A mysterious yet fascinating performance of thin needles — acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine, where five to twenty needles are inserted at specific points of the body. Despite the lack of scientific evidence, acupuncture is still utilized to cure various areas of our body and has been proven to be especially effective in the following cases.
Boost the effectiveness of standard medical care
Most notably, acupuncture has been proven to improve the effectiveness of standard medical care, according to the National Institute for Health Research.
In an experiment performed by Hugh MacPherson, a Professor of Acupuncture Research at the University of York, more than 18,000 patients suffering from chronic pain in the neck, lower back, head and knee were treated with either acupuncture and standard medicine simultaneously, or standard medical care alone, including anti-inflammatory drugs and physiotherapy.
The result was dramatic.
According to the University of York, the experiment showed that the combination of acupuncture with the standard medical care “significantly reduced the chronic pain of the patients,” from headaches to back pain, compared to standard medical therapy alone. In addition, it has also reduced the pain of osteoarthritis, consequently reducing the patients’ reliance on anti-inflammatory drugs.
Acupuncture was also found to be effective in curing depression. In another experiment done by Professor MacPherson, 755 patients diagnosed with depression in the North of England were provided either acupuncture or depression counseling.
According to MacPherson, both acupuncture and counseling treatments have effectively reduced the degree of depression, and the effect lasted up to 12 months after the treatment. The significance of the experiment was that both acupuncture and counseling, aside from antidepressants, had an elongated effect on the patients.
Whether the acupuncture treatments in MacPherson’s experiments were based on the placebo effect remains unresolved; however, his series of studies substantiate that acupuncture can be an effective alternative in the absence of standard medical care.
Moreover, a study done by Mayo Clinic suggested that acupuncture alleviated the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia causes musculoskeletal pain, followed by extreme fatigue and sleep disturbance.
In the experiment, the researchers gathered 50 random fibromyalgia patients and observed the effect of acupuncture in the experimental group. Compared to the control group without the acupuncture treatment, Mayo Clinic insisted, “symptoms of patients who received acupuncture significantly improved.” Among the many symptoms, patients reported the greatest satisfaction in fatigue and anxiety alleviation.
Although in Mayo’s other studies, acupuncture was found to be ineffective specifically in pain relief, their findings still showed the practice’s capability in sustaining mental health.
Chronic pulmonary disease
Finally, acupuncture has proven its effectiveness in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, according to the JAMA Network publication. COPD is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes an obstructed, irreversible airflow from the lungs.
To find acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating such conditions, Masao Suzuki, Ph.D. in Kyoto and Meiji University in Japan, has led a series of randomized controlled trials from July 2006 to March 2009. Of the 68 patients in total, 34 were provided acupuncture treatment for the 12 weeks, while the other 34 patients were treated with placebo acupuncture. Then, at the end of the 12 weeks period, patients were assigned to take a six-minute walk test on a Borg scale.
Suzuki identified that the scores of the patients with real acupuncture treatment has significantly improved from a 5.5 to a 1.9, while the placebo group did not see any visible improvements, moving from a 4.2 to a 4.6.
While the researchers admitted that a follow-up experiment with a longer-term intervention and a greater sample size was necessary to finalize the result, Suzuki’s experiment further corroborated the versatility of acupuncture.
Although the studies above have partially proven the effectiveness of the treatment, acupuncture is still a controversial practice that is yet to be accepted in the medical community. Despite the lack of authenticity, it will still be a fascinating experience to lend your body to the mysterious needles and observe what they can do for your body once in a while.