• Science: Acupuncture

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    Acupuncture flatiron

    Acupuncture is the practice of placing very thin needles through the skin in specific locations of the body for the purpose of healing and relief of symptoms. This practice is several thousand years old and is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. As practiced today it is often combined with other interventions, such as sending a small current of electricity through the needles or burning herbs on the acupuncture points (a practice called moxibustion).

    Western vs. Eastern Mindset

    Acupuncture has recently been transplanted to the West, riding the wave of tolerance for unscientific treatment practices marketed as “complementary and alternative medicine.” While advocates have been successful at pushing acupuncture into the culture, the scientific medical community has still not accepted the practice as a legitimate scientific practice.

    Acupuncture is considered an alternative to conventional forms of medicine in the West and is actually one of the oldest healing practices in the world. In China, Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries, acupuncture has been used for thousands of years, and its staying power isn’t merely a matter of superstition or coincidence.

    In modern-day China, some hospitals offer acupuncture and allopathic medicine side-by-side, allowing patients to choose. They can also opt for a combination of both. For example, if an adverse drug effect occurs, the patient can opt for a reduced dose in combination with acupuncture.

    Basic Principles of Acupuncture

    The Chinese postulated that there is an energy flow in every living being that is responsible for life. They called this energy the Chi force. This energy is analogous to the Indian concept of ‘prana' or life force and permeates all creation. The Chi (pronounced as kee) flows through the body in channels called acupuncture meridians. Every meridian influences an organ and there are different meridians for the heart, liver, lung, large intestine, stomach, kidney, urinary bladder etc.

    Some acupuncture meridians are negative in orientation while others are positive in orientation. The Chinese call these the Yin and the Yang. Yin and Yang are relative terms in comparison with each other. Just as there is no darkness without light, no white without black there is no Yin without Yang and vice versa. Yin and Yang are also considered to be female and male respectively and both of these contain some amount of the opposite principal. This is illustrated in the diagram of the symbol of Yin and Yang given below.

    The Yin meridians originate in hollow organs like the stomach, large intestine, small intestine, urinary bladder and the gall bladder. The Yang Meridians originate in solid organs like the heart, lung, liver, kidneys, and spleen.

    In a person who is healthy, the Chi flows through all the channels smoothly and the Yin and Yang are in a state of dynamic equilibrium. This means that even though there are temporary fluctuations in the Yin and the Yang, the net energy is in balance. In a person who is sick, the energy flows are obstructed and unbalanced causing either an excess or a deficiency of Yin, or an excess or a deficiency of Yang. Acupuncture achieves its curative effect by clearing the obstruction in the flow of Chi and balancing the energy flow. Once the flow of energy is restored to normal, the person becomes and remains healthy.

    History of Acupuncture

    The science and art of acupuncture is well documented and spans across centuries, all the way back to the Stone Age. Records of its use have been found in many parts of the world, not just the Orient, as most commonly thought.

    The Chinese medical compendium, the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, is the oldest written record about acupuncture. It is thought to be the oldest medical book in the world, heralding from Emperor Huang Di who reigned between 2,696—2,598 B.C.

    However, signs of acupuncture being used are found all over the ancient world.  There’s evidence of its practice in ancient Egypt, Persia, India, Sri Lanka, parts of Europe, and South America. Even our North American Indians have used it.

    The Eskimos, for example, are said to still use sharpened stones for treating illness. Written evidence of the use of acupuncture in Egypt and Saudi Arabia also exists. The Ebers papyrus of 1,550 B.C. describes a physical system of channels and vessels that is closely matched to the Chinese system of meridians.

    Even older evidence than the examples above exist. In 1991, a 5,000-year-old mummified man was found along the Otz valley between Austria and Italy. Remarkably well preserved, a complex system of tattoos were discovered on his body, and verified to be directly on, or within six millimeters of, traditional acupuncture points and meridians.

    Evidence Showing What Acupuncture ‘Does’

    Some research suggests that acupuncture stimulates your central nervous system to release natural chemicals that alter bodily systems, pain, and other biological processes. In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted an extensive review and analysis of clinical trials involving acupuncture. According to this report,1 acupuncture impacts the body on multiple levels, including:

    • Stimulating the conduction of electromagnetic signals, which may release immune system cells or pain-killing chemicals
    • Activation of your body’s natural opioid system, which may help reduce pain or induce sleep
    • Stimulation of your hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which modulate numerous body systems
    • Change in the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones, which may positively influence brain chemistry

    In the featured video, a team of researchers, along with an acupuncturist, conduct an experiment that has never been done before. Using high tech MRI imaging, they were able to visually demonstrate that acupuncture has a very real effect on the brain.

    Acupuncture Proven Effective for Pain and Osteoarthritis

    One of the most common uses of acupuncture is for the treatment of chronic pain. One analysis of the most robust studies available concluded that acupuncture has a clear effect in reducing chronic pain, more so than standard drug-based pain treatment. Study participants receiving acupuncture reported an average 50 percent reduction in pain, compared to a 28 percent pain reduction for standard pain treatment without acupuncture. Another large, well-designed study assessing whether acupuncture might work for osteoarthritis—a debilitating condition affecting more than 20 million Americans—also produced remarkably positive results.

    This landmark study is also discussed in the video above. A total of 570 patients diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee were enrolled for this 26-week long trial. It was the longest and largest randomized, controlled phase III clinical trial of acupuncture ever conducted. None of the participants had tried acupuncture before, and none had had knee surgery in the previous six months. Nor had they used steroid injections. The participants were randomly assigned to receive one of three treatments: acupuncture, sham acupuncture, or self-help strategies recommended by the Arthritis Foundation (the latter served as a control group).

    Significant differences in response was seen by week eight and 14, and at the end of the trial, the group receiving real acupuncture had a 40 percent decrease in pain and a nearly 40 percent improvement in function compared to baseline assessments—a 33 percent difference in improvement over the sham group.  According to Stephen E. Straus, M.D., Director of National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), which is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

    “For the first time, a clinical trial with sufficient rigor, size, and duration has shown that acupuncture reduces the pain and functional impairment of osteoarthritis of the knee. These results also indicate that acupuncture can serve as an effective addition to a standard regimen of care and improve quality of life for knee osteoarthritis sufferers. NCCAM has been building a portfolio of basic and clinical research that is now revealing the power and promise of applying stringent research methods to ancient practices like acupuncture.”

    Other Science-Backed Uses for Acupuncture

    However, chronic pain is only one of 30+ proven uses for this natural treatment. Chinese doctors assert that acupuncture can be used to treat virtually ANY illness, but for those looking for scientific validation, the World Health Organization’s analysis concluded that acupuncture is an effective treatment for the following diseases and conditions.

    According to the WHO’s analysis: “Some of these studies have provided incontrovertible scientific evidence that acupuncture is more successful than placebo treatments in certain conditions.” The report again confirmed its benefits for pain, saying: “The proportion of chronic pain relieved by acupuncture is generally in the range 55–85 percent, which compares favorably with that of potent drugs (morphine helps in 70 percent of cases) and far outweighs the placebo effect (30–35 percent).”

    Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever) Biliary colic
    Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke) Dysentery, acute bacillary Dysmenorrhoea, primary
    Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm) Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders) Headache
    Hypertension, essential Hypotension, primary Induction of labor
    Knee pain Leukopenia Low back pain
    Malposition of fetus Morning sickness Nausea and vomiting
    Neck pain Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction) Periarthritis of shoulder
    Postoperative pain Renal colic Rheumatoid arthritis
    Sciatica Sprain Stroke
    Tennis elbow

    More Potential Uses for Acupuncture

    While further research is needed, acupuncture has also demonstrated therapeutic effects in the treatment of the following health problems, according to the WHO’s report.

    Abdominal pain (in acute gastroenteritis or due to gastrointestinal spasm) Acne vulgaris Alcohol dependence and detoxification Bell’s palsy
    Bronchial asthma Cancer pain Cardiac neurosis Cholecystitis, chronic, with acute exacerbation
    Cholelithiasis Competition stress syndrome Craniocerebral injury, closed Diabetes mellitus, non-insulin-dependent
    Earache Epidemic haemorrhagic fever Epistaxis, simple (without generalized or local disease) Eye pain due to subconjunctival injection
    Female infertility Facial spasm Female urethral syndrome Fibromyalgia and fasciitis
    Gastrokinetic disturbance Gouty arthritis Hepatitis B virus carrier status Herpes zoster (human (alpha) herpesvirus 3)
    Hyperlipaemia Hypo-ovarianism Insomnia Labor pain
    Lactation, deficiency Male sexual dysfunction, non-organic Ménière disease Neuralgia, post-herpetic
    Neurodermatitis Obesity Opium, cocaine and heroin dependence Osteoarthritis
    Pain due to endoscopic examination Pain in thromboangiitis obliterans Polycystic ovary syndrome (Stein-Leventhal syndrome) Postextubation in children
    Postoperative convalescence Premenstrual syndrome Prostatitis, chronic Pruritus
    Radicular and pseudoradicular pain syndrome Raynaud syndrome, primary Recurrent lower urinary-tract infection Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
    Retention of urine, traumatic Schizophrenia Sialism, drug-induced Sjögren syndrome
    Sore throat (including tonsillitis) Spine pain, acute Stiff neck Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
    Tietze syndrome Tobacco dependence Tourette syndrome Ulcerative colitis, chronic
    Urolithiasis Vascular dementia Whooping cough (pertussis)

    Taken as a whole, the pattern of the acupuncture literature follows one with which scientists are very familiar: the more tightly controlled the study the smaller the effect, and the best-controlled trials are negative. This pattern is highly predictive of a null-effect – that there is no actual effect from acupuncture.

    Please Read this Article at Articles.Mercola.com

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    michael

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