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Outline: Click on a line to go to that section
|Claims why acupuncture works|
|Claims that support acupuncture|
|Scientific reason for why acupuncture works|
|Studies done on animals|
|Study of acupuncture and humans|
Acupuncture involves the insertion of tiny needles into "acupuncture
points," specific nerve endings under the skin. These needles are
extremely small, so small in fact that ten to fifteen acupuncture needles
can fit in a regular hypodermic needle (http.//www.acupuncture.com/Acup/Acupuncture.htm).
There are three claims for why acupuncture is effective: reflexes, hormones,
and energy transfer. When the needle is inserted into the skin, the nerves
send signals that travel up the spinal cord, into the brain, and block
the pain center in the brain. This prevents pain and other signals from
entering and exiting the brain and severity of the symptoms is suppressed.
This allows the body to heal itself while the individual is unaware of
any pain or other distress (http://www.acupuncture.com/Acup/Works.htm).
After the needle is inserted into the skin, the surrounding area becomes
red. This may be a result of the release of hormones into the bloodstream.
These hormones may be the body's natural pain killers, which stimulate
blood circulation as well reduce pain (http://www.acupuncture.com/Acup/Works.htm).
The third explanation is the ancient Chinese explanation that the acupuncture
points are doors to energy channels and that by inserting the needles into
these points, one can open and close these doors. This brings about energy
circulation and harbors energy balance, resulting in improved health (http://www.acupuncture.com/Acup/Works.htm).
Acupuncture is believed to be highly effective. In a nation-wide survey of acupuncture users, conducted by Dr. Claire M. Cassidy, 91.5% reported "disappearance" or "improvement" of symptoms after their treatment, 84% see their MDs less often, 79% use fewer prescription drugs, and 70% were able to avoid previously recommended surgery (http://www.acupuncture.com/Acup/AcuStats.htm). Said one man from San Francisco:
Acupuncture had immediate effects on my levels of stress. I simply was not the same person at work. Co-workers could not believe the difference in my disposition. Clients continually comment on my relaxed nature given the stressful environment I have put myself in (CPA, working with taxes). I believe it has helped me stay healthy over the last 9 years... (http://www.acupuncture.com/Acup/AcuStats.htm).
Acupuncture is a treatment with few, if any, reported side effects. The most common side effect is deep relaxation and a slight, temporary heaviness. In the treatment of stress, the side effect of deep relaxation is often a desired result. In these cases, very few side effects are noticed.
Most of the information on acupuncture is circulated by acupuncture
therapists and clinics, with one such therapist being Dr. Cassidy. Dr.
Cassidy heads her own consulting firm, Paradigms Found, in Bethesda, Maryland,
and is also the author of several articles about research and medical anthropology
One may be doubtful about the claims of acupuncture, especially since the
claims are made by acupuncture therapists and clinics. What are the facts?
Is there any truth to these claims?
First, how and why does acupuncture really work? By stimulating certain
acupuncture loci, the sites where the needles are inserted, the body releases
cerebral seratonin. Cerebral seratonin has anti-depressant and analgesic
effects (Chen, 1992). This release of seratonin results in mental relaxation,
the desired result for many who suffer from stress or stress induced headaches.
But does this actually work?
In an experiment by the Institute of Acupuncture and Channel at Anhui College, a group of rats was divided into two groups--the electroacupuncture group and the control group. Electroacupuncture is the same as acupuncture but with the addition of tiny electrical currents which are sent through the needles into the body. The rats were then restrained and submersed in water to induce stress and gastric ulcers. Electroacupuncture protected the rats from developing the stress induced ulcers.
In another study, rats were again submersed into cold water baths to induce stress. Three pairs of electrodes were placed on the rats and measured the effect of acupuncture on gastro-colon electric activity. Once again, experimenters found that acupuncture was able to inhibit the electric activity that is caused by stress (Xu, 1994).
In a similar study, electrodes were once again placed on groups of rats
which were then submerged in water baths. Out of those rats that suffered
from stress and did not receive acupuncture treatment, 63.2% show internal
bleeding and related internal complications (gland cell swelling, hyperaemia).
In the group of rats that acquired both stress and acupuncture, only 16.7%
developed internal bleeding (Xiang, 1993).
The Department of Internal Medicine in Denmark studied the effects of acupuncture in 49 patients suffering from angina pectoris. Acupuncture was found to slightly increase exercise tolerance, lower systolic blood pressure, and lower anginal attack rate.
With these results, acupuncture is found to be effective both in laboratory
animals and humans. In the final study by The Department of Internal Medicine
in Denmark, acupuncture was found to lower systolic blood pressure and
anginal attack rate, two symptoms of stress. By relieving the symptoms
of stress, one's health improves and this all results in reduction of stress.
Ballegaard S., Karpatschoff B., Holck JA., Meyer CN., Trojaborg W. (1995).
Acupuncture in angina pectoris: do psycho-social and neurophysiological
factors relate to the effect? Acupuncture & Electro-Therapeutics Research,
Chen A. (1992). An introduction to sequential electric acupuncture (SEA)
in the treatment of stress related physical and mental disorders. Acupuncture
and Electro-Therapuetics Research, 17, 273-83.
Shen D., Wei D., Liu B., Zhang F., (!995). Effects of electroacupuncture
on gastrin, mast cell and gastric mucosal barrier in the course of protecting
rat stress peptic ulcer. Chen Tzu Yen Chiu Acupuncture Research, 20, 46-9.
Xiang L., Zhu F., Weng E., Tang G., (1993). Influences of acupuncture
on gastroduodenal mucosal lesion and electrical changing induced by stress
in rats. Chen Tzu Yen Chiu Acupuncture Research, 18, 53-7.
Xu G. (1994). Influence of stress on gastroenteric electric activity
and modulated effect of acupuncture on it in rats. Chen Tzu Yen Chiu Acupuncture
Research, 19, 72-4.
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