What could Acupuncture do for you?
Natural Matters Note - You can find your local acupuncturist in the Acupuncture Directory
From anxiety to asthma and insomnia to infertility, it would seem that few conditions are beyond the help of this ancient art.
What could Acupuncture do for you? Could it…
Acupuncture is gradually edging closer to mainstream medicine in the West, with high profile supporters (including The Prince of Wales) and a growing number of NHS referrals.
Sure, it is relaxing, say the critics – acupuncture can’t have any actual remedial effect, can it? Well, the experiences or countless practitioners and patients, along with a growing number of credible research trials, would suggest otherwise.
Research has indicated that acupuncture can help raise levels of mood-boosting chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, noradrenalin, serotonin and GABA, as well as influence sympathetic nerve activity, thus lowering stress. It is one of the few medically acceptable treatments for depression during pregnancy and research carried out in 2004 found that active acupuncture has a much higher response rate (69%) than massage (32%) when practiced on pregnant women suffering with a major depressive disorder. Positive results have also been gathered from studies into other patient groups, including those with Alzheimer’s.
There have been many studies into the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of migraines, including a 2004 report published in the British Medical Journal, that suggested migraine patients who had acupuncture had 22 fewer days of headaches per year, made 25% fewer visits to their GP and used 15% less medication than those on standard NHS treatment. Although a 2005 study reported that ‘sham’ acupuncture was ‘no more effective’ than the real thing, most media coverage of this revelation failed to highlight that fact in both cases, the frequency of headaches was dramatically reduced, which would seem to indicate a lack of a genuine ‘control’ group rather than anything else.
The British Medical Acupuncture Society (www.medical-acupuncture.co.uk) lists ‘functional bowel or bladder problems such as IBS or irritable bladder and even mild forms of urinary incontinence’ amongst the conditions that are known to respond well to acupuncture, although there seems to be little research to support this as yet, partly perhaps because the condition itself is so hard to pin down medically.
According to the World Health Organisation, bronchial asthma comes under the heading of ‘diseases, symptoms or conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed’.
“I don’t need an inhaler anymore”
23 year old Rachel* had been suffering with asthma since childhood and although it was no longer a serious concern, when she became nervous about something, the problem would return and she would have to use her Ventolin inhaler. Rachel was treated with acupuncture and cupping on her upper back. She was also educated about how her body reacts when she becomes nervous or stressed, explaining the shallow breathing that she often experienced. Rachel began meditation to learn deep breathing and had four acupuncture sessions. One year on, she has not used her Ventolin inhaler and feels a lot more in control of herself.
In Chinese medicine, hay fever is seen as being due to a combination of weak defensive Qi and a history of frequent colds. Acupuncture has a good track record in treating the immediate symptoms (sneezing, coughing, headache, sore eyes etc) – but practitioners also aim to treat the root causes of the condition. One single-blinded clinical trail in Australia concluded that the therapy was ‘at least as effective’ as relief medication in treating hay fever symptoms.
In a randomised, double-blinded trial, French researchers discovered that ‘point 7 heart’ acupuncture aided sleep in health individuals. There is also evidence to suggest that acupuncture can increase the body’s production of melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone’.
In an exciting 2004 report, German researchers claimed to have increased success rates by almost 50% in women having in vitro fertilisation (IVF). One theory to explain the results suggested that the treatment affects the autonomic nervous system, which is involved in the control of the muscles and glands and could therefore make the lining of the uterus more receptive to receiving an embryo. There is also evidence to suggest that acupuncture could help couples experiencing unexplained infertility and possibly reduce the risk of miscarriage in some women.
Many thanks to the Natural Health magazine (December 2006 issue)
*names have been changed
The Body and Soul Clinic
175 Send Road, Send, Woking, Surrey, GU23 7ET
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