Acupuncture Health Benefits: What Conditions Can This Technique Treat?

In spite of the scepticism with which acupuncture is viewed, 3.1 million people had used acupuncture in an entire decade (1997-2007) in the United States. The survey by National Institute of Health in 2007 revealed that the number of patients visiting acupuncturists had tripled in that particular decade.

Acupuncture is sometimes considered a pseudoscience and is criticized by many for its use in modern medicine. That did not stop the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from issuing a blueprint in May 2017 to medicaal practitioners to provide safe and legal services, as well as for them to seek out all the therapies available. 

In the midst of the opioid crisis, the FDA gave into the demands of the lobbyists using the opioid addiction for their benefit to desperately provide an alternative therapy to cope with pain. The usage of unused and sterile needles by a qualified practitioner is highly recommended by the FDA to reduce risks of side effects from non-sterile needles.

For those people who believe that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has not evolved for over 2,500 years, here are a few studies showing the health benefits of acupuncture treatment, though more research needs to be done as always.

Decreases Pain and Intensity of Migraines

Researchers at the University of Munich went through more than 11 studies showing a link between acupuncture treatment and reduction in chronic headaches. Clinical trials based on control groups taking placebo acupuncture treatment versus the real treatment without any other medication for migraines were studied.

In one study, two groups were divided into people who got treatment with randomly placed needles and people with needles placed in specific locations. Sadly, there was no improvement in migraines for both groups. The control group treated with real acupuncture treatment had surprisingly reduced pain and intensity in the follow-up round, though not in the first round. 

Reduces Chronic Pain

Researchers at University Medical Center of Berlin noted in a study in 2006 that patients undergoing acupuncture treatment were better off than the patients not receiving acupuncture care for more than 8 weeks, specifically for lower back pain. 

Another study looked at clinical trials of 17,000 patients suffering from various types of chronic pains such as neck pain, arthritis, headaches and shoulder pain. The 2012 study carried out by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics concluded that it was a “reasonable referral option for doctors” after studying the impact on placebo and non-placebo groups.

Acupuncture A Chinese youth receiving acupuncture for weight reduction has needles inserted into his belly at a weight reduction clinic in Tianjin on November 18, 2008. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Can eliminate Insomnia

Acupuncture is used very often to treat insomnia in China. Researchers from China went through important Chinese databases and studies such as the Chinese Scientific Journal Database and the Wan Fang Database in 2008. After sifting through 46 trials and studying the reports of 3,811 patients, of which 2,882 were suffering from primary insomnia, while the rest had depression, schizophrenia, drug addiction and renal disease.  

The control groups were of innumerable variations, be it on herbal medicine, or placebo and non-placebo acupuncture treatment in randomized clinical trials. Sometimes, the control groups consisted of people who were already on other medication for insomnia while other groups did not take any medication. All possibilties were presented by many studies. 

The final outcome of the analysis by Huijuan Cao, Xingfang Pan, Hua Li and Jianping Liu concluded that acupuncture appears to relieve insomnia, but further research needs to be done.

Used in Cancer Treatment to Complement Chemotherapy

“Acupuncture is recommended as a complementary therapy when nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy are poorly controlled,” the American College of Chest Physicians stated.

In 1997, National Institutes of Health Consensus Statement had made a similar statement based on 27 controlled trials that showed favorable results for acupuncture complementing chemotherapy that induced nausea.