Information on Acupuncture
This page was created for the benefit of potential Acupuncture
patients as well as others needing straight information to make fully
informed medical and financial decisions. This page has been prepared
by Todd Luger, BS, MAcOM, LAc. Todd is founder
of the Chinese Herb Academy, a practitioner of acupuncture and oriental
medicine for 15 years and a member of the clinical faculty of three acupuncture
schools since 1994. During this time, Todd has had ample opportunity to
observe the effects of acupuncture on various conditions. He has also
done extensive reviews of the modern and classical literature on Acupuncture,
with a special emphasis on research and scholarly oriented materials.
The information presented below will be updated regularly with citations
as possible. For now, it serves as an incomplete summary of my opinions,
which I believe to be rooted in the preponderance of evidence I have uncovered
over the years.
While the World
Health Organization (WHO) distributes an extensive list of condition
treated by Acupuncture, the basis for much of that list is not controlled
research. Many acupuncturists pass along this information due to its supposed
authority, however quite a bit of it is based solely upon traditional
claims of efficacy, not any valid independent verification. While it is
true that acupuncture has been historically used in all the listed conditions,
the evidence of successful long term benefit as opposed to placebo effects
has been found lacking by the NIH
consensus report on acupuncture in which it states regarding the efficacy
for specific disorders,
"There is clear evidence that needle acupuncture
is efficacious for adult post-operative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting
and probably for the nausea of pregnancy. Much of the research is on various
pain problems. There is evidence of efficacy for postoperative dental
pain. There are reasonable studies (although sometimes only single studies)
showing relief of pain with acupuncture on diverse pain conditions such
as menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, and fibromyalgia. This suggests that
acupuncture may have a more general effect on pain. However, there are
also studies that do not find efficacy for acupuncture in pain. There
is evidence that acupuncture does not demonstrate efficacy for cessation
of smoking and may not be efficacious for some other conditions. While
many other conditions have received some attention in the literature and,
in fact, the research suggests some exciting potential areas for the use
of acupuncture, the quality or quantity of the research evidence is not
sufficient to provide firm evidence of efficacy at this time."
This finding has recently been seconded by the Little
Hoover Commission (LHC) report on the Acupuncture profession in California.
The LHC recently admonished the state acupuncture board for using the
WHO list of conditions in their literature. While more recent modern
research in China is using proper controls and good quality research
is now being done in the US, as well, it is essential to the long term
public acceptance of acupuncture not to overstate any claims prematurely.
It is also now generally agreed by modern scientists that Acupuncture
has distinct and often potent physiological effects. This has been proven
by recent MRI
evidence. Yet there remains considerable debate within and between the
various professions that practice acupuncture as to how it should be practiced
for greatest safety and efficacy. While passions run high on all sides,
there is no evidence that acupuncture is more or less effective when practiced
according to traditional chinese model or a western physiological one.
In fact, some recent
evidence suggests the western model is quite effective in certain limited
But a number of factors come into play in any decision
to use acupuncture for one of the conditions listed below. For many, cost-effectiveness
is key. With all due respect to the honest well intentioned practitioners
out there, acupuncture must be sold to patients in order to make a living.
Patient satisfaction rates are indeed high, but usage is still relatively
low in the population at large due to lack of adequate insurance reimbursement.
For many, satisfaction will be enough. For others, including major policy
makers, it is important to know that acupuncture has distinct efficacy
that exceeds the expected benefits of a quiet setting, nice music, incense,
TLC, etc. It is also important for our broken healthcare system to find
cost effective solutions. Otherwise insurers and legislators will never
An often overlooked issue in determining the efficacy
of Chinese Medicine is the role of herbal medicine in modern American
clinical practice. In China, herbs are considered the key modality in
Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture in modern China is largely limited
to neurological, psychological, musculoskeletal and pain conditions. It
is not used for internal medicine. This is largely because modern research
has not shown it to be as cost-effective for the latter conditions as
the use of herbs. Herbs, on the other hand, have been found to have a
wide range of useful effects in all
imaginable internal conditions. There is certainly some research that
has shown remarkable results with Acupuncture (including the new UCI hypertension
study cited above). But much of the chinese research involves daily Acupuncture
treatment of condition for months at a time, an unacceptable proposition
to most patients if there is a more convenient herbal alternative. The
remarkable thing about the UCI study was that it seemed to indicate long
lasting changes in blood pressure without needing daily treatments. However
the caveat there is that the treatment strategy was determined by MRI
mapping not traditional Chinese theory.
As a result of these various issues, another finding
of the LHC report was to advise that acupuncturists cease and desist making
specific health claims until the California legislature clarifies the
matter of what claims can be made. But neither patients nor practitioners
should despair. This is merely a reminder that in order to fully develop
the potential of Chinese Medicine in America, Acupuncturists must distinguish
themselves as the experts in Chinese Herbal Medicine. It is in this area
that Chinese Medicine will make its greatest inroads. Acupuncture will
likely be practiced by a wide range of non-acupuncturists in the future.
Patients with internal illness should seek out those Acupuncturists who
are also or primarily experts in herbs. Most
such practitioners will hold the title LAc. I think the burden must
be on those who make the health claims to back them up. This page should
allow intelligent questions to be asked anyone making such claims.
These are the search terms most commonly entered in the
major search engines that include the word Acupuncture. Comments on the
evidence of acupuncture efficacy is provided in each case with links where
possible. Caveat emptor.
acupuncture for weight loss -
Acupuncture has no historical use for helping weight loss, per se. Obesity
was not a problem in ancient China, thus it was not a major topic of study.
Some have claimed, but not proven, metabolic stimulation or appetite suppression.
In my experience, weight control is largely a psychological issue. Acupuncture
can be helpful in stress and anxiety by its measurable effects on neurotransmitters.
Thus, in conjunction with diet and exercise, Acupuncture might be useful
in a fashion similar to how it helps in Addiction treatment.
acupuncture quit smoking - There is mixed evidence regarding
the efficacy of acupuncture for smoking cessation. The general consensus
amongst detached observers within the community is that Acupuncture helps
cut cravings short term if used every day, but that counseling and group
support are vital components required for success in most cases.
acupuncture and infertility - There is evidence that acupuncture
can increase the success of in vitro fertilization and also promote fertility
on its own, both male and female. This has certainly been a preoccupation
of the Chinese for millennia. The primary therapy used was herbal. Many
herbs have hormonal effects and thus the physiological mechanisms by which
they work are not mysterious.
Asian J Androl. 2003 Dec;5(4):345-8.
Effects of acupuncture
and moxa treatment in patients with semen abnormalities
AIM: To evaluate the effect of Chinese Traditional Medicine, acupuncture
and moxa treatment, on the semen quality in patients with semen abnormalities.
CONCLUSION: The Chinese Traditional Medicine acupuncture and moxa techniques
significantly increase the percentage of normal-form sperm in infertile
patients with oligoastenoteratozoospermia without apparent cause.
J Huazhong Univ Sci Technolog Med Sci. 2002;22(3):228-30.
Influence of acupuncture on idiopathic male infertility in assisted reproductive
Acupuncture can improve sperm quality and fertilization rates in assisted
Andrologia. 2000 Jan;32(1):31-9.
acupuncture treatment affect sperm density in males with very low sperm
It is concluded that acupuncture may be a useful, nontraumatic treatment
for males with very poor sperm density, especially those with a history
of genital tract inflammation.
Gynecol Endocrinol. 1992 Sep;6(3):171-81.
Auricular acupuncture in the treatment of female infertility.
Based on our data, auricular acupuncture seems to offer a valuable alternative
therapy for female infertility due to hormone disorders.
acupuncture and chinese medicine - Acupuncture has always
played a limited role in Chinese Medicine, yet has achieved
a certain notoriety in the west that is far out of proportion to its historical
acupuncture face lift - There is a classical chinese specialty
of Beautification. Modern techniques involve acupuncture to "pin
back the skin" and fill out wirnkles. It is unclear how traditional
this specialty actually is or how effective, but I will be doing more
investigation. Some groups in china were certainly very interested in
longevity, but this was another domain that was largely dominated by herbal
medicine. The use of herbs both internally and externally are used in
Chinese Beautification Therapy.
acupuncture and depression - Acupuncture does affect neurotransmitter
and stress hormone levels. It has been shown to have some effectiveness
in mild to moderate depression. Quite a few patients use it for stress
relief and are convinced of its efficacy. As a skeptic, I feel comfortable
recommending its use in this area (but absolutely not
as the sole recourse in major depression).
acupuncture back pain - Acupuncture is effective for some
types of back pain. But acupuncture alone cannot heal herniated or "slipped"
discs. For many conditions, a combination of herbs, acupuncture, exercise
and physical therapy can allow one to avoid surgery or strong drugs.
cosmetic acupuncture - see acupuncture face lift
laser acupuncture - While not part of traditional chinese
acupuncture, this method does show promise as an alternate way to stimulate
deep lying nerves without using invasive needle techniques. It is most
likely to be developed by MD's practicing acupuncture and is outside the
legal scope of practice in most states.
acupuncture cancer - While acupuncture cannot affect the
progress of cancer according to any known evidence, it can help with nausea
from chemotherapy. In addition, many herbs show promise in their ability
to affect the immune system and natural cell death.
acupuncture for pregnancy - Acupuncture can help with the
nausea of pregnancy and there is some evidence that it
can help turn a breach presentation fetus. While acupuncture has a long
history of use for all the various complications of pregnancy and childbirth,
it has not been proven safe or effective for any of these.
acupuncture for arthritis - Acupuncture can relieve the
disease symptoms, but not alter the disease process. However the disease
process may be affected by the use of chinese herbs and other supplements
acupuncture for stop smoking - see acupuncture
quit smoking above
veterinary acupuncture - Acupuncture was used on farm animals,
but not much on domestic pet types like cats and dogs, so little has been
written about this. The traditional effects of herbs are largely unknown
on all animals, but much modern research has been done on animals, so
there is data out there. Make sure your vet is cognizant of these issues
before allowing treatment of your pet.
acupuncture and migraines - There is some evidence that
acupuncture can help. I have found herbs and acupuncture to be effective
for many in lessening severity and frequency.
ivf and acupuncture - There is one study that showed significant
increase in success rates with IVF when combined with Acupuncture.
acupuncture for smoking - see acupuncture quit
facial rejuvenation acupuncture - see acupuncture
face lift above
acupuncture fibromyalgia - There is no evidence that acupuncture
is helpful in this complaint except to the extent that it aids relaxation
and sleep, which have been shown to be key components of this syndrome.
acupuncture for dog - see veterinary acupuncture
acupuncture headache - see acupuncture and migraines
animal acupuncture - see veterinary acupuncture
acupuncture canine - see veterinary acupuncture
acupuncture and ophthalmology - controlled studies from
China show some efficacy in various eyes problems, including strabismus,
glaucoma, retinopathy and macular degeneration. Herbs are considered a
key component of eye treatment and have been used to great success in
treating diabetic eye disease, often in combination with western drugs.
acupuncture and asthma - Traditionally there are points
to help with asthma attacks. It does seem possible to affect the sympathetic
nervous system with acupuncture and thus mitigate an acute attack. However
the therapy does not seem to alter the long term course of the illness.
Herbs can affect both the short term and long term outcomes of asthma
patients are the dominant therapy in Chinese medicine for this condition.
acupuncture for allergy - Traditionally there are points
to help with allergy attacks. It does seem possible to affect the immune
system with acupuncture and thus mitigate an acute attack. However the
therapy does not seem to alter the long term course of the syndrome. Herbs
can affect both the short term and long term outcomes of allergy patients
are the dominant therapy in Chinese medicine for this condition.
acupuncture for anxiety - While not documented in modern
research like the treatment of depression, acupuncture has been historically
used to treat anxiety. It does seem effective and any role in weight loss
and addiction are probably due to these benefits. Herbal
medicine can also be very helpful. Many herbs have proven gentle, non
addictive, sedative effects.
acupuncture for acne - There is no evidence that acupuncture
can help with Acne. Nor is there any controlled clinical evidence of any
natural therapy being effective. However I have observed a combination
of diet, herbs and naturopathic medicine is sometimes effective.
acupuncture for smoking cessation - see acupuncture
quit smoking above
electro acupuncture - This
therapy shows some promise in many areas, but little research has been
done. The new UCI study on hypertension mentioned above considers stimulation
of deep nerves essential to acupuncture activity. The researchers have
shown that while many points do not stimulate major nerve roots, all the
most frequently used points do. The researchers thus believes evidence
is mounting that acupuncture is a neurovascular intervention and there
is no force known as qi.
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