Latest Acupuncture News
- Acupuncture Boosts Drugs For Depression
- Acupuncture Eases Pain For Children, Stanford University
- Acupuncture Vitamin Injections Ease Menstrual Pain
- Acupuncture Eases Alcohol Cravings
- Tongue Piercings Cause GI Pain, Acupuncture Helps
- Laser Acupuncture Alleviates TMD Pain
- Pennsylvania Acupuncture Law And Insurance
Acupuncture Continuing Education News
Acupuncture enhances the therapeutic effects of paroxetine, a drug often given the trade name Paxil, Aropax or Seroxat. Patients receiving acupuncture plus paroxetine showed greater clinical improvements in obsessive-compulsive symptoms, depression and anxiety than patients receiving only paroxetine. Researchers discovered the synergistic effects of acupuncture combined with paroxetine plus another important advantage of adding acupuncture to paroxetine intake. Acupuncture sped up the effective action of therapeutic benefits. The researchers note, “acupuncture/electroacupuncture has a rapid onset of therapeutic effect and produces a noticeable improvement in obsessive-compulsive, depressive and anxiety symptoms.”
Acupuncture and electroacupuncture were found equally beneficial in overall therapeutic results. Scores in individual areas of improvement varied between acupuncture and electroacupuncture therapy when combined with paroxetine. Importantly, electroacupuncture showed significant improvements over manual acupuncture in reducing recurrent and multiple medical symptoms of no known organic cause. Electroacupuncture also demonstrated significant efficacy over manual acupuncture in reducing depression related hostility and phobic anxiety. Both manual acupuncture and electroacupuncture showed significant clinical benefits in reducing primary unipolar depression when combined with paroxetine with significant improvements over and above those of paroxetine only.
The researchers cite several important findings as the basis for the investigation. Roschke, et al. published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, “Acupuncture is more effective than oral antidepressants in improving depressive symptoms.” Yeung et al. document that acupuncture is effective for patients with “poor outcomes after antidepressant medications.” Zhang et al. confirm that acupuncture is both safe and effective for treating depression.
The study confirms three major findings. Acupuncture, electroacupuncture and paroxetine are effective in the treatment of primary unipolar depression. Acupuncture and electroacupuncture combined with paroxetine has a “rapid onset of therapeutic effect.” Additionally, acupuncture and electroacupuncture combined with paroxetine synergistically improves conditions of obsessive-compulsive behavior and anxiety in patients with depression. The results are better for patients combining acupuncture or electroacupuncture with paroxetine than those only taking paroxetine. The researchers also note that acupuncture and electroacupuncture combined with paroxetine “is a safe treatment for primary unipolar depression.”
The researchers used a standard set of acupuncture points with minor modifications for all patients in the study. This varies from customized clinical care wherein a licensed acupuncturist has more flexibility in the acupuncture point prescription based on differential diagnostics. Although the approach of using one set of acupuncture points for all patients is common in many research models, it is considered a variation from the norm according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles wherein each patient receives a custom acupuncture point prescription based on an exact presentation of conditions.
The research team cited several studies finding the governing, pericardium, spleen, liver and stomach meridians effective for the treatment of depression. These findings combined with a presentation of Chinese medicine principles for the treatment of depression were given as the reasoning for the acupuncture point choices. The primary acupuncture points used in the study were Baihui (DU20), Yintang (EX-HN3), Fengfu (DU16), Fengchi (GB20), Dazhui (DU14), Neiguan (PC6) and Sanyinjiao (SP6). Minor customizations based on some indications were added. Zusanli (ST36) was added for cases involving poor appetite or fatigue. Shenmen (HT7) was added for patients with sleep disturbances. Shuaigu (GB8) was added for patients with headaches. Zhigou (TB6) was added for patients with constipation.
Wang, et al. confirm that acupuncture combined with SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) is more effective than using SSRI medications alone. The additional research also confirms that acupuncture potentially reduces the “delay before the onset of the therapeutic action of SSRIs.” Wang, et al. note, “Acupuncture combined with SSRIs shows a statistically significant benefit over a 6-week period compared with SSRI administration only.” The research team notes that acupuncture is safe and produces no adverse effects. Wang, et al. add that acupuncture may allow for “the reduction of the dose of antidepressants and their associated adverse clinical outcome.”
The researchers note, “We showed that acupuncture combined with SSRIs produces statistically significantly larger reductions of HDRS (Hamilton Depression Rating Scale) values than SSRIs alone. This additional benefit was evident from the first week and continued throughout 6 weeks of treatment.” The investigators note that these findings are consistent with another body of research including a 6 week controlled, randomized trial of acupuncture combined with paroxetine.
A Stanford University study finds acupuncture safe and cost-effective for relieving pain in children. Dr. Golianu, MD (Department of Anesthesiology, Stanford University), et. al., note research confirming that acupuncture is “useful in chronic pain conditions” adding that it may be clinically valuable in an integrative medical setting. The research documents acupuncture’s ability to stimulate natural pain killers within the body, dynorphins and endorphins, along with several other important biological responses involved in pain management. The researchers cited multiple findings of acupuncture successfully relieving headaches, migraines, abdominal pain, fibromyalgia, pelvic pain, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), acute post-operative pain, and post-operative delirium.
Children Accept Acupuncture
The Stanford University research team cites findings that “53% of children were initially apprehensive of acupuncture needles, following their first needle 64% felt it did not hurt, and furthermore would recommend it to someone else.” In adolescents, 67% report acupuncture as “pleasant” and 70% report that acupuncture reduced pain levels. The receptivity to acupuncture may be due, in part, to acupuncture’s ability to induce deep relaxation in patients combined with lasting analgesic effects.
The researchers note that, “Acupuncture can be a useful adjuvant in the care of pediatric patients with painful conditions, both in the chronic and acute setting.” Citing Lin, et. al., young children and adolescents experienced significant pain relief from acupuncture treatments. The children also found acupuncture “highly acceptable.” On safety, the research confirms “that acupuncture is safe when performed by appropriately trained practitioners.” In the United States, acupuncturists are licensed medical professionals with medical board oversight in most states.
The researchers note that acupuncture decreases headache frequency and severity across several controlled studies. In addition, acupuncture reduces the need for medications and is proven effective in treating migraines. The research team cites a randomized trial of children with migraines finding acupuncture effective in reducing the intensity and frequency of migraines. Another pediatric study meeting the review standards of the research team finds cold laser acupuncture effective for reducing the frequency of migraines and tension headaches.
The researchers cited findings showing acupuncture in adults effective for treating IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, “a comparative effectiveness trial of acupuncture compared to two antispasmodics (pinaverium bromide and trimebutin maleate) showed acupuncture as more effective than these standard therapies for IBS.” A pediatric study found acupuncture effective for the treatment of intermittent abdominal pain. Given the prevalence of abdominal pain in children, the researchers recommend further studies investigating the “dose or frequency and duration of acupuncture treatment required.”
Fibromyalgia and Arthritis
The research team did not find randomized controlled pediatric studies on the treatment of fibromyalgia. However, adult studies find acupuncture “superior to standard care alone.” In addition, “Acupuncture was found to change cortical responses to painful stimuli in fibromyalgia patients, suggesting a complex inhibitory modulation may be active in the central nervous system in fibromyalgia patients.” The same scenario was found in the case of juvenile arthritis. No pediatric studies have been conducted but adult studies find acupuncture effective for the treatment of osteoarthritis. For fibromyalgia and arthritis, the research team recommends specific investigations on the effects of acupuncture on children.
Acupuncture point injections of vitamin K ease dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain and cramping). Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) injected vitamin K1 into acupuncture point SP6, located on the lower leg. The women participating in the study experienced less menstrual pain and a shorter duration of menstrual symptoms. A survey of the participants finds 94% “agreeable to receiving injection therapy” and 77% would receive monthly injections if the treatment were made available. The researchers note, “This finding is consistent with outcomes from the Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital in Shanghai, China, where the protocol was developed.”
A closely related investigation at the UCSF Clinical Research Center (San Francisco, California) tested plasma concentrations of vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) in patients with primary dysmenorrhea. Samples were collected 1-2 days after acupuncture point injections of vitamin K1 into acupoint SP6. A direct correlation between higher vitamin K1 levels and reduced menstrual pain and cramping was observed. The researchers note that this indicates further research into the role of vitamin K deficiency in inflammation and pain.
There is a historical precedent for research and use of vitamin K in the USA. Routine injections of vitamin K1 are given to infants to prevent hemorrhage, taking advantage of vitamin K1’s anticoagulant properties. The researchers note, “Vitamin K is typically studied in the context of blood clotting and bone health although recent emerging research suggests that vitamin K may have other roles, including reproductive health.” The researchers note that prior studies show a relationship between vitamin K deficiency and menstrual disorders. Additional research demonstrates relaxation of uterine muscle spasms after administration of vitamin K. The researchers add, “Vitamin K therapy may decrease the length of prolonged menstrual flow as a result of its action on prothrombin, a vitamin K-dependent coagulation protein produced in the liver.”
The researchers describe a correlation between Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory and the current research. They note that the liver is an important organ in the regulation of menstruation and is involved in the movement of qi and blood. They add that acupuncture point SP6 is commonly used in the treatment of menstrual conditions by licensed acupuncturists “because it is a crossing point of the liver, spleen, and kidney channels, which are important in creating, storing, and moving blood.”
Acupuncture reduces alcohol cravings in alcoholics. Researchers note that acupuncture is both safe and effective for reducing cravings in alcohol dependent patients. They add that acupuncture is an inexpensive modality of care for the treatment of alcoholism and “produces significant results.”
This study breaks from other research on this topic. Prior research focused on National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) acupuncture point prescriptions for addiction. This typically involved use of auricular acupuncture points including Kidney, Sympathetic, Shenmen, Liver and Lung. However, this study used only one acupuncture point that is located on the lower leg. The researchers note of this acupuncture point, “Traditionally, it has been used as an acupoint for detoxification.”
What’s the Point?
The acupuncture point investigated in the research is Zhubin (KI9) that is translated as “guest house.” It is located on the medial aspect of the lower leg and is 5 cun superior to KI3. It is approximately 1 cun posterior to the medial border of the tibia at the lower end of the gastrocnemius muscle. It is placed on a line drawn between KI3 and KI10.
KI9 is the Xi Cleft point of the Yinwei (Yin linking) vessel. This is the channel that connects the yin meridians of the hand and foot to the Conception channel. The Yinwei vessel may also be accessed by acupoint PC6, the confluent point of the Yinwei vessel. To achieve this, PC6 is often paired with SP4, its paired confluent point for the treatment of heart, chest and stomach disorders.
This study used only KI9, whose Yinwei vessel connection makes it especially suitable for the treatment of heart issues. In particular, this point benefits patients with heart shen (spirit) issues due to phlegm and phlegm-fire. This includes the treatment of mania, raving, bipolar disorder (manic depression) and other forms of severe mental illness. Here, there is a logical consistency with the application of KI9 for the treatment of alcohol cravings given alcoholism’s propensity for causing phlegm-fire in the heart.
An acupuncture treatment group was compared with a placebo controlled group in this single-blinded, randomized investigation. The acupuncturist was aware of the group allocations but the staff and patients were blinded to allocation of placebo vs. real acupuncture groups. This was made possible through the use of the Park Sham Device (PSD). Made by Acupuncture Needle Inc., Korea, this unusual sham acupuncture needle device simulates acupuncture needle insertion but never actually penetrates the skin. The researchers note, “It has a 15 mm diameter round plastic base and a shaft telescopes into the handle when downward pressure is applied. Placebo needles have blunt tips and are put into the tube to mimic the insertion of a needle.”
Exclusion criteria included drug abuse, use of psychotropic medications, cognitive impairment and other factors. The treatment procedure commenced after three weeks of patient admittance to the study to avoid intoxication and withdrawal symptom complications. All real acupuncture and placebo group patients received group therapy, education and standard hospital care. The real acupuncture group received acupuncture at KI9 using a needle guide tube with a 0.25 X 40 mm needle (Dongbang Acupuncture Inc., Korea). The Park Sham Device was used for all placebo group patients. All subjects had treatment periods of 15 minutes, twice per week for a total of 4 weeks.
Tongue scars from jewelry piercings cause digestive disorders. Neural therapy and “acupuncture may be helpful” in treating the piercing related symptoms according to researchers from Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (Camden, New Jersey), Albert Einstein College of Medicine (New York), and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). The study was presented in The Journal of Science and Healing.
The research identified scars from tongue piercings as contributing to gastrointestinal distress. In addition, the research documented the beneficial clinical outcomes associated with an integrative medicine approach including acupuncture and neural therapy. The researchers note that there have been prior cases of abdominal pain associated with tongue piercings but that these cases were also linked to preexisting diabetes. An additional investigation linked abdominal pain to a tongue piercing wherein the patient contracted acute hepatitis from a herpes simplex virus. Other than that, the researchers note there has not been other research linking tongue piercings to abdominal pain and distress until now.
The researchers note an important finding. The tongue scars from piercing associated with gastrointestinal disorders “were located on the tongue in an area that in Traditional Chinese Medicine is believed to be associated with the stomach.” In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, the center region of the tongue reflects issues related to the spleen and stomach. Other areas reflect syndromes associated with other internal organs. For example, the sides of the tongue are associated with the liver and gallbladder, the front proximal to the tip is associated with the lungs and the tip of the tongue is associated with the heart.
In one case history investigated during the study, the patient had a six month history of severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Procedures including colonoscopies, endoscopies, ultrasound, etc… were performed. The patient was unresponsive to drugs including Nexium®, Protonix®, and Percocet®. However, Carafate® (sucralfate) did provide “mild relief.” Carafate® binds to the mucosa and forms a physical barrier to block diffusion of hydrochloric acid in the gastrointestinal tract. Carafate® also stimulates bicarbonate output and therefore acts as an acid buffer.
Laser acupuncture alleviates pain for patients with temporomandibular disorders (TMD). Laser acupuncture employs the use of cold lasers and does not burn the skin or involve the use of needles. TMD disorders include structural abnormalities and muscular disorders of the temporomandibular joint region. TMD is a major cause of orofacial pain. Researchers demonstrate that noninvasive laser acupuncture therapy applied to acupuncture points on the face and hand significantly reduce pain levels.
The acupuncture laser therapy not only reduced pain levels but also improved range of motion. The maximal mouth opening demonstrated clinically significant improvements. There were no side effects. The researchers conclude that “TMD symptoms improved with LAT (laser acupuncture therapy).” The beneficial effects were in both acute and chronic patients with treatment-resistant temporomandibular disorders.
Researchers from China Medica University Hospital (Taiwan), Kaohsiung Medical University College of Medicine (Taiwan), et. al., note that laser acupuncture’s analgesic effects are “mediated by peripheral opioid receptors.” They add that low level cold laser therapy increases pain tolerances by inducing biological changes to cellular membranes. The researchers note other biological responses induced by low level laser therapy (LLLT) including vasodilation, increasing intracellular metabolism and decreasing edema. The researchers also cite important biomodulatory effects of LLLT; it “improves local microcirculation and oxygen supply to hypoxic cells in the painful areas…, tissue asphyxia is reduced…, it restores the normal physiological condition of the tissue.”
Low level laser acupuncture therapy was applied to patients three times per week for four weeks in this investigation. Protective goggles were worn by the practitioner and patient. Yangming channel acupuncture points ST7 (Xiaguan), ST6 (Jiache), and LI4 (Hegu) plus local Ashi points were stimulated using pulsed waves. Five seconds of stimulation was applied to the stomach and large intestine Yangming points and forty seconds of LLLT stimulation was applied to each Ashi point. The researchers note that the treatment principle was based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) concept that “pain results from blood stasis due to qi stagnation.” The goal was to “restore internal homeostasis” by restoring the “flow of qi and blood.”
The Acupuncture Licensure Act in Pennsylvania has been amended. The governor signed SB990 into law and it is now officially Act 134. This makes two impactful changes to the state law. The first change affects wellness visits for patients and the second affects liability insurance for licensed acupuncturists.
Prior to this amendment to the Acupuncture Licensure Act, licensed acupuncturists were unable to treat patients past 60 days from the date of the first acupuncture visit without a physician, dentist or podiatrist making a patient diagnosis. The new law allows acupuncturists to treat patients for longer than 60 days without a physician, dentist or podiatrist’s diagnosis if patients are free of symptoms. As a result, patients may be able to seek long-term preventative care visits from acupuncturists without first making a trip to a doctor’s office to get a diagnosis.
A Stanford University study finds acupuncture effective for reducing the need for sedative medications for neonates and infants undergoing treatments in the intensive care unit. Dr. Golianu, MD (Department of Anesthesiology, Stanford University), Christina Almgren, PNP (Stanford Children’s Health, Stanford University), et. al., note that high doses of opioids and benzodiazepines are often required for neonates and infants for the purposes of pain management and sedation. Cessation from medications lead to withdrawal symptoms and irritability. The researchers cite acupuncture’s documented ability to reduce pain, irritability and withdrawal symptoms in adults.
The research team applied acupuncture in the pediatric setting to see if the therapeutic effects known to help adults also applies to neonates and infants. They concluded that the pediatric patients “tolerated acupuncture well and required a decreased amount of pain medication for treating agitation and withdrawal.” The study concludes, “Acupuncture may be a useful adjunct for managing agitation and withdrawal in neonates and infants in the intensive care unit, and may lead to a decreased need for sedative medications.” Acupuncture points used in the study were Yin Tang, ST36, and PC6 plus acupuncture point protocols developed by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association.
In a related study, doctors from the University of Washington School of Medicine (Seattle, Washington) conclude, “Our experience suggests that acupuncture therapy is a safe, non-pharmacological option for prevention of emergence delirium in children undergoing general anesthesia.” The doctors note that delirium occurs in approximately 12 - 50% of pediatric patients receiving general anesthesia. They add that pharmaceutical drugs used to manage delirium often produce unwanted adverse effects including “sedation and longer recovery time from anesthesia.”
The study came up with some very interesting findings. All children in the study receiving intravenous anesthesia plus acupuncture required less quantities of propofol, an amnestic-hypnotic drug. A total of 83% of patients did not get delirium. An additional 17% had relatively mild cases of delirium and were able to “communicate the source of distress.” The acupuncture points used in the study were SP8, HT7, and LR3. Needle stimulation was applied to the three acupuncture points. Magnet therapy was applied to ear Shenmen. No complications occurred demonstrating that acupuncture is both safe and effective in the prevention of pediatric emergence delirium.
Children with asthma receiving a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine and conventional medications have superior patient outcomes, less visits to emergency rooms, and fewer hospitalizations than children receiving only conventional medications. Researchers investigated 12,580 children receiving asthma medical care across 15 multi-hospitals in a five year study. Traditional Chinese Medicine (acupuncture, herbal medicine, Chinese Tuina massage, herbal pastes) was combined with pharmaceutical drugs including inhaled bronchodilators and steroids in the study protocol. The integrative medicine approach, TCM plus conventional drugs, produced an astonishing result. Not a single child receiving integrative medicine during the study required an emergency room (ER) visit or hospitalization. The superior clinical outcomes and reduction of medical emergencies suggests that integrating TCM into conventional protocols benefits children with asthma.
The Bureau of National Health Insurance (BNHI) of Taiwan established a single-payer healthcare system in 1995 called the Taiwan National Health Insurance (NHI). Under this system, an examination of 1 million patient records yielded a sample size of 12,580 asthmatic children for investigation. The BNHI paid for all of the medical visits and examined the cost-effectiveness of combining TCM therapies (acupuncture, herbs, Tuina massage) and conventional pharmaceutical care. It was found that there is an additional upfront cost to provide TCM therapies but there is a savings on the backend in reduced emergency room visits and hospitalizations. The findings demonstrate that adding acupuncture, herbal medicine and other TCM procedures to conventional protocols provides a cost-effective approach for asthmatic children while producing superior patient outcomes.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment combined with conventional treatment provided additional benefits. There was a reduction in school absenteeism. The children’s parents had less disruption of their work schedules. There was less of a burden on families to provide caregivers. The government shouldered lower overall costs and responsibilities associated with asthmatic care. The study demonstrates that combining TCM with conventional medicine for asthmatic children “may have a substantial impact” in reducing the severity of asthma, frequency of emergency services, hospitalizations and costs of providing care by parents.
Acupuncture pretreatment increases survival rates in cases of heart attacks. Needling acupuncture point PC6 (Neiguan) protects the heart. The benefit is measurable through gene expression, histology and enzyme sections. Researchers conducted a placebo controlled experiment comparing real acupuncture with sham acupuncture. Preventative acupuncture care reduces damage to the heart from myocardial ischemia reperfusion, a condition that occurs during heart attacks causing tissue damage. Two key physiological findings were that acupuncture reduces arrhythmias and infarction size.
Reperfusion damage is caused by the return of blood circulation after a period of ischemia, restricted blood supply. The sudden return of blood to oxygen and circulation deprived tissues causes inflammation and oxidative stress. In this study, acupuncture prevented damage to the heart caused by reperfusion. The laboratory findings measured that acupuncture prevents this damage by regulating enzyme secretions and gene expression. Lab results also demonstrate that acupuncture prevents proinflammatory responses by regulating oxidative stress, calcium channels and many other biological pathways in a broad cascade of healthy effects.
The laboratory experiment revealed that acupuncture successfully downregulated serum concentrations of CK, LDH, CK-Mb, and plasma levels of cTnT. These enzymes are proteins that significantly increase in concentration after myocardial ischemia reperfusion. Electroacupuncture at PC6 successfully reversed this pathological response.
Hundreds of genes are known to increase and decrease in concentration following myocardial ischemia reperfusion. Electroacupuncture uniquely affected genes through several pathways when compared with sham acupuncture. An RNA evaluation revealed that acupuncture successfully regulated gene expression in multiple pathways including MAPK signaling, cytokine, oxidative stress, cardiac muscle contraction, B-cell receptor and leukocyte pathways.
The research team cited one of these pathways as essential to protecting the heart. Myocardial ischemia reperfusion upregulates genes (Myh7b, My13…) relating to pathology in cardiac muscle contraction. This leads to poor functioning of the left ventricle. The research team notes that electroacupuncture pretreatment successfully “reversed” this pathological gene expression.
Research finds acupuncture effective for improving memory, cognition and walking for patients with dementia. First up, we take a look at acupuncture points that improve walking and movement for patients with vascular dementia. Neurologic exams often reveal gait disorders. The inability to walk properly may severely inhibit the lifestyle of patients with dementia while increasing the risk of falling. Researchers have identified several key acupuncture points that significantly improve the gait of dementia patients. In addition, acupuncture produced significantly superior patient outcomes over a control group receiving conventional pharmaceutical medications.
Gait disorders associated with dementia often involve circular rotations of the hip, foot drag, reduced knee movement, stooped posture, reduced arm swing, shuffling, small steps, a broad stance, unsteadiness, or difficulty initiating movement. Researchers have discovered that the application of Huatuojiaji (EX-B2) acupuncture points from L2 to L5 combined with scalp acupuncture at Baihui (DU20) and Sishencong produced a total effective rate of 90.5%. Use of the drug Almitrine (Duxil) had a total effectiveness rate of 61.9%. As a result, the researchers conclude, “The efficacy of treating vascular dementia gait disorder with electro-acupuncture (EA) on EX-B2 along lumbar vertebra combined with scalp acupuncture was superior to orally administered Duxil.”
Huatuojiaji points were needled bilaterally from L2 to L5 along with DU20 and Sishencong. Electroacupuncture was connected bilaterally to the Huatuojiaji points. Treatments were administered once per day for 30 days. A significant achievement, the research data clearly shows that this protocol significantly and positively impacts the daily lives of patients with dementia.
Memory and Thinking
Acupuncture helps to reduce dysfunction of reasoning, memory and general cognition according to research by G. Shi, et al. Vascular dementia is caused by damage to the brain from impaired blood flow. Stroke or conditions leading to damaged blood vessels or poor circulation that cause deprivation of oxygen and nutrients to the brain plus hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking and heart disease are all risk factors. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) differential diagnostics revealed that patients improving the most suffered from excess syndromes, particularly Liver Yang hyperactivity and phlegm obstruction of the orifices. Patients with deficiency syndromes, including Kidney Jing-essence deficiency, demonstrated the least improvements.
Luo, et al., discovered that acupuncture successfully increases glucose metabolism in the brain areas related to cognition and memory. They also found that acupuncture improves cerebral blood flow. Objective measurements reveal that acupuncture protects against oxidative damage by improving antioxidant enzyme (SOD, GSH) activity in the brain. Acupuncture also successfully downregulates inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). Acupuncture was also shown to increase the expression of GLUT1 (glucose transporter 1). GLUT1 is involved in cellular respiration, regulation of glucose levels and vitamin C uptake. Upregulation of GLUT1 promotes intercellular transport and benefits brain glucose metabolism. The laboratory results indicate that upregulation of GLUT1 by acupuncture alleviates ischemia and anoxia related cognitive impairment. As a result, the researchers conclude that acupuncture is effective in alleviating vascular dementia.
Acupuncture and moxibustion successfully alleviate Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease. Research published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology finds acupuncture combined with moxibustion effective in the treatment of Crohn’s disease. Subjective and objective findings confirm the results; both laboratory results and patient symptoms demonstrate significant improvements.
Crohn’s disease, also known as regional enteritis, is an inflammatory disease of the intestines affecting the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus. Symptoms include abdominal bloating and pain, nausea, vomiting, mouth ulcers, weight loss, eye disorders, arthritis, fever, loss of appetite, chronic bloody or watery diarrhea, dermatological disorders, iron deficiency anemia and fatigue.
Crohn’s disease is considered an autoimmune system disorder. Genetics may play a role in its etiology; those with Scandinavian or Ashkenazim Jewish heritage have an increased risk of developing Crohn’s disease. Environmental factors may also contribute to this pathology. Smokers are twice as likely to develop Crohn’s disease than non-smokers. Other risk factors include low exposure to sunlight, obesity, diets high in sugar and saturated fat but low in fruits and vegetables, and urban living.
No biomedical cure exists for Crohn’s disease. Medical doctors use colonoscopies, sigmoidoscopies, capsule endoscopies, barium enemas and CT scans to confirm the diagnosis. Doctors focus on controlling symptoms by suggesting dietary and lifestyle changes plus pharmaceutical medications to suppress symptoms. The acupuncture and moxibustion research is hopeful in that it provides evidence that these treatment modalities are effective tools against the spread of Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease differs from ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease commonly affects the colon, anus and the terminal ileum, the most distal aspect of the small intestine that connects to the cecum. Ulcerative colitis rarely affects the terminal ileum and anus but always affects the colon. Crohn’s disease causes patchy or serpiginous (snake-like) intestinal ulcerations whereas ulcerative colitis causes a continuous area of ulceration. Shallow ulcerations are typical with ulcerative colitis. Deep and penetrating ulcerations often occur with Crohn’s disease and may cause stenosis, a narrowing of the intestinal passage. Crohn’s disease may cause growth failure in children and increases the risk of cancer in the affected regions of the intestines.
Acupuncture successfully alleviates chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Researchers discovered that the application of manual acupuncture or acupuncture with warming needle moxibustion significantly reduces “physical and mental fatigue.” As a result of the investigation, the research team concludes that acupuncture provides a significant “therapeutic effect in the treatment of CFS.”
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a debilitating disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that does not improve with rest and is exacerbated by physical and mental activity. Symptoms include exhaustion, weakness, musculoskeletal pain, poor memory and concentration, and insomnia.
Biomedicine does not identify a specific cause or cure for CFS and treatment focuses on alleviating symptoms. Lab tests and biomarkers specific to CFS are nonexistent. Several types of infections are considered risk factors for CFS including Epstein-Barr virus, human herpes virus 6, enterovirus, rubella, candida albicans, bornaviruses, mycoplasma, Ross River virus, coxiella burnetti and HIV. Sleep, antidepressant and pain relieving medications are often prescribed to patients to alleviate suffering.
Differential diagnostics within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) categorizes CFS into several treatable patterns. The researchers chose acupuncture points best suited for the treatment of CFS based on TCM theory. The manual acupuncture group received needling at acupoints:
The warm needle acupuncture with moxibustion group received acupoint needling at:
Additionally, acupuncture treatment was administered to a third group to test for acupuncture point specificity. Nearby points were chosen between 1 - 2 cm from the real acupuncture points. This type of approach varies from high quality sham acupuncture testing for the placebo effect wherein needles only appear to penetrate the skin. In the nearby point group, the researchers applied true acupuncture needling but not in the classic, exact locations as indicated in TCM:
Needling was applied to the points for all three groups at a rate of once per day for a total of twenty days. CFS was evaluated based on the Chalder Fatigue Scale, a fourteen item breakdown of symptoms. The nearby point group did show improvements in the physical score but only the manual acupuncture and warm needle moxibustion groups significantly improved in the physical and mental fatigue scores. The physical score was overwhelmingly better in the warm needle acupuncture group than the other groups.
The nearby point needling group scored the lowest with a patient satisfaction rate of 35.7%. The acupuncture with warm needle moxibustion group scored the highest with a 72.7% patient satisfaction rate. This group achieved very high scores in both physical and mental improvements. The manual acupuncture group achieved a 36.2% effective rate.
These results point to the superiority of warm needle moxibustion for the treatment of CFS for the point selections in the study design. Interestingly, CFS responds to nearby point stimulation for physical issues as long as the points are within 1 - 2 cm of the true acupuncture point, however, the results are nowhere near as effective as true acupuncture with moxibustion.
This type of testing has come under great scrutiny because TCM theory states that the so-called nearby points may be either Ah Shi acupuncture points or acupoints that stimulate relevant acupuncture channels. Nonetheless, this is an intriguing study that was able to get clinical results with three different clinical protocols. The significant success of warm needle moxibustion in achieving positive patient outcomes suggests that additional research into this approach to care is warranted.
A related study finds acupuncture 80.0% effective for the treatment of CFS. However, adding interferential current therapy to the treatment protocol raises the total effective rate to 93.3%. The complete recovery rate also benefitted from interferential therapy. Standard acupuncture protocols achieved a 20.0% total recovery rate within 20 acupuncture treatments for CFS patients in this acupuncture continuing education investigation. Adding interferential current therapy (ICT) increased the total recovery rate to 43.3%. The researchers conclude, “Electroacupuncture plus ICT can produce a remarkable efficacy in treating CFS.”
Acupuncture reduces pain and improves functional mobility for patients with osteoarthritis. Researchers from the University of Manitoba, Canada, conducted a meta-analysis of 12 trials consisting of 1,763 patients with osteoarthritis. All trials compared true acupuncture with sham acupuncture, conventional treatments and no treatments. The study finds acupuncture effective in reducing pain intensity levels, increasing mobility and improving quality of life scores. A subgroup analysis reveals that patients receiving acupuncture treatments for intervention periods greater than 4 weeks have greater reductions in pain intensity levels than patients receiving acupuncture over a shorter duration of time.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and affects millions of people worldwide. It affects joints in the body including the hands, lower back, neck, knees and hips. This type of arthritis is often associated with ‘wear and tear’ degeneration of joint cartilage over time. Risk factors include aging, diabetes, injuries, gout, hypothyroid conditions and obesity. Symptoms and signs include pain, lack of flexibility and bone spurs.
Conventional treatments include medications to control pain and inflammation, physical therapy, occupational therapy, cortisone and hyaluronic acid derivative injections, and joint replacement surgery. The Mayo Clinic staff notes on their website that studies show acupuncture, Tai Chi and yoga may help reduce osteoarthritis pain and improve mobility. This University of Manitoba study confirms that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis.
Acupuncture successfully reverses erectile dysfunction. In a case study of a patient that was unresponsive to the medication sildenafil (Viagra, Revatio), a combination of manual acupuncture and electroacupuncture were successful in improving the quality of sexual intercourse. Acupuncture significantly improved the ability to maintain an erection during sexual intercourse. Erection hardness and sustainability improved and subjective reporting documents improvements in sexual satisfaction.
Acupuncture demonstrated five major and significant improvements in erection quality. Confidence in the erection improved. Hardness of the erection improved. Maintenance of the erection during sex improved, maintenance of the erection to completion of sexual intercourse improved and overall satisfaction with the quality of sex improved.
PDE-5 inhibitors (e.g., sildenafil, Viagra; tadalafil, Cialis; vardenafil, Levitra) are the drugs of choice for erectile dysfunction (ED). PDE-5 inhibitors function by relaxing smooth muscle thereby allowing the penis to fill with blood. In this case study, the patient had initial success in treating ED with sildenafil. However, the beneficial effects of the medication diminished over time until the patient was no longer able to maintain an erection although he was taking the medication. PDE-5 inhibitors work in approximately 7 of 10 men but may lose their effectiveness if taken over a long period of time. Side effects of PDE-5 inhibitors include hives, hearing and vision loss, tachycardia, bradycardia, acid reflux, heartburn, diarrhea, headaches, musculoskeletal pain and rhinitis.
University of York researchers conclude that acupuncture effectively reduces the severity of mental depression. In a randomized controlled trial, researchers note that acupuncture causes a “significant reduction in symptoms of depression in the short to medium term, and are not associated with serious adverse events.”
The acupuncture continuing education researchers cite the use of anti-depressant drugs as the “front-line treatment in primary care,” however, their investigation reveals that 60% of patients do not respond adequately. The study tested for acupuncture as a possible non-pharmacologic supplement to primary care for patients that are unresponsive to usual care, including medications. The results conclusively demonstrate that acupuncture is both safe and effective as an adjunct therapy to primary care for patients with depression.
Approximately 20 million people suffer from depression in the USA. Typical onset is between the ages of 15 and 30. Depression includes a variety of symptoms including excess sadness, exhaustion, suicidal tendencies, weight change, low self esteem, inability to experience pleasure or enthusiasm, and sleep disorders. Depression is caused by a variety of factors including seasonal affect disorder, postpartum deficiency, traumatic life events, hormonal imbalances, and brain chemistry issues. It may also be related to a genetic predisposition. Blood pressure medications, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), alcohol and drug abuse, and personality disorders are significant risk factors.
Researchers from the Department of Anesthesiology at the Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing have discovered that acupuncture prevents dangerous side effects caused by an important anti-nausea drug. Droperidol is a potent antiemetic and antipsychotic medication. This medication runs the risk of causing QTc prolongation, a heart rhythm disorder. The investigative team found that the application of electroacupuncture at acupuncture point PC6 successfully prevented QTc interval prolongation caused by the use of droperidol.
The researchers concur with the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) tenet that PC6 regulates the heart beat and reduces arrhythmias. The laboratory experiment demonstrated a repeatable phenomena wherein electroacupuncture at PC6 prevented QTc interval prolongation due to droperidol injection. The researchers successfully measured pathways by which PC6 acupuncture exerts its protective action on the heart. The researchers note that Cx43 mRNA and protein significantly “increased in ventricular muscle” in the electroacupuncture group but not in the medication only or control group.
Droperidol is used for the treatment of postoperative and chemotherapy related nausea and vomiting but may cause heart dysfunction. Researchers speculate that the cardioprotective mechanisms of electroacupuncture at PC6 and its success in preventing droperidol side effects may be due, in part, to acupuncture’s ability to regulate the balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic tone. In the experiment, PC6 was administered as a pretreatment prior to the injection of droperidol. The researchers added, “Pretreatment of P6 EA (PC6 electroacupuncture) significantly reduced QTc prolongation induced by droperidol, and this property may be related to the up-regulation of Cx43 mRNA and protein, which may contribute to the transmural heterogeneity of repolarization and abbreviate the prolonged QT intervals in droperidol treated hearts.” This experiment demonstrates that acupuncture is an effective non-pharmaceutical approach to avoiding adverse events caused by medication therapy.
In related research, acupuncture reduces chemotherapy side effects for colorectal cancer patients. Blood samples demonstrate that acupuncture enhances the immune system’s NK (natural killer) cells for colorectal cancer patients. Subjective testing showed improved mental health scores. The researchers concluded that acupuncture is both “feasible and safe for CRC (colorectal cancer) patients….”
A new MRI study demonstrates that acupuncture affects the brain very differently for sleep deprived patients than patients with normal sleep. The fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) images show distinctly different patterns in the cerebellum. The brain’s cerebellum is an area of the brain active in motor control, balance, mood, fear, pleasure, heart rate, blood pressure changes, language use and cognition. These results mark a clear difference in how acupuncture affects the brain under different circumstances.
Acupuncture was applied under two separate conditions. Patients received stimulation of acupuncture point SP6 (Sanyinjiao), located on the leg, after normal sleep and after sleep deprivation. The MRI images demonstrate that the cerebellum is activated differently for sleep deprived and normal sleep patients. The activated regions for sleep deprived patients were wider, larger and with greater intensity.
New research demonstrates that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of vascular dementia. Published in the Chinese Journal of Gerontology, clinical and laboratory research finds acupuncture significantly effective in improving cognition and memory. Laboratory results and objective measurements confirm these findings; acupuncture successfully increases glucose metabolism in the brain areas related to cognition and memory. In addition, cerebral blood flow improves with acupuncture. As a result, the researchers note that acupuncture is effective in alleviating vascular dementia.
The research team investigated Professor Jingyuan Han’s approach to clinical care for patients with vascular dementia. His treatment protocols employ three main Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) protocols for the application of acupuncture: tonify qi, regulate blood, essence nurturing. The approach is based in the three jiao vaporization protocol. This technique focuses on unblocking obstructions as the primary mode of care followed by tonification as the secondary mode of care. From a biomedical perspective, this translates into an approach to care that primarily focuses on enhancing the micro-circulation of blood and nutrients to affected regions of the brain. Secondarily, stimulation of nutrient production for strengthening purposes is then accelerated with acupuncture techniques.
Prof. Han commented on the research. He notes that the pathogenesis of vascular dementia within the TCM system involves three main components: kidney deficiency, phlegm stasis and turbid toxins. He adds that many internal organs, both zang and fu, are involved in all three jiaos. As a result, his approach focuses on stimulating invigorating and restorative functions throughout the body. Prof. Han uses a variety of TCM acupuncture points based on classic differential diagnositcs including Danzhong (CV17), Zhongwan (CV12), Qihai (CV6), Zusanli (ST36), Xuehai (SP10), and Waiguan (SJ5).
Laser acupuncture helps metabolic syndromes patients lose weight, achieving reductions in hip and waist circumferences. This type of needle-free acupuncture also reduces cholesterol and insulin levels. These results were documented in a study of obese post-menopausal women with metabolic syndrome. Laser acupuncture and control groups were randomly divided to avoid bias and the results were confirmed with objective measurements: anthropometric, fasting blood glucose and insulin levels, homeostatic insulin resistance, lipid profile.
Laser acupuncture evolved from the study of photobiology, how light affects living beings. Low level lasers, known as cold lasers, are used for this type of acupuncture in most applications. Cold lasers are used in 635 nM red, 450 nM blue and 532 nM green laser acupuncture. They do not produce heat and do not burn the skin. The use of 700-1000 nM heat producing infrared lasers may also be employed but are less common.
This latest research demonstrates that laser acupuncture significantly enhances the therapeutic value of diet and exercise interventions for obese post-menopausal women with metabolic syndrome. Weight loss is very difficult with metabolic syndrome because the insulin-glucagon pathway does not function properly. Laser acupuncture helps to correct this imbalance and facilitates weight loss.
Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors. Central obesity, excess body fat on the upper and middle parts of the body, is one of the primary symptoms. Insulin resistance is also present and results in increased blood sugar and fat levels. High cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure are indicators of metabolic syndrome. This disorder may lead to excessive blood clotting, systemic inflammation, diabetes, stroke, heart and kidney disease, and poor blood circulation in the legs. Conventional therapeutic approaches include pharmaceutical drugs, dietary modifications and exercise programs.
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