If you’re suffering physical discomfort but aren’t convinced that you should try acupuncture, you may be happily surprised by the findings of recent studies. Before succumbing to surgery or filling a prescription for pain medications, read on.
Thanks to technological improvements in measuring brain activity, acupuncture is gaining traction in mainstream medicine. Acupuncture has been practiced as therapeutic medicine for thousands of years in China, but only recently has the practice found acceptance in Western medicine. Before the new generation of brain imaging equipment, researchers relied on a patient’s report of symptom improvement. If one group of patients received sham acupuncture and reported the same reduction in pain, for example, as a second group which actually received acupuncture, researchers would conclude that acupuncture only seems to work but is actually inducing a placebo effect. Researchers no longer have to rely on a patient’s report of improvement, they have brain scans to document the positive physiological effects of acupuncture.
The traditional explanation of acupuncture relies on a theory of energy flow within the body. Injury or illness is thought to disrupt the flow of this energy, called chi, and acupuncture works to restore the flow of energy. The Chinese believe that the energy flows along meridians in the body and that the application of very thin needles at specific points along these meridians will stimulate the chi energy and restore the body’s balance and energy flow.
Regardless of the underlying physiological theory, acupuncture’s effectiveness is being proven by an increasing number of studies. One recent study tested the effectiveness of acupuncture on sufferers of mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome. Eighty people were divided into three groups: one group received acupuncture to the wrist and ankle, a second group received acupuncture only in the wrist, and the third group received sham acupuncture using fake, retractable needles. While all three groups of carpal tunnel sufferers claimed to find relief from pain, functional M.R.I.s and nerve conduction tests revealed measurable physiological improvements in the brain and nervous systems of the two groups who were treated with acupuncture. No changes were found in the group which received sham acupuncture. The study further revealed that the acupuncture produced enduring effects on the symptoms.
Similar results were found in a German study involving 422 participants who suffered from seasonal allergies. While the acupuncture proved to alleviate symptoms better than the commonly prescribed medications, the acupuncture therapy also had no side effects and actually helped to reduce the symptoms of future allergic reactions.
If you are suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, allergies, chronic pain, digestive problems, fibromyalgia, menopause, stress, headaches or insomnia, acupuncture could help you avoid surgery or having to take prescription medications which carry the possibility of addiction or other unwanted side effects. And this is just a sample of the maladies whose symptoms acupuncture could alleviate.
Cleveland has a number of state-licensed acupuncture practitioners, including at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative & Lifestyle Medicine. Isis Chen Lam Lum introduced me to acupuncture during a community acupuncture clinic at Studio 11 in Tremont. Community acupuncture makes the treatment available to many people by offering it in a group setting and on a sliding fee scale from $15-$45. Isis will spend a few minutes checking in with me, now that she’s familiar with my health, and select acupuncture points which correspond to specific parts of my body or my stressed-out mind. She places pins in my ears for stress and in the side of my hand to release the tension in my shoulders, for example. After relaxing on a mat, with a bolster under my knees, I inevitably fall asleep for the 30 minutes of treatment. The yoga studio environment is warm, welcoming and thoroughly restorative.
“Like” Studio 11 on Facebook for the community acupuncture schedule or find a one-on-one practitioner to learn how this ancient healing art can help you. Your body deserves it.
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