For the 2 million Americans who are treated annually with acupuncture, recent clinical studies have shown that the practice affects the body in measurable ways — reducing blood pressure, for example, and increasing the circulation of endorphins, natural pain-relieving chemicals.
In 1997 the National Institutes of Health approved acupuncture for certain kinds of nausea and pain, hypertension, digestive disorders, tinnitus, chronic fatigue, stress disorders and depression, and listed 11 other conditions, including addiction, asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, and menstrual cramps, for which it showed potential. Scores of new studies are published each year, evaluating acupuncture's effectiveness in treating everything from Parkinson's disease to depression.
And thousands of physicians have incorporated acupuncture into their practices — the country's most prestigious training program, at UCLA's medical school, has graduated 5,000 doctor-acupuncturists over the past 2 decades.
Can Acupuncture Alleviate Arthritic Pain?
Yes, in many cases. Pain is the primary complaint of arthritis sufferers, and acupuncture is a very effective form of pain control. It relieves pain in three ways. First, it causes the body to produce chemicals called endorphins, which inhibit the perception of pain. Endorphins are similar to morphine, which is given in Western medicine. The big difference is that endorphins are produced naturally by the patient's own body. Hence, there are no side effects. Second, acupuncture works through the nervous system by blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Third, it deactivates trigger points. Trigger points are tender and extremely reactive areas that develop in the muscles and fascial sheaths of the body. They are often responsible for chronic pain and are frequently found around arthritic joints. Acupuncture also has a very relaxing effect on the mind and body. Since much illness is the result of stress, this relaxation helps to promote the healing process.
How Many Treatments Are Necessary?
Each person is unique. Some people will respond to acupuncture more quickly than others. Most patients should experience some symptomatic relief after one or two treatments. Six to ten treatments within a three to five week period is a normal course of treatment, and then the case is re-evaluated. For cases in which joint mobility is restricted or inflammation reoccurs, periodic maintenance treatments are often recommended. Their frequency depends upon the individuals response to acupuncture.
Acupuncture as a Treatment for Peripheral Neuropathy
Whatever the mechanism at work, acupuncture has become a popular treatment for people with peripheral neuropathy. Neuropathy, or nerve damage, manifests as pain, tingling, or numbness in the extremities, usually the feet. Its severity can range from mild discomfort to a debilitating condition, robbing a person of the ability to walk or even stand.
At the World Federal Acupuncture Society Conference that was held in Paris in 1990, licensed acupuncturist Magnolia Goh reported encouraging results from a small study of 31 HIV-positive patients with peripheral neuropathy. The participants in this study received one to three acupuncture treatments a week. Twelve patients had their pain completely alleviated by acupuncture, and another eleven experienced relief of most of their symptoms. Only three patients had no response. In most patients, results were felt after three to five treatments.
Acupuncture and Fatigue in Cancer Patients
Acupuncture could help relieve the crippling fatigue associated with chemotherapy treatment in cancer patients. That is the conclusion of scientists at the University of Manchester, UK, who say their preliminary results are so promising that further research needs to be carried out to study the effect in more detaiCrippling and long-lasting fatigue is one the most common side-effects of chemotherapy. The new work indicates that acupuncture can boost energy levels and radically improve a patient's quality of life.
Are Other Methods of Treatment Used along with Acupuncture?
At 'Ohana Health we combine herbal medicine and therapeutic massage to get the best possible results. Herbal medicine strengthens the body and enhances the functioning of the immune system. Massage increases circulation in affected areas and helps to deactivate painful trigger points. We also give nutritional guidance when appropriate. The old adage "you are what you eat" has proved itself to be true time and time again.