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Truth Behind Acupuncture

31 Dec

Acupuncture…hoax or healing?


What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a type of alternative medicine with its roots in Chinese medicine.  It originated about  2,000 years ago and was first written about in  Huangdi Neijing (Yellow Emperor’s Classic on Internal Medicine) (source).

Acupuncture treats via the insertion and manipulation of needles in the body.

What conditions is it used for?

Acupuncture has been utilized for numerous medical conditions including pain, infertility, nausea and disease prevention.

A 2002 National Center for Health Statistics survey estimated that 8.2 million adults had tried acupuncture (source)

How is acupuncture supposed to work?

Although it hasn’t been proved exactly how acupuncture works, the traditional and Western beliefs on how acupuncture works are quite different.

Chinese have identified more than 2000 acupuncture points in the body.  These points are connected by pathways which must be accessable for overall health and well-being.  If these paths are blocked, illnesses and medical conditions result.  Acupuncture is a way of  making holes in these pathways to let blood out or in to restore normal flow (source).

Recent research has demonstrated that acupuncture affects numerous biological processes such as the release of hormones and antiinflammaroty mediators.

It is believed that the healing seen with acupuncture is due to these  effects or through the release of endorphins (source).


Is there any science behind it?

There is evidence both supporting and refuting acupuncture’s effectiveness.  The reason for such conflicting data mainly lies in the fact that few randomized controlled studies have been done on acupuncture.  However, small, often preliminary studies, have found the following:

  • Acupuncture was not found to help autism spectrum disorder (source)
  • Evidence to support the effectiveness of acupuncture for pain in endometriosis is limited (source)
  • Acupuncture and acupressure may have a role with reducing pain in labor but there is a need for further research (source)
  • Acupuncture appears ineffective for depression  (source)
  • Positive effect of acupuncture in infertility has been found (source)
  • Acupuncture plus vitamin B6  is a quite useful method against emesis (throwing up) in patients undergoing chemotherapy (source)
  • A potential role for acupuncture was found for the following cancer symptoms: pain, nausea, vomiting, xerostomia (dry mouth), hot flashes, fatigue, anxiety, depression and insomnia (source)
  • Acupuncture may be a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (source)
  • Acupuncture is effective in restoring learning and memory that result from chronic mild stress (source)

This is just a small sampling of the studies both supporting and refuting acupuncture’s claims.

Risks of acupuncture

The risks of acupuncture are low if administered by a certified acupuncture practitioner. Possible side effects include:

  • Needle site soreness, bleeding or bruising
  • Internal injury if the needles are in too deep
  • Resused needles can result in various infectious disease, such as hepatitis (source)


Have you ever had acupuncture?  Why do you think it works?