What Western Medical Research Says About Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 3,000 years. While the practice has long been a part of Eastern medicine, Western medicine has only in recent years begun to start looking closely at its effects. More research is needed, but studies are indicating what has been known for so long: that acupuncture can be an effective therapy for a variety of health issues.

A Promising Pain Reliever

An estimated 20.4% of U.S. adults suffer from chronic pain, according to the CDC. While conventional treatments are available, many people who suffer from chronic pain turn to acupuncture for relief. Research now shows that the pain-relieving effects of acupuncture may be more than just hearsay.

An updated meta-analysis published in the Journal of Pain analyzed the results of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) published between December 2008 and 2015. The analysis included data from 39 trials and 20,827 patients.

From this data, researchers concluded that acupuncture is an effective treatment for several chronic pain conditions. They also concluded that acupuncture’s beneficial effects were long-lasting (at least 12 months after treatment). In 80% of the randomized clinical trials, patients had between 6 and 15 acupuncture sessions.

These findings support the belief that several acupuncture sessions are required to see relief.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Acute inflammation is the body’s natural, healthy response to an injury or a foreign invader (like bacteria). Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can cause significant and long-term negative effects. This type of low-level, systemic inflammation may even contribute to the development of disease, according to research from Johns Hopkins.

Medications and lifestyle changes can help treat chronic inflammation, but alternative therapies like acupuncture can complement conventional therapies.

Research from Harvard Medical School found that acupuncture helped reduce systemic inflammation in mice. The study found that acupuncture activated pathways that triggered either a pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory response in mice with systemic inflammation.

In one series of experiments, mice with cytokine storm underwent low-intensity electroacupuncture applied to a specific point on their hind legs. That point activated the vagus-adrenal axis, which increased secretion of dopamine. The treatment reduced three types of cytokines that cause inflammation and also increased the survival rate of the mice. Sixty percent of the treated animals survived, while only 20% of the untreated animals survived.

Immediate and Long-Term Anxiety Relief

An estimated 4% of the world’s population suffers from anxiety. Conventional treatments are available, but many people turn to alternative options like acupuncture for relief.

Research shows promising results for acupuncture in treating anxiety. One systemic review saw positive findings for acupuncture in treating generalized anxiety disorder.

Another review concluded there was high-level evidence supporting acupuncture as a treatment for major depressive disorder in pregnant women.

2013 study found that those who underwent a 20-minute acupuncture session experienced a reduction in anxiety and improved memory immediately afterward compared to those who didn’t receive acupuncture treatments.

Research continues, exploring the findings of these studies and reviews for acupuncture, and the results are promising. From anxiety to inflammation and pain, there are many potential applications for this ancient therapy.

This article was written by an independent researcher. On matters of acupuncture, this article may not accurately represent the teachings of ITEA.

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