Acupuncture is rapidly gaining recognition as an effective way to manage pain and discomfort. Even cyclists in the Tour de France have used acupuncture to maintain top form and combat painful inflammation! And there are more studies appearing all the time that commend acupuncture’s effectiveness.
If you are new to acupuncture, it is a 5,000 year old Chinese medical system that treats patients by inserting and manipulating needles in the body at certain energy points to produce intentional physiological responses and healing.
Just what are these energy points? Your body has an innate system of energy communication, which forms the basis of acupuncture. By stimulating certain points, called acupoints, you can activate the flow of energy and remove any blockages in your body, which in turn restores communication and helps your organ functions reach their optimal level.
Way back in 1997, the National Health Institute (NIH) released an efficacy statement endorsing acupuncture for a variety of conditions including post-operative pain, dental pain, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, nausea and other conditions. In the same year, the FDA reclassified the acupuncture needle from “experimental” to “medical device” status, recognizing that the acupuncture needle is a safe and effective medical instrument. In the past two decades, there has been a wealth of research on acupuncture. Here are some of the most recent findings!
1. Acupuncture helps reduce high blood pressure.
New research found acupuncture is effective for reducing high blood pressure and preventing kidney damage. This controlled laboratory experiment compared three different groups of rats. The first group received acupuncture, the second was a control group and the third group received medication. The acupuncture group exhibited significantly lower blood pressure and less structural change to the kidneys. This research supports other recent findings at the University of California, who found in their studies with humans that acupuncture reduces hypertension by stimulating brain neurons.
2. Acupuncture treats menopausal hot flashes.
A recent article published online in Menopause analyzed 12 randomized controlled trials and found that acupuncture reduces the frequency and severity of hot flashes, as well as improves quality of life. Hsiao-Yean Chiu, RN, PhD, from the College of Nursing, Taipei Medical University in Taiwan wrote in the article that “In clinical settings, acupuncture should be considered as an adjunct treatment for reducing menopause-related symptoms, particularly hot flashes, in addition to hormone therapy and other pharmacologic therapies.” More direct research will be needed, but these findings certainly are positive for women in menopause looking for non-pharmacologic methods.
3. Knee osteoarthritis can be relieved by acupuncture moxibustion.
A traditional technique that acupuncturists sometimes use in treatment is called moxibustion, in which moxa is burnt to warm and stimulate an acupoint. In a recent study published in Arthritis Research & Therapy, it was found that a six-week course of moxibustion treatment significantly reduced pain and improved function in patients with knee osteoarthritis when compared to a placebo control. The findings suggest that moxibustion might be an effective adjunct treatment to reduce pain and improve function for knee osteoarthritis sufferers.