What Acupuncture Can and Cannot Treat

Acupuncture has been used for more than 2000 years to treat a variety of diseases. Learn about what conditions it can treat as well as contraindications & precautions.

What Acupuncture Can and Cannot Treat

Acupuncture is an ancient form of healing that has been used for more than two thousand years to treat a variety of ailments. It is a safe and effective non-pharmacological treatment option for a variety of symptoms and dysfunctions, and is based on the stimulation of 361 acupuncture points located throughout the body on the meridians. These points are stimulated by various means to produce a physiological effect in the body, and all points have diverse functions throughout the body that can be used to treat different diseases. However, there are certain contraindications for needle insertion depending on the location of the acupuncture point or the patient's health status.

Certain precautions must be taken when treating weak, weakened, or pregnant animals. In the field of acupuncture, few quality clinical research trials have been conducted, and there has also been very poor follow-up evaluation of many of the conditions that have been treated by acupuncturists. Therefore, it is impossible to give a clear idea of the success of acupuncture in some of the conditions that will be mentioned in this article. Before starting an acupuncture course, whatever condition is being treated, it is advisable to allow a clear diagnosis to be made.

This places both the patient and the acupuncturist in a position where the complaint can be treated appropriately and the results of the treatment can be objectively evaluated. It may be that Western medicine offers an excellent form of therapy for a particular condition, and in that case, it would be wrong to recommend the patient to undergo acupuncture. Many of the facts and figures cited in this article are the results of clinical trials conducted in China, so several facts about these “Chinese trials” are worth mentioning. They involve the evaluation of large numbers of patients, sometimes up to 10,000, but published evaluations of success and failure are often unclear and research is poorly designed.

Chinese people also treat their patients for extended periods and a stroke patient may receive one hundred or two hundred acupuncture treatments before being declared a success or a failure. All of these factors create difficulties when talking about specific diseases. It is essential for the practitioner to follow a set of basic principles to make acupuncture a safe treatment option. Acupuncture can be shown to alter the activity of the immune system, stimulating the production of immunoglobulins (chemicals that help kill invading bacteria) and several other important substances. Patients receiving acupuncture for specific problems, such as ankle pain, will often notice how well they feel after treatment. The research work done so far suggests that acupuncture increases blood supply to the brain and, for some unexplained reason, this seems to improve functional capacity and acts as a stimulus for recovery after a stroke.

Acupuncture seems to decrease the desire to smoke and also to relieve withdrawal symptoms caused by tobacco withdrawal. During the early acute inflammatory phase of rheumatoid arthritis, there is some evidence to suggest that acupuncture may worsen pain, and therefore many acupuncturists do not treat acute rheumatoid arthritis. A recent Chinese clinical trial on asthma showed that around 70 percent of asthmatics get a “good effect” with a cycle of acupuncture and moxibustion (about ten treatments) once a year. It's difficult to assess exactly what factors are responsible for weight loss - acupuncture or diet, or both in combination - but research by Chinese physiologists has demonstrated quite clearly that acupuncture can reduce stomach acidity and this may be one of the mechanisms by which acupuncture cures stomach ulcers and other digestive diseases. A sudden shoulder injury can cause pain and immobility for many months, sometimes years, but if acupuncture is used when pain occurs it seems that chronic pain can be avoided. It seems that acupuncture can cause quite large gallstones to be discharged into the stool which prevents the need for most operations to remove the gallbladder. It is clear that acupuncture can help resolve the severe withdrawal symptoms experienced by those who give up hard drugs such as heroin; however drug withdrawal is only half the battle as an adequate rehabilitation program is required for hard drug addicts to return to the community, and acupuncture can only provide assistance in part of this battle. A great deal of evidence is now available to show that acupuncture stimulates the body's natural defences in many infectious diseases; this again suggests another possible mechanism for acupuncture's effects.

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