Acupuncture is well known for pain relief, but it does so much more than just stop pain.
This article explores the benefits of acupuncture as a treatment and the benefits of seeing a Chinese medicine practitioner who may practice other things along side the acupuncture such as herbs, Chinese massage, cupping and /or moxibustion. How are these things related and whats the benefit of seeing a Chinese medicine doctor.
Firstly, there is alot of research supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture for certain conditions. The most comprehensive comparative review (means a review of other studdies/research projects) of acupuncture for specific conditions was conducted in Australia, called the Acupuncture Evidence project
The Acupuncture Evidence project found “positive effect” in
- migraine prophylaxis (reducing the severity /onset of migraines in known sufferers)
- chronic low back pain
- allergic rhinitis
- knee osteoarthritis
- chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
- post-operative nausea and vomiting and post-operative pain
What this means is that in a research setting, where participants are treated with the same treatment protocol as much as possible, (one of the ways to reduce bias), that acupuncture is shown to have a positive effect in treatment of the above conditions. Research shows that the effect is not just due to a placebo.
Does this mean that those eight conditions are the only things acupuncture is effective at treating?
No, there are many other conditions that acupuncture may be of benefit in treating, either we have inconclusive or lack of research of these conditions or the current research can show ineffectiveness.
One important thing to remember when using research to weigh up whether you should choose acupuncture as a treatment is that in real life, an acupuncturist treats a person not a disease. The treatment is ALOT more specific than applying one treatment protocol for a particular disease
Many research projects do not take into account the differences in patients that a Chinese medicine practitioner does, such as pulse diagnosis, and other individual variations. This is often a big gap between “real life practice” and a research trial.
Research projects will never be able to fully appreciate /capture the individualized nature of true Chinese Medicine practice. However, the Acupuncture evidence project provides a good starting point for people with these eight conditions, we have the most evidence to support the use of acupuncture for a positive effect.
What are the other benefits of acupuncture?
A good acupuncturist will seek to help their patients in general health as well as the main complaint they seek help for. Sleep, digestion/bowels, mental health, energy are common areas that acupuncture may have an inadvertent effect upon.
When the body is out of balance, after a while, it’s not just one thing that gets affected. For example, pain can often affect sleep, which in turn affects your bodies repair ability, perpetuating the cycle of pain —> insomnia–> poor healing –> pain doesn’t go away –> more insomnia.
Being under the care of a Chinese medicine practitioner, patients may experience improvement in health, including an overall general sense of wellbeing, sleep, digestion or other aspects of your health that might seem unrelated to your main complaint.
Mental health benefits include an often instantaneous feeling during acupuncture ranging from relaxation to a “high” feeling. Patients often report feeling good, relaxed, peaceful, sleepy, zoned-out during and after the treatment. A relaxed sensation can linger for up to a day after the treatment. Negative feelings/emotions such as worry often go away during an acupuncture treatment and can lessen for a period of time after the treatment.
Being under the care of an Acupuncturist means you can often simultaneously access other aspects of Chinese medicine – the same diagnostic system of Chinese medicine is used for the practice of cupping, moxibustion, gua sha, tui na Chinese massage and Chinese herbal medicine.
What about the risks of acupuncture?
Acupuncture, when performed by a qualified professional, can be a safe and effective therapeutic technique with many benefits. Any treatment where the skin is penetrated, such as acupuncture, carries risks. A risk means there is a chance that an adverse event can occur. Common adverse events can be bleeding at the site of the acupuncture, bruising, an unwanted sensation like pain or lingering tingling, or numbness. If dull-ache, tingling or numbness occurs after the treatment this can be part of the normal effects of acupuncture which lasts up to 24hours. In rare cases there can be a lingering sensation at the site of the acupuncture point for longer. We encourage you to speak with your practitioner about any concerns relating to your treatment, there are things your practitioner can do to adjust the treatment on an individual basis.
As with all medical treatments, acupuncture can have risks and side effects. This is why a professional diagnosis is so important. Practitioners spend many years training in diagnosis and therapeutic technique, and this professional judgement is part of the individualized approach of acupuncture. Your practitioner will be able to discuss your specific treatment protocol with you before commencing treatment, as well as explaining the risks of the treatment before commencing each part of it.
In Australia, Chinese herbal medicine is a separate registered practice by AHPRA to acupuncture. While many acupuncturists are registered herbalist, not all are…so its good to check that your practitioner is registered to practice herbs before prescribing them to you. You can check a practitioners registration with AHPRA here.
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: Marie Hopkinson
Marie Hopkinson is a Chinese Medicine Practitioner, Practicing from her clinic in North Perth, WA- METRO HEALTH AND MEDICINE. Marie can be consulted for appointments, while in-person is preferred, Email /phone consultations can be arranged. Marie has been practicing since 2000, completing initial 3-year course in Chinese Medicine at the Perth Academy of Natural Therapies in WA. Marie has been to China for additional training in the Hangzhou Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital (Hangzhou Shi Zhong Yi Yuan) twice as well as completing a Master of International Health at Curtin University in 2006. Marie is passionate about the effective practice and understanding of Chinese Medicine and enjoys the opportunity to educate patients about the benefits of self-help aspects such as diet therapy, as well as teaching Chinese Medicine at the Endeavour College of Natural Health.
For more info about booking an appointment with Marie CLICK HERE.
For more info about conditions treated with Acupuncture, and Chinese Herbal Medicine CLICK HERE.
As with any health problem, we recommend seeking appropriate medical attention, professional diagnosis and immediate emergency help if you have undiagnosed pain or symptoms particularly if the symptoms are escalating (getting worse and worse). If you see a practitioner at Metro health and Medicine they may also refer you to a western medicine doctor (GP or hospital) as appropriate. This blog is not intended to replace a medical treatment or consultation.