Acupuncture is a complementary medical practice, which means it works best when combined with other types of therapies. It involves using very thin needles to penetrate the surface of the skin, whether to alleviate pain or other symptoms of various medical conditions. The benefits of acupuncture are quite surprising. Here’s how it can help you.
The American Academy of Pain Medicine estimates that some 100 million people across the country deal with chronic pain. Often, treatments involve physical therapy and narcotic pain relievers. Despite these therapies, most patients claim they don’t get adequate relief. A study published in Archive of Internal Medicine in 2006 showed that patients who received acupuncture for lower back pain experienced 15% more relief on average than those who did not receive acupuncture. This study also showed that the benefits of acupuncture were more profound for those who had back pain due to pregnancy, old injuries, physical stress, or improper sleeping habits.
Acupuncture has been shown to reduce the duration and frequency of a variety of headache types, including debilitating migraines. A study published in the April 2011 issue of Pain looked at reviews written by individuals who had received acupuncture for chronic headaches, migraines, and neck pain, and the results were surprising. The results were unanimous; acupuncture relieved their pain, reduced the frequency of their headaches, and caused no side effects.
A pressure point on the underside of the forearm, just below the wrist, has proven effective in the relief of postsurgical nausea and motion sickness alike. In fact, a 2009 Cochrane review showed that acupuncture was just as therapeutic as antiemetic drugs when administered to patients recovering from surgery. What’s more, acupuncture causes no side effects, such as drowsiness, which is common with antiemetic drugs.
One of the most surprising benefits of acupuncture is its ability to alleviate anxiety, regardless of the cause. Although the method via which acupuncture relieves anxiety isn’t known, studies and clinical trials have proven it effective. In fact, in one study, patients who were taking benzodiazepines for anxiety had their dosages lowered and started an acupuncture treatment. Those who received acupuncture had better anxiety relief than those taking higher doses of benzodiazepines alone.
Surprisingly, another of the benefits of acupuncture has to do with the gut. Researchers have found that regular acupuncture therapy can help lower the frequency of a variety of digestive problems, including heartburn, acid reflux, indigestion, sour stomach, diarrhea, and constipation. A study done on pregnant women, who often experience severe heartburn, found that the women who had regular acupuncture therapy had less heartburn than women who only watched their diet and used antacids as needed.
Many things can cause insomnia and the inability to stay asleep through the night. Things like anxiety, improper melatonin production, and excessive cortisol levels can all keep people up at night. There have been a few studies on the benefits of acupuncture as they apply to sleeplessness; preliminary reports show that patients who underwent acupuncture therapy regularly were sleeping more soundly after just five weeks. Per the science, acupuncture increases natural melatonin production.
In recent years, dermatologists have discovered the benefits of acupuncture as they relate to healthy skin. Patients can opt for acupuncture to treat anything form eczema and dermatitis to acne and wrinkles. Although the exact methods via which the skin responds to acupuncture aren’t known, scientists believe that the stimulation of the skin helps with cellular regeneration and collagen production, which are vital to skin health.
There’s a great deal of controversy over the use of acupuncture for weight loss, but there’s also evidence to suggest it may be a strong addition to a healthy diet and workout plan. While acupuncture alone won’t help anyone lose weight by itself, a study published in Medical Acupuncture found that patients who had ear acupuncture along with a 2000-calorie diet and a brisk 15-minute walk each day were able to lose more weight than those who only dieted and exercised.
From a spiritual standpoint, the benefits of acupuncture are far more profound. Those who practice it per the ancient Eastern tradition believe that acupuncture eliminates the stagnation of blood in the muscles, which can inhibit muscle growth. As such, many bodybuilders and athletes alike agree that regular acupuncture is just as important to their health as their daily protein shakes.
The benefits of acupuncture are many, and whether you believe the scientific or spiritual aspects (or both), the evidence and clinical studies don’t lie. Acupuncture has been shown to help with pain, nausea, anxiety, insomnia, and even weight loss as effectively as pharmaceutical drugs that cause significant side effects.