how inconvenient it can get.
The usual medication given to patients are antihistamines, which can relieve symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and congestion. But the effects are somewhat short-lived. To experience further relief, you need to take another dose of antihistamine to relieve the symptoms.
According to one study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, patients who went through acupuncture in conjunction with the use of antihistamines showed relief from their allergy symptoms and used fewer medications compared to the groups that received sham treatment and antihistamines only.
"Acupuncture led to statistically significant improvements in disease-specific quality of life and antihistamine use measures after 8 weeks of treatment." http://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/1583578/acupuncture-patients-seasonal-allergic-rhinitis-randomized-trial
Try Acupuncture and See What it Can Do For You
Though acupuncture has received a lot of skepticism in the past, recent studies show that this ancient form of treatment may actually help patients recover from illnesses more quickly, without or with little help from medications.
Like most treatments that seem “out of the box” until you try them, you never know how it works, or if it works, until you try it. Sometimes, it’s helpful to move away from the constraints of western medicine and take a shot at something that’s outside of our comfort zone.
Let me know below: Have you tried acupuncture before? Did it help?