Acupuncture Treatment

Article Highlights

  • Demand for Acupuncture is rapidly increasing in the United States
  • The number of studies involving Acupuncture research is also growing
  • Studies consistently show benefits

Alaska Center for Acupuncture
Acupuncture Research News

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We invite you to browse through our archive of recent acupuncture research listed below. Here you will find studies that demonstrate a wide range of conditions that acupuncture has been shown to help without causing unwanted side effects.

-Sam and Kevin

Click Here to go Directly to Research List

Sam and Kevin's Comments on Acupuncture Research

There has been a surge in demand for acupuncture in the United States in the past ten years. As a result, funding for acupuncture research is growing substantially. Most of these studies attempt to confirm treatment results for specific health conditions or they focus on discovering how acupuncture works in western scientific terms. And while this growing body of research offers scientific validity to the clinical results we see every day in our center, it also comes with some potential blind spots.

Chinese medicine is a deeply holistic science in which the body is seen as a vastly interconnected system. Reductionist techniques used by western science to test and confirm treatment effectiveness are often too narrowly focused on specific symptoms. As a result no consideration is given to measure positive changes in the physiologic status of the whole system within the body. Such studies may miss the larger range of benefits that naturally arise as the body becomes healthier.

For example, research that focuses on evaluating acupuncture in the treatment of back pain might fail to note improved sleep, increased energy, improvement in blood pressure or better digestion that can accompany pain relief as a patient receives treatment from a skilled practitioner.

Additionally, it's common sense that a person's life, lifestyle and attitude has everything to do with treatment outcome. However, these things are very hard to isolate, quantify and control in a research study- and so they aren't. But without controlling these variables and viewing the totality of a person's health picture, how can a truly holistic science be measured and effectively tested for its validity?

Clearly it is far easier to study symptoms in isolation. The risk however, is that acupuncture will be misunderstood and simply integrated into the western medical model which wrongly equates symptomatic relief with healing. Acupuncture must be understood and appreciated for its ability to offer holistic support benefiting the health of the whole body as an integrated system. Acupuncture should also be studied for its potent role as preventative care. This is especially important because prevention is the only answer to the nation's current health care crisis.

In summary, it is our contention that treating the whole system, not just a particular symptom, is the only way to help people get out of pain and sickness and into the healthy fulfilling life they deeply yearn for.

Acupuncture Research List– Click titles below to read each article

  • New Evidence that Acupuncture Works for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain

    Researchers at the University of Michigan Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center are first to provide evidence of acupuncture's effect on opoid receptors.

    Acupuncture has been used in East-Asian medicine for thousands of years to treat pain, possibly by activating the body’s natural painkillers. But how it works at the cellular level is largely unknown.

    Using brain imaging, a University of Michigan study is the first to provide evidence that traditional Chinese acupuncture affects the brain’s long-term ability to regulate pain. The results appear online ahead of publication in the September issue of Journal of NeuroImage.

    In the study, researchers at the U-M Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center showed acupuncture increased the binding availability of mu-opoid receptors (MOR) in regions of the brain that process and dampen pain signals – specifically the cingulate, insula, caudate, thalamus and amygdala.

    Opioid painkillers, such as morphine, codeine and other medications, are thought to work by binding to these opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord.

    "The increased binding availability of these receptors was associated with reductions in pain," says Richard E. Harris, Ph.D., researcher at the U-M Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center and a research assistant professor of anesthesiology at the U-M Medical School.

    One implication of this research is that patients with chronic pain treated with acupuncture might be more responsive to opioid medications since the receptors seem to have more binding availability, Harris says.

    These findings could spur a new direction in the field of acupuncture research following recent controversy over large studies showing that sham acupuncture is as effective as real acupuncture in reducing chronic pain.

    "Interestingly both acupuncture and sham acupuncture groups had similar reductions in clinical pain," Harris says. "But the mechanisms leading to pain relief are distinctly different."

    The study participants included 20 women who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, for at least a year, and experienced pain at least 50 percent of the time. During the study they agreed not to take any new medications for their fibromyalgia pain.

    Patients had position emission tomography, or PET, scans of the brain during the first treatment and then repeated a month later after the eighth treatment.

    Source: Journal of NeuroImage, Volume 47, Issue 3, September 2009, Pages 1077-1085 doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.05.083

  • Study Supports Acupuncture Effects in Pain Control

    The scientific validity of traditional Chinese medicine for pain treatment of pain received a nod of support in the May issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia, official journal of the International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS).

    Dr. Philip Lang and colleagues of the University of Munich used quantitative sensory testing to identify changes in pain sensitivity with acupuncture in 24 healthy volunteers. After applying acupuncture to the leg, the researchers found that pain thresholds increased by up to 50 percent. Effects were noted in both the treated leg and the untreated (contralateral) leg.

    Tests Show Measurable and Specific Effects of Acupuncture on Pain

    Quantitative sensory testing is used clinically to help physicians understand specific injuries in nerve fibers associated with chronic pain. It includes tests of both thermal perception (heat and cold), and mechanical perception (pressure applied to the skin). The patterns of response provide diagnostic information in patients with nerve injury regarding the type of nerve involved, and possible treatments.

    The results pointed to two nerve fibers—the "A delta" pain fibers and the "C" pain fibers—as being specifically affected by acupuncture. Although the effects were modest, the researchers believe they provide the basis for future studies in individuals with chronic pain, where the effects might be more dramatic.

    The study also supported the effects of three different forms of acupuncture: manual acupuncture needling alone and with the addition of high-frequency and low-frequency electrical stimulation. All treatments were performed by an experienced acupuncturist, applied to acupuncture points commonly used in pain management.

    The results provide a scientific background for the ancient practice of acupuncture, according to Dr. Dominik Irnich, Head of the Multidisciplinary Pain Centre, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Munich, and the study's leading author. Additionally, Dr. Irnich notes, "Our results show that contralateral stimulation leads to a remarkable pain relief. This suggests that acupuncturists should needle contralaterally if the affected side is too painful or not accessible—for example, if the skin is injured or there is a dressing in place."

    Dr. Steven L. Shafer, Editor-in-Chief of Anesthesia & Analgesia and Professor of Anesthesiology at Columbia University, views the results as an important preliminary finding. "Reproducible findings are the cornerstone of scientific inquiry," Dr. Shafer comments. "The authors have clearly described their methodology, and their findings. If other laboratories can reproduce these results in properly controlled studies, then this provides further support for the scientific basis of acupuncture. Additionally, the ability of quantitative sensory testing to identify specific types of nerves involved in pain transmission may help direct research into the mechanism of acupuncture analgesia."

    Source: Read the full study Anesthesia & Analgesia

  • Acupuncture Effective for Crohn's Disease

    In a study published in the journal, Digestion, acupuncture was found effective for treating Crohn's disease.

    Crohn's disease is an autoimmune disease which involves chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The main symptoms of Crohn's disease are abdominal pain, fever, fatigue and persistent, watery diarrhea. Symptoms range from mild to severe, and can come and go with periods of flare-ups.

    In this German study, 51 patients with mild to moderately active Crohn's disease had a decrease in disease activity after receiving 10 sessions of acupuncture. Study members also showed an improvement in general well-being and reported an improvement in quality of life.

    Source: By: Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM
    Joos S, Brinkhaus B, Maluche C, Maupai N, Kohnen R, Kraehmer N, Hahn EG, Schuppan D. Acupuncture and moxibustion in the treatment of active Crohn's disease: a randomized controlled study. Digestion. 2004;69(3):131-9.

  • Acupuncture May Relieve Joint Pain Caused By Some Breast Cancer Treatments

    A new study, led by researchers at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, demonstrates that acupuncture may be an effective therapy for joint pain and stiffness in breast cancer patients who are being treated with commonly used hormonal therapies. Results were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

    Joint pain and stiffness are common side effects of aromatase inhibitor therapy, in which the synthesis of estrogen is blocked. The therapy, which is a common and effective treatment for early-stage, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer in post-menopausal women, has been shown in previous research to cause some joint pain and stiffness in half of women being treated.

    "Since aromatase inhibitors have become an increasingly popular treatment option for some breast cancer patients, we aimed to find a non-drug option to manage the joint issues they often create, thereby improving quality of life and reducing the likelihood that patients would discontinue this potentially life-saving treatment," said Dawn Hershman, M.D, M.S., senior author of the paper, and co-director of the breast cancer program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, and an assistant professor of medicine (hematology/oncology) and epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center.

    To explore the effects of acupuncture on aromatase inhibitor-associated joint pain, the research team randomly assigned 43 women to receive either true acupuncture or sham acupuncture twice a week for six weeks. Sham acupuncture, which was used to control for a potential placebo effect, involved superficial needle insertion at body points not recognized as true acupuncture points. All participants were receiving an aromatase inhibitor for early breast cancer, and all had reported musculoskeletal pain.

    Among the women treated with true acupuncture, findings demonstrated that they experienced significant improvement in joint pain and stiffness over the course of the study. Pain severity declined, and overall physical well-being improved. Additionally, 20 percent of the patients who had reported taking pain relief medications reported that they no longer needed to take these medications following acupuncture treatment. No such improvements were reported by the women who were treated with the sham acupuncture.

    "This study suggests that acupuncture may help women manage the joint pain and stiffness that can accompany aromatase inhibitor treatment," said Katherine D. Crew, M.D., M.S., first author of the paper, and the Florence Irving Assistant Professor of Medicine (hematology/oncology) and Epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center and a hematological oncologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. "To our knowledge, this is the first randomized, placebo-controlled trial establishing that acupuncture may be an effective method to relieve joint problems caused by these medications. However, results still need to be confirmed in larger, multicenter studies."

    Source: OBGYN & Reproduction Week

  • Study Shows Acupuncture Significantly Lowers Blood Pressure

    A German study published in the June 2007 issue of Circulation found that acupuncture significantly lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The extent of the blood pressure reductions by acupuncture treatments was comparable to those seen with antihypertensive medication or aggressive lifestyle changes, including radical salt restrictions.

    For the study, 160 outpatients with uncomplicated, mild to moderate hypertension were randomized to six weeks of acupuncture performed by Chinese medicine practitioners or to a sham procedure. Patients underwent 22 sessions, each 30 minutes in length. By the end of the six weeks, 24-hour ambulatory systolic and diastolic blood pressures were significantly reduced from baseline in the acupuncture-treated patients (5.4 mm Hg and 3.0 mm Hg, respectively). No significant changes were seen in the sham acupuncture group.

    After six months the blood-pressure reductions disappeared, leading investigators to conclude that ongoing acupuncture treatments would be required to maintain the blood-pressure reductions.

    Source: Circulation, June 2007

  • Acupuncture increases chances of success in IVF by 65%

    Women undergoing IVF were 65 percent more likely to become pregnant when they combined the procedure with acupuncture, a recent study has shown.

    The remarkable success rate occurred across seven acupuncture trials involving 1,366 women in a systematic review and meta-analysis published in a February, 2008 issue of the British Medical Journal.

    Acupuncture was delivered either just before or just after embryo transfer – the moment when the embryo fertilized in the laboratory must attach itself to the wall of the womb to establish a pregnancy.

    The research was carried out by scientists from the University of Maryland in America and the VU University Amsterdam in Holland. Researchers claim that because acupuncture costs only about $75 per session compared to $6000 to $10,000 per cycle for IVF, it would be a cost effective, safe and efficient way of boosting success rates in fertility treatment.

    It is thought that acupuncture stimulates the neurotransmitters that trigger the production of gonadotrophin-releasing hormone, which controls the menstrual cycle and a woman's ovulation.

    Acupuncture is also thought to stimulate blood flow to the uterus and boost the production of endogenous opioids, inducing the body to relax.

    Acupuncture has been used in China for centuries to regulate fertility. It has also been shown to be an effective treatment for chronic pain as well as many common and uncommon disorders. You can find an acupuncturist on

    Conditions that are commonly treated with acupuncture

    Source: British Medical Journal, doi:10.1136/bmj.39471.430451

  • Acupuncture Helps with Fibromyalgia Symptoms

    The June 2007 edition of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings reports on a study that found acupuncture helpful in treating the fatigue and anxiety commonly experienced by fibromyalgia patients. The study lends credence to patients' belief that nontraditional methods may improve their health. In Mayo's trial, patients who received acupuncture to counter their fibromyalgia symptoms reported improvement in fatigue and anxiety, among other symptoms. Acupuncture was well tolerated, with minimal side effects.

    In the double-blind study, Mayo Clinic doctors gave 25 fibromyalgia patients acupuncture, and 25 "sham" acupuncture treatments. Patients received six treatments during the two- to three-week study. Their answers to the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire revealed that those who received acupuncture treatments reported less fatigue and anxiety one month following after treatment than did the "sham" group.

    "The results of the study convince me there is something more than the placebo effect to acupuncture," says David Martin, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the acupuncture article and a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist. "It affirms a lot of clinical impressions that this complementary medical technique is helpful for patients."

    Fibromyalgia is a disorder considered disabling by many, and is characterized by chronic, widespread musculoskeletal pain and symptoms such as fatigue, joint stiffness and sleep disturbance. No cure is known and available treatments are only partially effective.

    Dr. Martin says Mayo's study demonstrates that acupuncture is helpful, and also proves physicians can conduct a rigorous, controlled acupuncture study. Future research could help physicians understand which medical conditions respond best to acupuncture, how to apply it to best relieve symptoms, and how long patients can expect to their symptoms to decrease after each treatment

    Dr. Martin performed the study at Mayo Clinic Rochester with co-authors Ines Berger, M.D.; Christopher Sletten, Ph.D.; and Brent Williams. The study used only two acupuncturists and examined only patients who reported more severe symptoms, offering better experimental control. Still, the Mayo Clinic doctors urged more study to see how acupuncture can best be used in treating fibromyalgia patients.

    Source: Mayo Clinic (2006, June 13). Acupuncture Relieves Symptoms Of Fibromyalgia, Mayo Clinic Study Finds.

  • Study Shows Acupuncture Works for Migraines

    The latest study, published in the March, 2008 journal, Headache confirms that acupuncture significantly reduces migraines and works better that drugs alone.

    The study, conducted at the University of Padua in Italy by Dr. Enrico Facco and his colleagues, included 160 participants that were divided into four groups; a true acupuncture treatment according to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in migraine without aura, a standard mock acupuncture protocol, an accurate mock acupuncture healing ritual, and an untreated control.

    The participants in all the groups were given the medication, Rizatriptan, to treat any migraine attacks.

    Over six months, only the group receiving true, traditional acupuncture showed lasting improvement in migraine disability measured on a standardized scale. The groups using only the medication and the mock acupuncture plus Rizatriptan showed only temporary or transient improvement.

    Dr. Facco theorizes that acupuncture prevents migraine by altering nerve signals or affecting neurotransmitters released in the central nervous system. The results are promising, according to Dr. Facco, but more studies are needed to confirm the benefits of traditional acupuncture for migraine.

    However, Facco added, since the therapy carries little risk of side effects, it could be worth a try for migraine sufferers who are not adequately helped by standard preventive treatment.

    SOURCE: Headache, March 2008.

  • Acupuncture Effective for Allergic Rhinitis

    The American Journal of Epidemiology recently published a study that showed that acupuncture can significantly relieve allergic rhinitis symptoms.

    In this German study, 5,237 men and women were analyzed to evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture in addition to routine care in patients with allergic rhinitis compared with treatment with routine care alone.

    In this randomized controlled trial, patients with allergic rhinitis were randomly allocated to receive up to 15 acupuncture sessions during a period of 3 months or to a control group receiving no acupuncture. Patients who did not consent to random assignment received acupuncture treatment. All patients were allowed to receive usual medical care. The Rhinitis Quality of Life Questionnaire (RQLQ) and general health-related quality of life (36-Item Short-Form Health Survey) were evaluated at baseline and after 3 and 6 months.

    Improvements were noted at the 3 month and the 6 month evaluation. The authors of this trial concluded that treating patients with allergic rhinitis in routine care with additional acupuncture leads to clinically relevant and persistent benefits.

    Source: American Journal of Epidemiology. 2008 Nov;101(5):535-43

  • Acupuncture Very Effective in Treating Post-Surgery Pain

    New research from Duke University Medical Center points to the positive impact that acupuncture has on reducing surgical patients' postoperative pain, and their need for powerful opioids to treat the pain.

    DUMC anesthesiologists combined the data from 15 small, randomized clinical trials in coming to their conclusion. Using acupuncture before and after surgery produced the best results for patients, who reported lower levels of postoperative pain and a significantly reduced need for painkillers. In addition, acupuncture mitigated the effects of opioids when they were needed.

    "The most important outcome for the patient is the reduction of the side effects associated with opioids," said T.J. Gan, M.D., the Duke anesthesiologist who presented the study at the annual scientific conference of the American Society for Anesthesiology in San Francisco in October 2007. Gan pointed out that acupuncture is a relatively inexpensive therapy that has virtually no side effects when practiced by trained professionals.

    "Acupuncture is slowly becoming more accepted by American physicians, but it is still underutilized," Gan noted. "Studies like this, which show that there is a benefit to using it, should help give physicians sitting on the fence the data they need to integrate acupuncture into their routine care of surgery patients."

    Source: Duke University Medical Center report, October 2007

  • Acupuncture Point, Yin Tang, Relieves Children's Preoperative Anxiety

    A study published in the September issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia found that stimulation of the acupuncture point, Yin Tang, alleviated preoperative anxiety in children.

    According to the researchers, this could be of great clinical importance due to the fact that excessive preoperative anxiety contributes to operative delays and heightens the pain response.

    Fifty-two children participated in the study, where an adhesive bead was either placed on Yin Tang (located between the eyebrows) or on a sham acupuncture point (a spot above the left eyebrow that hasn't been linked to any clinical effects) before a gastrointestinal endoscopic procedure. The researchers found that stimulation of Yin Tang reduced anxiety by 9% during the preoperative waiting period whereas anxiety continued to rise 2% for children who got sham acupressure. Anxiety levels were measured by the State Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children questionnaire, considered the "gold standard" for pediatric assessment.

    According to the researchers, this could be of great clinically important due to the fact that excessive preoperative anxiety contributes to operative delays and heightens the pain response.

    While traditional acupuncture on Yin Tang has been shown to relieve anxiety in adults before surgery, the researchers wanted to study the efficacy of stimulating the point with an adhesive bead which would be much easier to incorporate into a preoperative treatment protocol, especially in children.

    Source: Anesthesia & Analgesia September, 2008; 107: 811-6

  • Acupuncture Improves Memory and Learning Capacity

    Acupuncture can significantly improve learning and memory capacity that has been impaired by hyperglycemia and cerebral ischemia, according to a new study.

    The study that was published in the October 2008 issue of the journal, Neuroscience Letters, reported on whether electroacupuncture (acupuncture needles stimulated with a mild electrical current) could improve learning and memory which was typically impaired in diabetic rats with cerebral ischemia.

    The effects of the acupuncture treatments were measured with a passive avoidance test, an active avoidance test, the Morris water maze and electrophysiology. Significant improvements were seen with all the tests.

    The researchers remarked that previous investigations have demonstrated that electroacupuncture can improve primary and secondary symptoms such as peripheral neuropathy and diabetic encephalopathy in diabetic rats. They believe that the positive results of this study warrant further investigation.

    Source: Neuroscience Letters Volume 443, Issue 3, 10 October 2008, Pages 193-198


  • Acupuncture: Essential Part of IVF Success, Research Finds

    Paul Magarelli, M.D., Ph.D., an infertility physician at the Reproductive Medicine & Fertility Center, and Diane Cridennda, L.Ac., an acupuncturist at East Winds, both centers in Colorado Springs, Colo., published their evidence of acupuncture's demonstrable role in successful vitro fertilization (IVF) outcomes in the journal Infertility and Sterility.

    In the study, they used a minimum of nine acupuncture treatments within two months before the embryo transfer. Since this was a research study, each patient received the same treatment.

    Lorne Brown, CA, Doctor of TCM, founder and clinical director of Acubalance Wellness Centre, analyzed the data Dr. Magarelli presented and has posted the following conclusions on his website (

    Acupuncture does not cause harm to fertility or negatively interfere with an IVF outcome. Acupuncture can statistically improve the live birth rate from IVF by 10 percent to 15 percent. Acupuncture reduces the number of ectopic pregnancies occurring in IVF fertilizations. The acupuncture protocol (minimum of nine treatments using set points) did not affect egg quality, but it did improve factors affecting egg implantation. Acupuncture improves implantation and live birth rates by regulating the body's hormone levels to mimic these hormone levels in a natural cycle.

    Source: Infertility and Sterility, April 2007

  • Acupuncture Helps Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Study Says

    Acupuncture may help people with posttraumatic stress disorder according to a recent clinical trial. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.

    Dr. Michael Hollifield, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, conducted the study of acupuncture and PTSD at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. The study involved 73 men and women with PTSD, including a handful of combat veterans, and was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The researchers analyzed depression, anxiety, and impairment.

    The participants were assigned to receive either an empirically developed acupuncture treatment or group cognitive-behavioral therapy over 12 weeks, or were assigned to a wait-list as part of the control group. The people in the control group were offered treatment or referral for treatment at the end of their participation.

    The researchers found that acupuncture provided treatment effects similar to group cognitive-behavioral therapy; both interventions were superior to the control group. Additionally, treatment effects of both the acupuncture and the group therapy were maintained for 3 months after the end of treatment.

    "Acupuncture in this preliminary pilot study looked to be very helpful for PTSD and perhaps in some ways as helpful as the standard treatment of cognitive behavioral therapy," says Hollifield, "Acupuncture proved helpful enough to where some participants said they were significantly helped and/or did not have as much of their post-traumatic stress symptoms anymore."

    Source: Acupuncture for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial. Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease. 195(6):504-513, June 2007

  • New Lung Cancer Guidelines Point to Benefits of Acupuncture

    Acupuncture is now officially recommended for lung cancer patients experiencing fatigue, dyspnea, chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, or to soothe symptoms of pain or nausea and vomiting.

    Evidence-based guidelines published by the American College of Chest Physicians in September recommend acupuncture for lung cancer patients experiencing fatigue, dyspnea, chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, or to soothe symptoms of pain or nausea and vomiting. Massage therapy is recommended for patients experiencing anxiety or pain.

    The new edition of these standard guidelines represent the first time complementary and integrative medicine has been addressed in the prevention and treatment of lung cancer. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, causing more fatalities than the next four most common types of cancer combined.

    The new guidelines were developed and reviewed by 100 multidisciplinary panel members and have been endorsed by the American Association for Bronchology, American Association for Thoracic Surgery, American College of Surgeons Oncology Group, American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, Asian Pacific Society of Respirology, Oncology Nurses Society, Society of Thoracic Surgeons, and the World Association of Bronchology.

    Source: Chest, September 2007

  • Acupuncture-Massage Combination Helps After Cancer Surgery

    The pain and depression symptoms that sometimes occur following cancer surgery can be eased by a combination of acupuncture and massage, according to new research.

    A study conducted by the University of California San Francisco found that two days of acupuncture and massage, in addition to standard post-operative care, led to a steeper decline for patients with pain symptoms over three days of measurement, as compared to those who received standard post-op care alone.

    "We can say that adding acupuncture and massage definitely helped," said Wolf E. Mehling, M.D., assistant professor of family and community medicine at UCSF.

    Mehling cautioned that more research would be needed to convince health plans and hospital administrators that adding massage and acupuncture to standard post-operative treatment for cancer surgery patients are worth the cost.

    Source: Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, March 2007

  • Chinese Herbs Reduce Post-Chemo Nausea

    One of the most common side effects of chemotherapy, nausea, may be most effectively treated by traditional Chinese herbs, according to a recent study.

    Researchers from Hong Kong, China, and England's University of Birmingham evaluated the effects of Chinese herbal medicine prescribed by a trained herbalist on 120 patients with early-stage breast or colon cancer. Each patient was assigned to one of three Chinese herbalists to have their needs assessed. One group received a Chinese herbal treatment based on their individual needs, while the other group received an inactive placebo.

    The researchers found that mild to medium levels of nausea were found in 14.6 percent of patients treated with Chinese herbs, as opposed to 35.7 percent of the control group. Neither group experienced a significant difference in side effects.

    The study's authors recommended further study to determine an effective dosing regimen for Chinese herbs, but noted that the use of Chinese herbal medicine may "have a significant impact on control of nausea."

    Source: Annals of Oncology, March 2007

  • Research Analysis Finds TCM and Acupuncture Helpful in Relieving Breast Cancer Effects

    For many women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, the use of traditional Chinese medicinal herbs — either alone or with chemotherapy — may help guard bone marrow and immune system, while improving overall quality of life. That's the conclusion of the Cochrane Systematic Review, a study of the use of Chinese medicine to determine safety and effectiveness in breast cancer patients.

    The review looked at seven randomized studies involving 542 breast cancer patients. Researchers at the Chinese Cochrane Centre in Chengdu, China, found that Chinese medicinal herb treatments showed some evidence of reducing side effects, and caused no harm to patients who were treated with them. However, the study's authors cautioned that the studies weren't ideally designed, and more research was needed before a clear role for traditional Chinese medicine in breast cancer treatment could be established.

    Source: John Wiley & Sons, April 2007

  • Acupuncture Helps Relieve Lower Back Pain

    A British study published in September 2006 found that acupuncture showed the greatest benefit for patients who suffer pain in the lower back, and is a cost-effective way to treat the problem. Lower back pain is a notoriously common and difficult medical problem to treat.

    In the study, one group of patients received 10 sessions of acupuncture over three months, while the other group received none. The acupuncture group reported less pain two years later than did the non-acupuncture group.

    In addition, the acupuncture group was more likely to report having no pain at the one-year mark, and reported less worry about their lower back pain and less use of pain drugs to manage it.

    Source: BMJ, Sept. 2006

  • Blood Pressure Lowered by Acupuncture

    A 2005 study conducted at the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, Irvine found that acupuncture treatments that used low levels of electrical stimulation can lower blood pressure elevations by as much as 50 percent.

    Researchers tested laboratory rats with electro-acupuncture and found that the animals found temporary relief from hypertensive states. By applying acupuncture needles at specific sites along the wrist, inside the forearm or in the leg, researchers stimulated the rats' bodies to release opioids, which decrease the heart's activity and thus its need for oxygen. This, in turn, lowers blood pressure.

    The researchers caution that this technique is only effective in elevated blood pressure levels, such as those typically found in hypertensive patients.

    Source: UC Irvine, March 28, 2005

  • Hospitals Turning to TCM and Acupuncture, Other non-Western Treatments

    According to a 2006 survey by the American Hospital Association (AHA), more than one out of every four hospitals in the U.S. now offer some "alternative" therapies, including acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, and massage therapy, among other types of non-Western treatment.

    The survey, conducted every other year by the AHA, involved more than 6,000 hospitals across the country in December 2005. The percentage of hospitals offering "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM) therapies grew from 8 percent in 1998 to 27 percent in 2005, the survey found.

    The top six therapies offered by AHA member hospitals were:

    • Massage therapy (71 percent)
    • Tai chi, yoga, or Qi gong (47 percent)
    • Relaxation training (43 percent)
    • Acupuncture (39 percent)
    • Guided imagery (32 percent)
    • Therapeutic touch (30 percent)
    • Source: American Hospital Association, July 2006
  • Tension Headaches Dramatically Reduced by Acupuncture

    A randomized controlled trial in Germany found that acupuncture cut tension headache rates almost in half.

    Researchers divided 270 patients who reported similarly severe tension headaches into three groups for the study. Over the project's eight-week period, one group received traditional acupuncture, one received only minimal acupuncture (needles inserted at non-acupuncture points, and at only shallow levels), and the third group received neither treatment.

    Those receiving the traditional acupuncture reported headache rates of nearly half that of those who received no treatments, suffering 7 fewer days of headaches. The minimal acupuncture group suffered 6.6 fewer days, and the non-acupuncture group suffered 1.5 fewer days. When they received acupuncture after the main study period, the "no treatment" group also reported significantly fewer headache days.

    The improvements continued for months after the treatments were concluded, rising slightly as time went on.

    Source: British Medical Journal, July 2005

  • Acupuncture May Help Some Men with Infertility Problems

    A study published in the July 2005 issue of the journal Fertility and Sterility found that acupuncture helped infertile men by apparently helping improve sperm quality in their semen.

    In the research project, 28 men received acupuncture in addition to traditional infertility treatments, while another 12 men received only the traditional treatments. All of the men were diagnosed with infertility of unknown origin.

    Acupuncture was associated with fewer structural defects in the sperm of men who received it, although it had no effect on other abnormalities, such as sperm immaturity or premature death.

    Previous studies have shown a link between acupuncture and improved sperm production and motility.

    Source: Fertility and Sterility, July 2005

  • Acupuncture Effective in Treating Overactive Bladder

    Approximately 17 percent of American men and women suffer from overactive bladder and spend an estimated $20 billion on products to manage the condition. But research published in Obstetrics & Gynecology indicates that acupuncture may be a more effective treatment.

    Researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University found that four weekly acupuncture sessions showed significant improvement in bladder control, frequency of urination, and the urgent need to urinate as compared to the control group, which received "sham" acupuncture as a placebo.

    Source: Medscape Medical News, 2005

  • Acupuncture Relieves Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy

    A 2005 Swedish research study found that acupuncture, along with strengthening exercises, help relieve pain in the pelvic girdle for pregnant women and are effective treatment options.

    There is currently no cure for pregnancy-related pelvic pain, a common problem for women worldwide.

    The Swedish study included 386 pregnant women divided randomly into three groups. One received standard treatment (a pelvic belt and home exercise program), one received standard treatment plus acupuncture, and the third group received standard treatment plus stabilizing exercises to improve pelvic mobility and strength.

    Following treatment, both the acupuncture group and stabilizing exercise group recorded lower pain levels than the standard group during morning and evening reporting sessions. An independent examiner that those in the acupuncture group reported the greatest reduction in pelvic girdle pain.


  • Acupuncture Shows Promise in Treating Acid Reflux Disease

    Although the cause of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is still unknown, there are treatments available on the market to help with the symptoms and perhaps even repair some of the tissue damage. The problem is one of side effects and limited effectiveness for all the current treatments.

    A 2005 Taiwanese study reported in the American Journal of Physiology—Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology opened eyes by pointing to the effectiveness of electrical acupoint stimulation in reducing the key mechanism of GERD, transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxations (TLESRs). This important muscle allows food to pass into the stomach when working normally. In people who have GERD, the muscle relaxes at the wrong times, allowing stomach acid to churn up into the esophagus and resulting in heartburn symptoms.

    By applying only mild stimulation to an acupoint on the wrist known as Neiguan, researchers were able to reduce the frequency of TLESRs from six to 3.5 an hour in research subjects. Sham stimulation of a hip point produced no comparable change.

    Researchers cautioned that it's still a big leap from these promising results to a reliable cure for GERD.

    Source: American Journal of Physiology—Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 2005

  • Acupuncture Shows Promise in Treating Children's Allergies

    In a small Hong Kong-based study, allergy sufferers between the ages of 6 and 19 showed clear evidence of improvement after being treated with acupuncture as compared with those treated by "sham" acupuncture, as was reported in the journal Pediatrics in 2004.

    Some of the children in the study were able to quit using antihistamines and other medications during the study, as well.

    Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2004

  • Neck Pain Reduced by Acupuncture

    A Norwegian study published in the June 2004 issue of Pain found that people who received acupuncture reported less pain three years later than people with similar pain who received a "dummy" treatment.

    Researchers at the University of Oslo treated 12 female office workers who reported chronic neck and shoulder pain with 10 sessions of standard acupuncture and acupressure. A second group of 12 workers received a sham treatment, in which acupuncture needles were placed in the incorrect locations.

    The real acupuncture group reported a 70 percent decrease in pain intensity during treatment, and after three years, reported pain intensity was still lessened by half. The control group reported only a slight dip during treatment, but even greater pain than before treatment three years later.

    Source: New York Times, 2004

  • Acupuncture Reduces Frequency of Cancer Therapy Induced Male Hot Flashes

    Hot flashes, a problem for about 80 percent of men being treated for prostate cancer with hormone therapy, were reduced in frequency and intensity by acupuncture treatments, a Swedish study found.

    Because testosterone feeds the prostate gland and its tumors, reducing its levels helps control symptoms and prevent further growth of the tumors. Hormone therapy reduces levels of testosterone in men who are fighting prostate cancer, but offers only partial relief, and hot flashes are a side effect of this treatment.

    The Swedish pilot study of seven men found that the frequency of hot flashes was reduced by 50 to 70 percent. A Phase II clinical trial examining the effects of acupuncture on male hot flashes began in 2004, as well, at the Oregon Health and Science University. The study is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute.

    Source: Oregon Health & Science University

  • Acupuncture's Brain Activity Noted

    One of the main stumbling blocks to greater acceptance for acupuncture in the West is the lack of understanding of how it works. This began to change with the publication of a seminal report by researchers at the Harvard Medical School.

    The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate how acupuncture affects brain activity in normal subjects.

    Thirteen healthy volunteers (ages 27 to 52 years) were involved in the study. They were seated in the MRI scanner and after relaxing had an acupuncture needle inserted in the LI 4 or Hegu point (located on the hand between the thumb and forefinger).

    Needle manipulation caused a pronounced calming of activity in the deep structures of the brain (e.g., amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, etc.), accompanied by increased signal intensity in a key sensory region of the brain's cortex. Researchers concluded, "Modulation of this neuronal network could constitute the initiating steps by which acupuncture regulates multiple physiological systems and achieves diverse therapeutic effect."

    Source: Human Brain Mapping, 2000

* The above studies and more can be found at

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