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   Information on Acupuncture

This page was created for the benefit of potential Acupuncture patients as well as others needing straight information to make fully informed medical and financial decisions. This page has been prepared by Todd Luger, BS, MAcOM, LAc. Todd is founder of the Chinese Herb Academy, a practitioner of acupuncture and oriental medicine for 15 years and a member of the clinical faculty of three acupuncture schools since 1994. During this time, Todd has had ample opportunity to observe the effects of acupuncture on various conditions. He has also done extensive reviews of the modern and classical literature on Acupuncture, with a special emphasis on research and scholarly oriented materials. The information presented below will be updated regularly with citations as possible. For now, it serves as an incomplete summary of my opinions, which I believe to be rooted in the preponderance of evidence I have uncovered over the years.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) distributes an extensive list of condition treated by Acupuncture, the basis for much of that list is not controlled research. Many acupuncturists pass along this information due to its supposed authority, however quite a bit of it is based solely upon traditional claims of efficacy, not any valid independent verification. While it is true that acupuncture has been historically used in all the listed conditions, the evidence of successful long term benefit as opposed to placebo effects has been found lacking by the NIH consensus report on acupuncture in which it states regarding the efficacy for specific disorders,

"There is clear evidence that needle acupuncture is efficacious for adult post-operative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and probably for the nausea of pregnancy. Much of the research is on various pain problems. There is evidence of efficacy for postoperative dental pain. There are reasonable studies (although sometimes only single studies) showing relief of pain with acupuncture on diverse pain conditions such as menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, and fibromyalgia. This suggests that acupuncture may have a more general effect on pain. However, there are also studies that do not find efficacy for acupuncture in pain. There is evidence that acupuncture does not demonstrate efficacy for cessation of smoking and may not be efficacious for some other conditions. While many other conditions have received some attention in the literature and, in fact, the research suggests some exciting potential areas for the use of acupuncture, the quality or quantity of the research evidence is not sufficient to provide firm evidence of efficacy at this time."

This finding has recently been seconded by the Little Hoover Commission (LHC) report on the Acupuncture profession in California. The LHC recently admonished the state acupuncture board for using the WHO list of conditions in their literature. While more recent modern research in China is using proper controls and good quality research is now being done in the US, as well, it is essential to the long term public acceptance of acupuncture not to overstate any claims prematurely. It is also now generally agreed by modern scientists that Acupuncture has distinct and often potent physiological effects. This has been proven by recent MRI evidence. Yet there remains considerable debate within and between the various professions that practice acupuncture as to how it should be practiced for greatest safety and efficacy. While passions run high on all sides, there is no evidence that acupuncture is more or less effective when practiced according to traditional chinese model or a western physiological one. In fact, some recent evidence suggests the western model is quite effective in certain limited areas.

But a number of factors come into play in any decision to use acupuncture for one of the conditions listed below. For many, cost-effectiveness is key. With all due respect to the honest well intentioned practitioners out there, acupuncture must be sold to patients in order to make a living. Patient satisfaction rates are indeed high, but usage is still relatively low in the population at large due to lack of adequate insurance reimbursement. For many, satisfaction will be enough. For others, including major policy makers, it is important to know that acupuncture has distinct efficacy that exceeds the expected benefits of a quiet setting, nice music, incense, TLC, etc. It is also important for our broken healthcare system to find cost effective solutions. Otherwise insurers and legislators will never ante up.

An often overlooked issue in determining the efficacy of Chinese Medicine is the role of herbal medicine in modern American clinical practice. In China, herbs are considered the key modality in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture in modern China is largely limited to neurological, psychological, musculoskeletal and pain conditions. It is not used for internal medicine. This is largely because modern research has not shown it to be as cost-effective for the latter conditions as the use of herbs. Herbs, on the other hand, have been found to have a wide range of useful effects in all imaginable internal conditions. There is certainly some research that has shown remarkable results with Acupuncture (including the new UCI hypertension study cited above). But much of the chinese research involves daily Acupuncture treatment of condition for months at a time, an unacceptable proposition to most patients if there is a more convenient herbal alternative. The remarkable thing about the UCI study was that it seemed to indicate long lasting changes in blood pressure without needing daily treatments. However the caveat there is that the treatment strategy was determined by MRI mapping not traditional Chinese theory.

As a result of these various issues, another finding of the LHC report was to advise that acupuncturists cease and desist making specific health claims until the California legislature clarifies the matter of what claims can be made. But neither patients nor practitioners should despair. This is merely a reminder that in order to fully develop the potential of Chinese Medicine in America, Acupuncturists must distinguish themselves as the experts in Chinese Herbal Medicine. It is in this area that Chinese Medicine will make its greatest inroads. Acupuncture will likely be practiced by a wide range of non-acupuncturists in the future. Patients with internal illness should seek out those Acupuncturists who are also or primarily experts in herbs. Most such practitioners will hold the title LAc. I think the burden must be on those who make the health claims to back them up. This page should allow intelligent questions to be asked anyone making such claims.

These are the search terms most commonly entered in the major search engines that include the word Acupuncture. Comments on the evidence of acupuncture efficacy is provided in each case with links where possible. Caveat emptor.

 acupuncture for weight loss - Acupuncture has no historical use for helping weight loss, per se. Obesity was not a problem in ancient China, thus it was not a major topic of study. Some have claimed, but not proven, metabolic stimulation or appetite suppression. In my experience, weight control is largely a psychological issue. Acupuncture can be helpful in stress and anxiety by its measurable effects on neurotransmitters. Thus, in conjunction with diet and exercise, Acupuncture might be useful in a fashion similar to how it helps in Addiction treatment.
 acupuncture quit smoking
- There is mixed evidence regarding the efficacy of acupuncture for smoking cessation. The general consensus amongst detached observers within the community is that Acupuncture helps cut cravings short term if used every day, but that counseling and group support are vital components required for success in most cases.
 acupuncture and infertility
- There is evidence that acupuncture can increase the success of in vitro fertilization and also promote fertility on its own, both male and female. This has certainly been a preoccupation of the Chinese for millennia. The primary therapy used was herbal. Many herbs have hormonal effects and thus the physiological mechanisms by which they work are not mysterious.

Asian J Androl. 2003 Dec;5(4):345-8.
Effects of acupuncture and moxa treatment in patients with semen abnormalities
AIM: To evaluate the effect of Chinese Traditional Medicine, acupuncture and moxa treatment, on the semen quality in patients with semen abnormalities. CONCLUSION: The Chinese Traditional Medicine acupuncture and moxa techniques significantly increase the percentage of normal-form sperm in infertile patients with oligoastenoteratozoospermia without apparent cause.

J Huazhong Univ Sci Technolog Med Sci. 2002;22(3):228-30.
Influence of acupuncture on idiopathic male infertility in assisted reproductive technology.
Acupuncture can improve sperm quality and fertilization rates in assisted reproductive technology.

Andrologia. 2000 Jan;32(1):31-9.
Does acupuncture treatment affect sperm density in males with very low sperm count?
It is concluded that acupuncture may be a useful, nontraumatic treatment for males with very poor sperm density, especially those with a history of genital tract inflammation.

Gynecol Endocrinol. 1992 Sep;6(3):171-81.
Auricular acupuncture in the treatment of female infertility.
Based on our data, auricular acupuncture seems to offer a valuable alternative therapy for female infertility due to hormone disorders.

 acupuncture and chinese medicine
- Acupuncture has always played a limited role in Chinese Medicine, yet has achieved a certain notoriety in the west that is far out of proportion to its historical place.
 acupuncture face lift
- There is a classical chinese specialty of Beautification. Modern techniques involve acupuncture to "pin back the skin" and fill out wirnkles. It is unclear how traditional this specialty actually is or how effective, but I will be doing more investigation. Some groups in china were certainly very interested in longevity, but this was another domain that was largely dominated by herbal medicine. The use of herbs both internally and externally are used in Chinese Beautification Therapy.
 acupuncture and depression
- Acupuncture does affect neurotransmitter and stress hormone levels. It has been shown to have some effectiveness in mild to moderate depression. Quite a few patients use it for stress relief and are convinced of its efficacy. As a skeptic, I feel comfortable recommending its use in this area (but absolutely not as the sole recourse in major depression).
 acupuncture back pain
- Acupuncture is effective for some types of back pain. But acupuncture alone cannot heal herniated or "slipped" discs. For many conditions, a combination of herbs, acupuncture, exercise and physical therapy can allow one to avoid surgery or strong drugs.

 cosmetic acupuncture
- see acupuncture face lift above

 laser acupuncture
- While not part of traditional chinese acupuncture, this method does show promise as an alternate way to stimulate deep lying nerves without using invasive needle techniques. It is most likely to be developed by MD's practicing acupuncture and is outside the legal scope of practice in most states.

 acupuncture cancer
- While acupuncture cannot affect the progress of cancer according to any known evidence, it can help with nausea from chemotherapy. In addition, many herbs show promise in their ability to affect the immune system and natural cell death.
 acupuncture for pregnancy
- Acupuncture can help with the nausea of pregnancy and there is some evidence that it can help turn a breach presentation fetus. While acupuncture has a long history of use for all the various complications of pregnancy and childbirth, it has not been proven safe or effective for any of these.

 acupuncture for arthritis
- Acupuncture can relieve the disease symptoms, but not alter the disease process. However the disease process may be affected by the use of chinese herbs and other supplements

 acupuncture for stop smoking
- see acupuncture quit smoking above

 veterinary acupuncture
- Acupuncture was used on farm animals, but not much on domestic pet types like cats and dogs, so little has been written about this. The traditional effects of herbs are largely unknown on all animals, but much modern research has been done on animals, so there is data out there. Make sure your vet is cognizant of these issues before allowing treatment of your pet.
 acupuncture and migraines
- There is some evidence that acupuncture can help. I have found herbs and acupuncture to be effective for many in lessening severity and frequency.
 ivf and acupuncture
- There is one study that showed significant increase in success rates with IVF when combined with Acupuncture.

 acupuncture for smoking
- see acupuncture quit smoking above

 facial rejuvenation acupuncture
- see acupuncture face lift above
 acupuncture fibromyalgia
- There is no evidence that acupuncture is helpful in this complaint except to the extent that it aids relaxation and sleep, which have been shown to be key components of this syndrome.
 acupuncture for dog
- see veterinary acupuncture above
 acupuncture headache
- see acupuncture and migraines above

 animal acupuncture -
see veterinary acupuncture above

 acupuncture canine -
see veterinary acupuncture above

 acupuncture and ophthalmology
- controlled studies from China show some efficacy in various eyes problems, including strabismus, glaucoma, retinopathy and macular degeneration. Herbs are considered a key component of eye treatment and have been used to great success in treating diabetic eye disease, often in combination with western drugs.

 acupuncture and asthma
- Traditionally there are points to help with asthma attacks. It does seem possible to affect the sympathetic nervous system with acupuncture and thus mitigate an acute attack. However the therapy does not seem to alter the long term course of the illness. Herbs can affect both the short term and long term outcomes of asthma patients are the dominant therapy in Chinese medicine for this condition.
 acupuncture for allergy
- Traditionally there are points to help with allergy attacks. It does seem possible to affect the immune system with acupuncture and thus mitigate an acute attack. However the therapy does not seem to alter the long term course of the syndrome. Herbs can affect both the short term and long term outcomes of allergy patients are the dominant therapy in Chinese medicine for this condition.

 acupuncture for anxiety
- While not documented in modern research like the treatment of depression, acupuncture has been historically used to treat anxiety. It does seem effective and any role in weight loss and addiction are probably due to these benefits. Herbal medicine can also be very helpful. Many herbs have proven gentle, non addictive, sedative effects.

 acupuncture for acne
- There is no evidence that acupuncture can help with Acne. Nor is there any controlled clinical evidence of any natural therapy being effective. However I have observed a combination of diet, herbs and naturopathic medicine is sometimes effective.

 acupuncture for smoking cessation
- see acupuncture quit smoking above

 electro acupuncture - This therapy shows some promise in many areas, but little research has been done. The new UCI study on hypertension mentioned above considers stimulation of deep nerves essential to acupuncture activity. The researchers have shown that while many points do not stimulate major nerve roots, all the most frequently used points do. The researchers thus believes evidence is mounting that acupuncture is a neurovascular intervention and there is no force known as qi.

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