Acupuncture is strange. I can recall hearing about the therapy as a kid, seeing it vilified in movies, and consistently coming away with the same question: how could sticking needles in our body possibly be healthy?
So when I recently learned that acupuncture is administered OVER 10 MILLION TIMES annually in the United States alone, I was baffled. Why?! Why are people drawn to this treatment? What health issues are they trying to treat? Does it actually work?
So I did some investigation. I researched the effect of Acupuncture on four different health challenges, taking into account both what the science says as well as the anecdotal evidence shared by people who have tried acupuncture.
Use 1: Back Pain and Acupuncture
An anecdotal experience: “I started doing acupuncture to help treat some acute back pain I was experiencing. It worked tremendously well to say that least. I later realized that my back spasms were more than a physiological muscle problem – they were also connected to intense emotional circumstances present in my life at that time. I continued to see my acupuncturist to help treat the other, more subtle, underlying problems that were contributing to my symptoms of anxiety, depression and lethargy… I’m so thrilled I found acupuncture; not only did it help my conditions, but Traditional Chinese Medicine (of which acupuncture is one part) helped me learn to look at illness(es) completely differently than I had before.” Read more shared experiences about using Acupuncture for Back Pain.
What the science says: When taken together, the majority of studies on acupuncture’s effect on back pain suggest that the treatment has a positive effect, but that these effects may be only short term. A meta-analysis of 33 studies involving over 6000+ patients showed that acupuncture for back pain was more effective than no treatment at all. However, when a comparison between ‘real’ acupuncture and ‘fake’ acupuncture was conducted, a significant difference was not found. This suggests that acupuncture, at least in the case of back pain, may be benefiting the patient through the placebo effect more than any other reason. See the study.
Use 2: Insomnia and Acupuncture
An anecdotal experience: “Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is very effective for insomnia. TCM draws the distinction between trouble falling asleep and trouble staying asleep. It is possible to treat each of these two conditions specifically. I also find that some people sleep plenty of hours but don’t get refreshing sleep. This is also a problem we can treat.” Read more shared experiences about using Acupuncture for Insomnia.
What the science says: Similar to the meta-analysis of acupuncture for back pain studies, a study of 33 studies was conducted to see if acupuncture causes improvement in insomnia. A total of 2293 participants were included, from ages 15 – 98. Overall, studies suggested that there is an improvement. Two specific studies compared no acupuncture to real/sham acupuncture, and participants showed a statistically significant improvement in sleep quality. However, no difference was found in real and sham acupuncture, again suggesting that acupuncture may have a placebo effect when used to treat insomnia. More research needs to be done on this topic. See the study.
Use 3: Depression and Acupuncture
An anecdotal experience: ”I’ve tried acupuncture for many issues over the years, and depression is one of them. While the treatment didn’t have immediate results, I definitely felt better over time (within a few weeks). The best part about this kind of treatment is that there were no negative side effects. I’ve noticed that a lot of people are hesitant to try acupuncture because of the needles; while it does take some getting used to, it’s not painful, and the positive effects far outweigh any discomfort you may experience.” Read more shared experiences about using Acupuncture for Depression.
What the science says: When it comes to treating depression with acupuncture, the research has shown mixed results. In a mathematical analysis of 8 randomized trials, the impact of acupuncture was minimal. However, in a larger review of 20 trials involving 2000 patients with major depression, the effect of acupuncture was shown to be comparable to standard antidepressants. However, similar to insomnia and back pain, this study showed no difference between the impacts of real acupuncture compared to fake acupuncture. See the studies.
Use 4: Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) and Acupuncture
An anecdotal experience: “During some school exams, I got dizzy and flushed. BP 170/90 mm Hg. One of my teachers applied acupressure, and called her friend who needled me and recommend that I see my doctor. Within fifteen minutes, my BP was 130/80 and I was allowed to drive the 1.5 hours home.” Read more shared experiences about using Acupuncture for Hypertension.
What the science says: The American Heart Association published a highly controlled study of 192 participants to see if acupuncture had any substantial impact on reducing blood pressure. All participants had high blood pressure (from 140/90 to 179/109 mm Hg), and were taken of anti-hypertensive medication before the initiation of the study. They compared the effects of real & sham acupuncture over the course of 10 weeks, measuring blood pressure every 14 days. At the end of the 10 weeks, no statistically significant difference could be found between the effect of real acupuncture and fake acupuncture on blood pressure. See the study.
Have you tried acupuncture? Tell us how it worked for you! Share your experience on FoundHealth’s Acupuncture page or leave a comment below!
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