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The case for Acupuncture
By: Dr. Ron T. Dummar DC, MAOM
There is a buzz in the field of medicine. A hum that carries with it curiosity and intrigue. A tone that seems to pierce centuries of history with a consistent voice of quality and intricate simplicity. Its root is in a treatment that holds true to the message of experts from long ago. This harmless yet powerful tool enables physicians today to more completely honor the code; first do no harm. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with its modalities; medicinal herbs, moxibustion, tissue work, and acupuncture account for the oldest and most consistently administered form of medicine in the world today. Hieroglyphs and pictographs have been found dating back as far as 1600 BC, whereas the earliest medical text to describe the use of acupuncture was compiled around 305-204 BC.
Thousands of years of case studies, personal testimonials, recorded and documented therapeutic applications have stood up and will continue standing up to modern investigative research and experiments. The body of evidence to support the use of TCM is growing, and will continue to grow thereby placing quantifiable evidence behind the worlds' most resilient medicine. A medicine with a firm rooted foundation on the principle of prevention, and a natural holistic primary approach to healing what ails you.
Still opponents of acupuncture and TCM claim it is unscientific and otherwise not evidence based. In the face of the opposition Acupuncturists and TCM physicians are finding their place of congruency with western medicine. Currently, several emergency departments in Australia have added acupuncture to their arsenal of pain fighting treatments. This in hope of reducing the dependence on the current standard, pharmacotherapy, that can carry with it severe side effects from complete intolerance to nausea vomiting and altered blood pressure. They are finding that people entering the ER in pain that elect to utilize acupuncture have their pain relieved in a very short time. An added benefit is acupuncture can safely be used alongside most conventional drugs, and whereas acupuncture is virtually side-effect free there is no harm in giving it a try.
More than 80% of Australian General Practitioner's have referred their patients for acupuncture in the past 12 months alone. This is likely a result of the growing body of research. New British research demonstrates that acupuncture can relieve anxiety in dental patients and help with postoperative pain. A 2009 Swedish study found that polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can be relieved through the use of electro-acupuncture. Chicago researchers found acupuncture may be an effective alternative treatment to antidepressants for depression during pregnancy. A recent trial in breast cancer patients in Norway found acupuncture treatment resulted in a 50% reduction in hot flashes. Randomized controlled trials have demonstrated acupuncture's effectiveness in reducing tension headaches by half and ensuring fewer headaches after 3 mo. of treatment when compared to routine drug treatment.
Acknowledging the fact that acupuncture, more often then not, does what it claims, researchers have begun setting up experiments to understand how it works. Researchers used MRI to analyze changes that occurred in the brain when subjected to various stimuli. They discovered that a visual stimulus such as shining a flash light in the eye produced a strikingly similar response to inserting a needle in an acupuncture point believed to benefit the eyes. Both stimuli produced cerebrovascular excitation local to the visual center (occipital lobe) of the brain. Similar results were produced when using an auditory stimulus and a point believed to be beneficial for the ears, each response residing in the hearing center (temporal lobe) of the brain. This finding was monumental because, above and beyond proving acupunctures influence on neurology, it demonstrates specific point location in acupuncture as preferential to the associated cortex of the brain. Additionally a common point used for stress and anxiety has been shown to improve memory and increase reactivity of the long-term memory center of the brain (hippocampus) following chronic mild stress-induced memory loss. This may play a role beyond stress-induced memory loss because in Alzheimer's the hippocampus is one of the first regions of the the brain to suffer damage. Therefore acupuncture at that specific location may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's.
Now is an exciting time for medicine. A time for the appropriate integration of TCM with the acute sophistication of western medicine. Soon there will be improved choice afforded ER patients seeking drug-free solutions to pain. Acupuncture has proven and continues to prove its value as a cost-effective stand alone pain treatment, as well as a dynamic complement to standard therapy.
Let today be your day to live your life pain free! Contact a doctor with a minimum of a Masters level training in TCM and acupuncture to learn how these powerful treatments will benefit you.