Acupuncture, Needling for Health
For years we have heard about acupuncture and we may have dismissed it as belonging to another age. Indeed the medical use of acupuncture seems as mysterious as Chinese culture did to the first European and American traders plying clipper ships in the China Sea searching for tea and opium. Now I’d like to take you on a journey.
Acupuncture is a growing practice in this country and around the world. Acupuncture is a medical technique of inserting thin needles at specific points and manipulating them manually or with electrical stimulus to ease pain. The practice was first mentioned in the Yellow Emperor’s Canon and it is suggested the practice originated in China, although there are different styles of acupuncture in Korea, Japan, Tibet and Vietnam. Acupuncture has been actively studied by science since the late 20th century. The World Health Organization endorses acupuncture for approximately 24 ailments and says that evidence is suggestive but not conclusive that it may offer relief for dozens more.
Skeptics claim that the same results can be obtained with “Sham acupuncture,” a technique used as a control in scientific studies of acupuncture. They suggest that acupuncture is nothing more than a placebo effect. Proponents claim that acupuncture does all they claim and base their beliefs on scientific studies and sometimes, personal experiences. The practice of acupuncture did not gain wide acceptance in this country until President Nixon visited China in 1972.
The Food and Drug Administration regulates acupuncture needles as it does medical scalpels and other medical devises. Though touted as a holistic procedure, acupuncture can have side effects. The most common serious injury reported is a puncture of the lung when the needles are inserted too deeply. Viral hepatitis has occurred in rare cases.
While there is no hard evidence that acupuncture unequivocally provides relief, the National Institute of Health says promising results have emerged in its use for relieving post-operative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and post-operative dental pain. It may also be useful as an adjunct treatment for stroke, fibromyalgia, tennis elbow, lower back pain and asthma.
Issues of licensing, a uniform training syllabus and reimbursement by health-care providers remain unresolved. There is sufficient evidence of acupuncture’s effectiveness to warrant expanding its use in conventional medicine and to encourage further physiological and clinical studies to assess its value in practical medicine.
As with any medical procedure it pays for the patient to do his or her homework. Check out a potential acupuncturist as thoroughly as you would a potential doctor. After all, the practice is only as good as the practitioner. Ask questions and talk to people who have used acupuncture before getting stuck.