Interesting Facts About Acupuncture

published in the Green Valley News & Sun, December 2009

It is difficult for consumers to make informed choices relative to available health care modalities and products partly because the media, lay people, professionals and vendors promote inaccurate information about health care services and products. We are also challenged by the fact that the authorities and researchers often disagree on the efficacies of many medical procedures, surgeries, pharmaceuticals, vitamins, herbs, and complementary medicine. It should be noted that just because science does not understand something doesn't render it inappropriate or ineffective. Aspirin, for example, still worked to diminish inflammation despite the fact that only recently has research discovered the mechanism. Following are some facts about Acupuncture, the purpose of which is to help people make informed choices about their health care needs.

Fact #1: Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine has received more free publicity than any other health care modality in the history of the United States. Acupuncture gained attention in the United States when President Nixon visited China in 1972. Traveling with Nixon was New York Times reporter James Reston, who received acupuncture in China after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. Reston was so impressed with the post-operative pain relief he experienced from the procedure that he wrote about acupuncture upon returning to the United States.

Fact #2: In an official report, Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials, the WHO (World Health Organization) has listed the following symptoms, diseases and condition that have been shown through controlled trials to be treated effectively by acupuncture:

- low back pain
- neck pain
- sciatica
- tennis elbow
- knee pain
- periarthritis of the shoulder
- sprains
- facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
- headache
- dental pain
- tempromandibular (TMJ) dysfunction
- rheumatoid arthritis
- induction of labor
- correction of malposition of fetus (breech presentation)
- morning sickness
- nausea and vomiting
- postoperative pain
- stroke
- essential hypertension
- primary hypotension
- renal colic
- leucopenia
- adverse reactions to radiation or chemotherapy
- allergic rhinitis, including hay fever
- biliary colic
- depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
- acute bacillary dysentery
- primary dysmenorrhea
- acute epigastralgia
- peptic ulcer
- acute and chronic gastritis

The foregoing list is absolute concerning acupuncture's effectiveness; however the report continues with three more categories:

  1. Diseases, symptoms and conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown, but further proof is needed (68 specific conditions). These conditions are effectively treated as in the first category; it's just that more trials are necessary to establish the proof scientifically.
  2. Diseases, symptoms and conditions reporting some therapeutic effects for which acupuncture is worth trying (nine conditions).
  3. Diseases, symptoms and conditions in which acupuncture may be tried, provided the practitioner has special modern medical knowledge and adequate monitoring equipment (eight conditions).

In all, The World Health Organization recognizes over 200 health conditions effectively treated with acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Detailed information is available on World Health Organization's website on Traditional medicine and Acupuncture.

Fact #3: China Beijing International Acupuncture Training Center (CBIATC) is affiliated with the Institute of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine and is designated as one of the collaborating centers for Traditional Medicine in China by the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) CBIATC is affiliated with 17 major hospitals in Beijing.

Fact #4: The following was compiled by the Institute of Information on Traditional Chinese Medicine, Beijing.

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, a series of principles and policies have been formulated by the government to protect and promote traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The policy of "Developing modern medicine and traditional Chinese medicine" was officially put down in the Constitution. To meet the needs of developing TCM, the state Council established the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine(SATCM) in 1987.

According to statistical data of 1993, it is estimated that there are now 2,457 specialized traditional Chinese hospitals including 39 TCM-Western medicine (WM) integrated hospitals and 129 nationality medicine hospitals. Traditional Chinese medicine hospitals have been established in 75% of the counties across the country. TCM departments, with 35,000 ward beds, have been set up in over 95% of the general hospitals. The difficulty to seek TCM treatment in rural areas has been preliminarily solved. Throughout the country, the traditional Chinese hospitals have 222,000 ward beds and 249,000 TCM doctors; and they have trained a large number of senior TCM- WM doctors and nationality medicine doctors. The hospitals have annually treated 200, 000,000 outpatients and 2,700,000 inpatients. Some hospitals and specialists have got great breakthroughs in the treatment of cardio -cerebro-vascular diseases, hematopathy, immunologic disease, cataract, fractures, acute abdomen, calculus of urinary system, tumor , dermatopathy, anorectal diseases, gynecological diseases and pediatric disease.

TCM has not only systematic theory but also plentiful therapeutically methods including medical Qigong and dietotherapy. It is warmly welcomed by the Chinese people, and has attracted much attention from the people all over the world.

Fact #4: The number of hospitals in the United States offering acupuncture has steadily increased over the past decade. Winchester Hospital in Winchester, Massachusetts; St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo, Wisconsin; St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, just to name a few.

Fact #5: The U.S. military was introduced to acupuncture during the Vietnam War, when local physicians were allowed to administer acupuncture to Vietnamese patients at a U.S. Army surgical hospital. Most recently, Col. Richard Niemtzow, an Air Force physician began a program in 2001 termed "battlefield acupuncture". Air Force, Navy and Army doctors are taking acupuncture to the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan as part of emergency care in combat and in frontline hospitals. Acupuncture is offered at Walter Reed Hospital, McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, Malcolm Grow Medical Center at Andrews, and other Air Force bases in this country and in Germany.

Fact #6: The University of Michigan published results of a study in Journal of NeuroImage. Researchers at U-M Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center showed acupuncture increased the binding availability of mu-opioid receptors in regions of the brain that process and weaken pain signals -- specifically the cingulate, insula, caudate, thalamus and amygdala. By directly stimulating these chemicals, acupuncture can affect the brain's long-term ability to regulate pain. "The increased binding availability of these receptors was associated with reductions in pain," said Richard Harris, a researcher at the center.

Fact #7: As of 2004, nearly 50% of Americans who were enrolled in employer health insurance plans were covered for acupuncture treatments. (Report: Insurance Coverage for Acupuncture on the Rise. Michael Devitt, Acupuncture Today, January, 2005, Vol. 06, Issue 01; The Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust Employer Health Benefits 2004 Annual Survey, pp. 106-107 ISBN 0-87258-812-2). Not only do many commercial insurance companies (including Kaiser-Permanente) offer an acupuncture benefit, also, Worker's Compensation (depending on the State), and Personal Injury insurance companies often pay for acupuncture service.

Fact #8: There are approximately 50 accredited acupuncture schools in the U.S. offering Masters Degrees in Oriental Medicine. Many of these schools are gearing up to offer doctoral programs in Oriental Medicine. There are several programs offering medical acupuncture for physicians including UCLA School of Medicine, McMaster University School of Medicine, New York Medical College and Helms Medical Institute. Many schools of Veterinarian medicine offer acupuncture courses.
Fact #9: Many States consider acupuncturist Primary Health Care Professionals and license them as: Doctor of Oriental Medicine (DOM), or Oriental Medical Doctor (OMD).

Fact #10: Acupuncture is used in more than 20 states in over 800 drug dependency programs. Patients who go through these programs have lower re-arrest rates on drug related charges than those not treated with acupuncture. Miami-Dade County drug offenders have the choice of acupuncture or jail.

Fact #11: Space limits the inclusion of a detailed explanation of Oriental Medical Theory, but simplistically described: The ancient Chinese observed two fundamental energies in nature that manifest in the human body. They are the polar opposite, interdependent, inner consuming, and inner transforming energies called Yin and Yang. Yin energy relates to female, internal, solid organs of the body, cold, sinking, deep, blood and body fluids, structure, night time, earth, quiescent and much more. Yang energy relates to male, external, hollow organs of the body, hot, raising, superficial, vital air (oxygen), function, daytime, sky, activity and much more. Illness occurs when the Yin and Yang energies in the body are out of balance. An Oriental Medical diagnosis describes and treats these imbalances in the body. Yin and Yang energy are not assigned a "good" or "bad" designation anymore than night is bad and day is good, or cold is bad and hot is good, and so forth.

The following image is published on the U.S. National Institutes of Health website,

Fact #12: Your local Acupuncturist can provide accurate information about this invaluable and effective health care service.

For more information about how acupuncture can help you, please contact Bobbie.

Bobbie Rene Parke,
M.Ac.O.M., L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.

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