It’s a mystery and a miracle: An acupuncture needle inserted in the thumb and shoulder pain that is so unbearable you can’t move your arm disappears. How is this possible?
Since the 1970s, when acupuncture was first introduced into the U.S., Western researchers have sought to understand acupuncture through traditional scientific research.
Yet, the American public hasn’t waited for the scientific answers. Growing numbers have sought out acupuncturists especially for chronic health problems. When conventional medicine either hasn’t worked or had answers, the search has invariable lead to acupuncture. The 2002 National Health Interview Survey estimated 8.2 million American adults have used acupuncture – a substantial increase as it is estimated 2.1 million American adults had used acupuncture in the year before.
Acupuncture is used as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative to treat an ever-growing list of disorders: addiction, stroke, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, asthma, infertility, pregnancy problems, dental pain, and side effects from cancer treatment. In additional, acupuncture is no longer regulated to chronic issues. People are turning to acupuncture earlier and earlier to address health concerns.
More and more, people are understanding the applications for acupuncture are endless … people use it for any type of injury including auto or sports injuries, for their emotional well-being, for everything.
Yet, the science is beginning to catch-up. For pain relief more and more studies are identifying that acupuncture statistically shows that it is more than a placebo effect. The most recent review of clinical trials was completed and results published to Jama in 2012.
After reviewing 18,000 patients and 29 high quality clinical trials, the reviewers concluded:
“Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option. Significant differences between true and sham acupuncture indicate that acupuncture is more than a placebo. However, these differences are relatively modest, suggesting that factors in addition to the specific effects of needling are important contributors to the therapeutic effects of acupuncture.”
It helps to have an exploring, open mindset when considering acupuncture. But even people who are not very open-minded and try it, find they feel good during the treatments.
Even without the studies, people turn to acupuncture for safety reasons. More and more the safety of pharmaceuticals is being questioned as drugs such as Vioxx are being pulled from the market due to safety concerns. The National Institute of Health indicates that one advantage of acupuncture treatments is that the rates of side effects are substantially lower than that of many drugs or other accepted medical procedures used for the same conditions.
Arch Intern Med. Author manuscript; available in PMC Oct 22, 2013. Published in final edited form as: Arch Intern Med. Oct 22, 2012; 172(19): 1444–1453. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3654