Americans Embrace Acupuncture's Healing Power

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by tansy, Dec 23, 2005.

  1. tansy

    tansy New Member

    New science backs up the benefits of a 2,500-year-old treatment

    By E.J. Mundell
    Health Day Reporter

    THURSDAY, Dec. 22 (Health Day News)

    According to practitioners of traditional
    Chinese acupuncture, inserting a tiny needle into the little toe can help heal
    eye problems because the toe and eyes are connected via the same "meridian."

    Not surprisingly, Western experts cast their own jaundiced eye upon such a
    claim -- until a recent high-tech imaging study supported the ancient theory.

    "Those researchers found that on functional [real-time] MRI, activity in the
    visual cortex in the brain was actually stimulated by this acupuncture
    occurring in the toe," said Dr. Lixing Lao, a licensed acupuncturist who is
    also fully trained in Western medicine.

    Lao, an associate professor at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the
    University of Maryland in Baltimore, said those findings are just one of many
    instances where modern science is proving the efficacy of a millennia-old
    technique.

    And that information is giving American patients new confidence in trying out
    acupuncture for themselves, he said.

    "Before, more patients were rather skeptical," Lao said. "Now, not only
    patients want to see me, but also doctors say, 'Hey, I want to make an
    appointment.' There's been a big change."

    That change came in large part from a 1997 National Institutes of Health
    consensus statement based on an expert panel's comprehensive review of the
    literature. The panel concluded acupuncture to be an acceptable treatment for
    the relief of a wide variety of conditions, either when used in conjunction
    with regular medical treatment or as an acceptable alternative therapy. The
    conditions listed by the NIH panel included asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome,
    fibromyalgia, headache, lower back pain, menstrual cramps, myofascial (muscle)
    pain, osteoarthritis, tennis elbow and even stroke rehabilitation.

    Some of the studies -- including a recent report finding acupuncture effective
    against lower back pain -- came from Lao's center at the University of
    Maryland.

    How does acupuncture work? "People are still trying to figure that out," Lao
    said, but there are a few key theories:

    * Endorphin release. "Acupuncture may trigger the brain to release these
    chemicals," Lao said. "They're endogenous opiates -- similar to
    [pain-relieving] narcotics, but all natural."

    * Better circulation. "People have talked about a 'peripheral' effect to
    acupuncture," Lao said, "stimulating the dilation of blood vessels in local
    areas. That would improve circulation and metabolism locally."

    * Anti-inflammatory effects. According to Lao, pain often originates in
    inflamed tissues. Acupuncture appears to lower inflammation by reducing levels
    of a pro-inflammatory hormone, cortisol.

    * Changes in heart rate. "Studies are showing that acupuncture changes
    areas of the brain linked to the heart, modifying heart rate through the
    sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems," Lao said.

    He stressed that acupuncture does not always bring about the same level of pain
    relief or symptom relief as modern pharmaceuticals. On the other hand, he said,
    "it has no side effects," meaning that it can be used safely over the long
    term.

    According to Lao, the biggest difference between drugs and acupuncture lies in
    their underlying mechanism of action. "Acupuncture isn't just about symptom
    management -- it's also addressing fundamental problems, the underlying cause
    [of the problem]," he said. "It's more about stimulation, as opposed to the
    suppressive effects of drugs."

    Of course, acupuncture involves needles -- a source of fear for many people.
    "Lots of people think 'Oh, it's like a hypodermic needle,'" Lao said. But he
    pointed out that the average acupuncture needle is much thinner, equivalent to
    the diameter of a human hair. "Lots of patients won't feel it at all, others
    may feel just a tiny sting," he said.

    In the United States, all accredited acupuncturists now use one-time-only
    disposal needles, so needle safety is a non-issue.

    But Lao said it's important to look for that accreditation when choosing a
    practitioner.

    "About 40 states have now passed laws to monitor the practice of acupuncture,"
    he said, with these laws mandating anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 hours of
    training before licenses are granted. Most acupuncturists have to pass a state
    board exam. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental
    Medicine also certifies experienced acupuncturists throughout the country.

    Proper regulation makes sense for a discipline that deserves to be taken as
    seriously as any other medical field, Lao said. He believes there's more and
    more evidence that "acupuncture helps the body respond to every system that's
    not working. So whatever you're looking at, you're going to see some change."

    More information

    To learn more about acupuncture, head to the National Library of Medicine at
    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/acupuncture.html .
  2. bpmwriter

    bpmwriter New Member

    tansy,

    i'm so glad you posted this. i'm a huge advocate for acupuncture. i've suffered with cfs and fibro for 2 years now and acunpuncture has been the single best thing i've done for myself. anyone considering giving it a try should ask prospective acupuncturists if they offer monthly deals. i pay upfront so i can get in twice a week. you really need to go regularly, at least in the beginning (just like chiro), to get the full benefits.

    eddie