Tag Archive: news

OK, time for a roundup of some of the more noteworthy studies done on the effectiveness of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. 

Stronger evidence that acupuncture is effective for back pain is now available, as this http://www.naturalnews.com/040545_acupuncture_back_pain_research.html article shows.

Another robust study  http://www.healthcmi.com/acupuncturist-news-online/756-flyingacupuncture that compared acupuncture’s effectiveness for insomnia to a pharmaceutical found that acupuncture came out on top by a considerable margin.  “The researchers discovered that the drug was 59.7% effective while acupuncture was 84.1% effective. The control group only showed a 25% effective rate thereby ruling out the placebo effect triggered by sham acupuncture.”  One of the features of this study that I really applaud is that the researchers identified and isolated a specific acupuncture technique: “This modern research tested the efficacy of this acupuncture point prescription combined with a classic manual acupuncture technique, the flying technique… The acupuncture technique is named after the motion exerted on the release of the acupuncture needle. The handle of the acupuncture needle is held while the needle is rotated slightly and the hand then releases the handle like ‘the flying of a bird.’”  Too many other studies don’t do this, leaving us to wonder what techniques were used and whether similar results would have been obtained if different techniques had been performed.

That’s why I have to shake my head and wag my finger at the researchers involved in this http://ptjournal.apta.org/content/early/2013/05/29/ptj.20110138.abstract study to determine whether acupuncture is effective for treating strokes.  They used a specific protocol of scalp and body points which did not appear to work; reporting that would have been fine, and useful for practitioners to know.  The problem is that the authors went beyond saying that this protocol was ineffective to concluding that all acupuncture is ineffective for strokes.  This is obviously problematic; what techniques did they use, and what if another protocol would work better? 

Take electroacupuncture for example, which has been shown to be protective of the brain after stroke: http://www.healthcmi.com/acupuncturist-news-online/761-electronli11st36.  This is a good example of how much too often researchers over-generalize from a specific protocol to all of acupuncture; in my opinion, this is often due to an ignorance of the scope of techniques and approaches available.

Finally, our cute story of the day: some veterinary acupuncturists are treating sea turtles with acupuncture, to good effect! http://www.contracostatimes.com/environment/ci_23288102/slow-pokes-acupuncture-helps-hypothermic-turtles

This article: http://www.newsroundtheworld.com/acupuncture-helpful-inducing-labor/ describes a study that the authors say shows that acupuncture is of no help in inducing labor. In the study for the “real” acupuncture group they treated the pregnant woman with needling what they called standard points “that were traditionally related to inducing labor”, and did a total of two treatments.

I suppose in some sense of the word this is acupuncture, but it is not Chinese medicine and not how most practitioners would try to induce labor. If I tried to induce labor in the way these researchers did, had no or limited success, and told my colleagues about it, they would look at me strangely and ask, “what did you expect?” They would also wonder if I learned anything at all in acupuncture school.

In Chinese medicine, treatment is individualized to treat the patient’s specific condition. Does the person have a kidney chi deficiency, or a stronger component of liver chi stagnation? The points used will differ according to which of these traditional diagnoses apply. Similarly, some patients may need only one treatment to induce labor, while others may need many more. If I had to pick an average, it would be 4 to 6 treatments – not 2, as the researchers in the study used!

In a narrow sense, the study provides some evidence that the protocol the researchers used is not helpful for inducing labor. However this is not news, as we knew this from centuries of clinical experience. Most reprehensible in my opinion is the reporting, with most reporters leaping to the hasty generalization that “acupuncture” is not helpful for inducing labor. It’s at best very sloppy to equate acupuncture with a simplistic non-traditional needling protocol that ignores Chinese medical theory and centuries of accumulated clinical experience.


As usual, they just say “acupuncture” and don’t talk about what style or what techniques of needling are used. But at least they reported on the positive results this time!

So it seems some people are catching on to acupuncture’s use for pain, and realizing that it can do as well or better than many drugs while being safer and having fewer side effects.

Many still aren’t aware, though, that acupuncture is traditionally used for many more things than just pain: digestive disorders and common childhood ailments are just two examples of what people often see acupuncturists for.