About Acupuncture

acupuncture

Chinese medicine is an umbrella term for several different modalities that share common concepts, acupuncture being just one of them.

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years, but its popularity in America has skyrocketed just recently. 1973 saw the very first laws passed in America regulating acupuncture, in 1996 the FDA approved acupuncture needles used by licensed professionals as a Class II medical device, and in 2014 when the Affordable Care Act went into effect, states like California included acupuncture as a covered benefit.  As of 2012 a study found that 1.5% of Americans had used acupuncture in the past 12 months.  In as little as 40 years a once obscure medicine now is widely accepted by Americans.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body, which are often called acupuncture points, acupressure points, or sometimes just pressure points. These points are locations which allow us to access the energy of a larger system, called a channel. In Chinese medicine the body is views as a system of several channels, 12 main ones and several more depending on how deep into channel theory you go.

The channels have interior and exterior branches, connecting internal organs to the surface of the skin.  This is why manipulating acupuncture points on a seemingly random parts of the body can have profound effect elsewhere, depending on where the channels connect to.  For example, points on the feet or hands can treat headaches because those channels have branches that travel to the head.

I find an apt metaphor for channel theory to be a subway system, the subway lines being the channels and the stations being the points. We can only access the channels/subways at the points/stations, but depending on how the channels/subways connect you can travel great distances and affect the opposite end of the body.

Each of the channels have different characteristics depending on the internal organs they are connected to, and their corresponding points also have different characteristics depending on where they are located. For example, the lung system governs breathing, the sinuses, emotions and immunity, so some points along the lung channel are better for allergies while others are better for cough and others are better for emotional release.

What does Acupuncture treat?

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years for a slew of different conditions and diseases, more than I would ever be able to list here.  The conditions I most commonly treat include anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, digestive disorders, fertility and reproductive health, hormonal imbalances, pain and spinal disorders.

However, most people still want a concrete list of conditions that acupuncture has been proven to treat via clinical trials.  Luckily the World Health Organization (WHO) has combed through the research and compiled the following list of diseases/symptoms/conditions that are effectively treated by acupuncture:

  • 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 labour

  • Knee pain

  • Leukopenia

  • Low back pain

  • Malposition of fetus, correction of

  • 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

In addition, WHO has compiled the following list of diseases/symptoms/conditions which acupuncture has shown a therapeutic effect but they deem further research is needed:

  • 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

  • Labour 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)

Finally, a list of diseases/symptoms/conditions “for which there are only individual controlled trials reporting some therapeutic effects, but for which acupuncture is worth trying because treatment by conventional and other therapies is difficult”:

  • Chloasma

  • Choroidopathy, central serous

  • Colour blindness

  • Deafness

  • Hypophrenia

  • Irritable colon syndrome

  • Neuropathic bladder in spinal cord injury

  • Pulmonary heart disease, chronic

  • Small airway obstruction