Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture News and Research

 

Acupuncture points

Acupuncture is effective for the alleviation of musculoskeletal pain, headaches, shoulder pain, and arthritis related pain. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (New York, NY) researchers conclude that the analgesic effects of acupuncture are superior to sham controls and the pain relief persists over time. The research team concludes that acupuncture is an effective treatment modality for chronic pain and referral to an acupuncturist is a reasonable treatment option. 

IBS Back Shu Points 

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are found effective for the alleviation of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Two independent investigations confirm that acupuncture, as a standalone therapy, or acupuncture combined with the herbal formula Si Shen Wan (Four Miracle Pill) is safe and effective. Additionally, investigators confirm that acupuncture is more effective than loperamide, a synthetic opiate used to control diarrhea by inhibiting peristalsis (wavelike intestinal constriction and relaxation). 

kidney stones

Acupuncture combined with herbal medicine and medications assists in the elimination of kidney stones that have lodged in the ureters. Jiangxi Jiujiang Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine researchers made two important findings. First, a combination of herbs and the drug tamsulosin (Flomax) enables the passage of kidney stones. Second, adding acupuncture to the herbal medicine and drug protocol significantly increases positive patient outcome rates. [1] 

Plantar Fasciitis

Acupuncture combined with herbal medicine foot baths is a proven and effective therapeutic method for the elimination of plantar fasciitis. Guangxi People’s Hospital researchers compared using only Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) foot baths as a standalone therapy with a combination of TCM foot baths and acupuncture. Compared with Chinese herbal medicine foot bath monotherapy, adding acupuncture treatments to the regimen of care significantly decreases pain and swelling while simultaneously reducing relapse rates. 

blood pressure chart

Researchers find acupuncture effective for the treatment of hypertension in middle-aged adults. In a groundbreaking eight week acupuncture trial, an international research team documents that acupuncture causes significant improvements in both brachial blood pressure and central aortic blood pressure in hypertensive middle-aged adults. [1] The scientific investigation was a collaboration between researchers from Larkin Community Hospital (Miami, Florida), Marymount University (Arlington, Virginia), Nosov Magnitogorsk State Technical University (Russia), and Moscow Financial and Law University (Russia). 

Cytokines

Researchers conclude that acupuncture benefits the immune system. In a controlled laboratory experiment, Hubei University of Chinese Medicine researchers discovered that electroacupuncture stimulation of acupuncture point ST36 (Zusanli) “enhanced the level of immune cytokines and splenic CD4+ T cells through TRPV channels.” [1] In addition, the researchers document that electroacupuncture applied to ST36 enhances serum interferon-γ (IFN-γ) levels, interleukin (IL)-2, and IL-17. Results were confirmed using immunohistochemical analysis. 

Acupuncture on the forehead and glabella

Acupuncture enhances positive patient outcome rates for patients suffering from headaches. In separate and independent investigations, researchers have determined that acupuncture significantly boosts the effectiveness of occipital nerve stimulation (ONS) and levo-tetrahydropalmatine (l-THP) drug therapy. Since the late 1970s, neurosurgeons have implanted ONS devices at the base of the skull for the treatment of headaches. An electrical signal is generated by ONS devices to override pain. Researchers from Jilin University Hospital and Changchun Traditional Chinese Medicine University find that administering acupuncture together with ONS is significantly more effective than using only ONS as a standalone therapeutic modality. Independently, Sichuan Disabled Veterans Hospital researchers have determined that acupuncture combined with levo-tetrahydropalmatine therapy is significantly more effective for the treatment of headaches than using only levo-tetrahydropalmatine as a standalone treatment modality. 

Acupoints applied to the backAcupuncture applied to the back

 

Heilongjiang Woniutuzhen Hospital researchers find acupuncture effective for the treatment of essential hypertension. In a controlled study, patients received acupuncture treatments for six weeks and achieved significantly lower ambulatory blood pressure (ABP), sitting blood pressure, and overall heart rates after treatment with acupuncture. ABP was measured with an ABP monitor and sitting blood pressure was measured with a sphygmomanometer. 

 

Herbal medicine

 

Researchers from Nanjing Traditional Chinese Medicine University and Haian Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital find acupuncture combined with herbs effective for the alleviation of endometriosis. Two patient groups were compared in a six month clinical trial. One group received Traditional Chinese Medicine (acupuncture and herbs) and the other group received mifepristone (RU-486®, a synthetic steroid that inhibits progesterone action, used for the treatment endometriosis or as an abortifacient). Ultrasonography for detection of endometriomas and growths in addition to blood tests (cancer antigen 125, anti-endometrial antibody) were used to determine treatment efficacy. The bloodwork was equivalent and ultrasonography finds both TCM and mifepristone drug therapy equal in effectiveness for the reduction of endometriomas or other growths. 

Herbal medicine

Hunan Hengyang Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital researchers find acupuncture combined with herbal medicine more effective than calcium channel blockers and beta-blockers for the treatment of cardiac arrhythmias. Results were confirmed by ECG (electrocardiogram). Patients receiving only pharmaceutical medications in one group and acupuncture plus herbs in another group were compared in a four week clinical trial. Twenty-four hour ECG tests confirm that acupuncture plus herbs produces superior patient medical outcomes. 

 

PC6 Neiguan

Photo: Healthcare Medicine Institute

Acupuncture is effective for pain relief after surgery of the cervical spine. Researchers find electroacupuncture applied to acupoints Hegu (LI4) and Neiguan (PC6) safe and effective for achieving significant pain relief. Surgery on the anterior cervical spine is a complex procedure. Analgesics including fentanyl and sufentanil may be used to alleviate postoperative pain. However, due to concerns regarding respiratory depression, they are often prescribed at low dosages leading to only a partial painkilling effect. The results of the perioperative research finds acupuncture effective for pain relief and for stabilizing hemodynamics during surgery. 

 

Scalp acupunctureAcupuncture points of the scalp

 

Acupuncture benefits stroke patients. Pei et al. conducted a randomized controlled clinical trial and concluded that electroacupuncture reduces both impairment and disability, according to the Chinese Stroke Scale. A total of 86 patients participated in the trial. The Brunnstrom-Fugl-Meyer and Barthel Index scores demarcate significant improvements, measured at the three month data point after completion of a four week regimen of acupuncture therapy. Overall motor function and activities of daily living improved significantly and neurological deficits decreased significantly compared with a control group. [1] 

 

Acupoints of the kneeAcupoints of the knee

Photo: Healthcare Medicine Institute 

Stanford University researchers conclude that acupuncture reduces and delays the need for opioids after total knee replacement surgery. Over 4.7 million people in the United States have had knee replacement surgery. Conventional post-surgical treatment often includes prescription opioids. [1] The drugs often provide pain relief for patients but are ineffective for some. Further, there is a growing concern that the extended use of prescription opioids leads to addiction, further exacerbating epidemic levels of opiate abuse. As a result, finding drug-free interventions that effectively relieve pain and decrease opiate use has become a public health imperative. 

 

Lower back acupuncture pointsLower back acupuncture points

 

Controlled studies find acupuncture effective for the treatment of premature ovarian failure (primary ovarian insufficiency). This condition is characterized by the loss of normal ovarian function prior to the age of 40. The average age of onset is 27. Research measures the efficacy of acupuncture in the regulation of hormone levels, reduction of anxiety and other forms of mental stress, and the ability of acupuncture to alleviate menopausal related symptoms. Importantly, the research demonstrates that acupuncture is effective in restoring endogenous estrogen production. 

 

Acupuncture treatment sessionAcupuncture treatment session

 

Acupuncture benefits sleep. Researchers conducted a rigorous investigation and determined that acupuncture is safe and effective for the relief of insomnia. [1] Specifically, acupuncture improves sleep efficiency, total sleep time, and alleviates overall insomnia severity. Findings from the same study document that acupuncture alleviates depression and anxiety in patients with insomnia. [2] 

 

Major acupuncture points on an acupuncture manikin Major points on an acupuncture manikin

Photo: Healthcare Medicine Institute 

University of California School of Medicine researchers have proven that acupuncture lowers blood pressure in subjects with hypertension. [1] The depth and breadth of the research extends across multiple university controlled studies. The investigations also reveal how acupuncture works; the biological mechanisms stimulated by acupuncture are no longer a mystery. 

 

Acupuncture with lumbar area moxibustion is demonstrated on a patient. Warm needle acupuncture using moxibustion

 

Controlled clinical studies find acupuncture effective for the treatment of lumbar disc herniations. Manual acupuncture, electroacupuncture, and warm needle acupuncture were among the techniques that produced significant positive patient outcomes. The following studies test the efficacy of acupuncture techniques and specific acupoint prescriptions.

A Guangzhou Huadu District Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital clinical study entitled Clinical observation on treatment of 67 cases with lumbar intervertebral disc herniation with abdomen acupuncture finds acupuncture highly effective (Zeng). Two different acupuncture point prescriptions were compared. The treatment group receiving the abdominal acupuncture protocol achieved a 95.5% total effective rate. The standard body style acupuncture treatment protocol achieved an 86.% total effective rate. [1] 

 

Neimadian (EX28)Acupuncture point Neimadian (EX28)

 

Researchers conclude that acupuncture increases the total effective rate of the drug sufentanil citrate for the relief of pain after thoracic surgery. Researchers from the First Affiliated Hospital of Henan University of Science and Technology combined acupuncture with standard drug therapy. Patients receiving both sufentanil citrate injections and acupuncture in a combined treatment protocol had superior patient outcomes compared with patients receiving only sufentanil citrate. The researchers conclude that the addition of acupuncture to a sufentanil treatment regimen reduces the total dosage requirements for the drug and mitigates associated adverse effects. [1] Furthermore, acupuncture increases the effective rate of sufentanil citrate for postoperative pain relief. Let’s take a look at the results. 

 

Acupuncture point Kunlun (BL60) illustration. Photograph: HealthCMi, Adobe Images

 

Researchers investigated the effects of acupuncture combined with joint mobilization on patients with ankle dysfunction. The researchers conclude that acupuncture combined with joint mobilization produces a 59.65% total effective rate. Ankle dysfunction often occurs as a result of acute ankle sprains, ankle fractures, or due to complications following ankle surgery. Ankle sprains cause damage to the medial or lateral ligaments, which leads to pain and swelling. Some patients are unable to fully recover, affecting their ankle motor functions and increasing the tendency for another sprain. Complications due to surgery and untreated ankles may lead to valgus or an unsteady gait; severe consequences include joint deformity or traumatic arthritis. Also, some patients may experience ankle pain, movement dysfunction, or ankylosis (Zhou et al.). 

Over half of all women experience primary dysmenorrhea, and many consider their menstrual pain inevitable. However, the prevalence of pain implies neither normalcy nor necessity. In the occident, acupuncture has recently gained popularity for women's reproductive health conditions, especially infertility. Nevertheless, believing that pain an inevitable consequence of being born a woman, many do not seek acupuncture to treat their dysmenorrhea; in some cases, it is only after seeking out acupuncture for other conditions that women are educated in its potential to treat their menstrual pain. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), dysmenorrhea (including menstrual pain and other pre-menstrual symptoms) is considered a disorder just as worthy of treatment as any disease. Researchers at The National Institute of Complementary Medicine at Western Sydney University in Australia conducted a study to compare the efficacy of manual acupuncture and electro-acupuncture, at two timing intervals, for the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea. The researchers found that, in all cases, acupuncture leads to a significant reduction in the intensity and duration of menstrual pain after three months of treatment, and the results were sustained one year after trial entry. [1] This study, along with others in the same vein, will hopefully be encouraging for those women who suffer each month from dysmenorrhea.

 

Menstrual Cycle Chart

 

Primary dysmenorrhea is menstrual pain that has no identified organic cause; women with endometriosis, or other biomedically defined uterine conditions, may have menstrual pain, but that pain is considered secondary dysmenorrhea since the etiology is known. Primary dysmenorrhea is most common in young women under the age of 25. The characteristic symptoms are cramps — colicky spasms of pain in the suprapubic area — occurring within 8–72 hours of menstruation, and the pain usually peaks with the increase in menstrual flow during the first few days of a woman's menstrual cycle. "In addition to painful cramps, many women with primary dysmenorrhea experience other menstrual-related symptoms, including back and thigh pain, headaches, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting." [2] Iacovides et al. note that "the prevalence of primary dysmenorrhea is highly underestimated, yet difficult to determine, because few affected women seek medical treatment, despite the substantial distress experienced, as many consider the pain to be a normal part of the menstrual cycle rather than a disorder…. Prevalence estimates vary between 45 and 95% of menstruating women, with very severe primary dysmenorrhea estimated to affect 10–25% of women of reproductive age. As such, dysmenorrhea appears to be the most common gynecological disorder in women irrespective of nationality and age. [3]