New Acupuncture Research

Conventional medical sources regularly publish promising research on acupuncture.  In this blog, we will review some studies that have appeared in the last two months.

According to an article from March 14th, research done at Taipei Medical University in Taiwan demonstrated the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating tumor and cancer surgery related pain.  The sizable meta-analysis reviewed 36 randomized, controlled trials that involved a total of 2,213 patients.  Researchers found that acupuncture was effective in managing the pain due to cancer surgeries and cancerous neoplasms.  Although the meta-analysis failed to show that acupuncture improved pain due to chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or radiation treatment, the Medscape article included reports from several acupuncturists at large U.S. cancer care centers where most patients report pain reduction when acupuncture is used to treat the side effects of cancer treatments.  In fact, acupuncture has proven so effective in providing better quality of life to cancer patients that a subspecialty called oncology acupuncture is being created.

The big news in acupuncture last month was a much publicized article on acupuncture care for migraine sufferers.  Featured on Medscape on February 24th, research conducted at Chengdu University of TCM demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in migraine frequency and severity with true acupuncture compared to sham acupuncture.  Treatment consisted of daily acupuncture treatments for 5 days with a 2-day hiatus each week.  The complete course of care lasted 4 weeks for a total of 20 acupuncture sessions.   There were no serious adverse effects reported, and patients enjoyed benefits for twenty weeks after treatment.  Compare this to the use of regular Botox injections which can cost hundreds or, even, thousands of dollars and may result in a variety of minor to severe side effects.

According to a February 13th article, even the American College of Physicians has joined the growing body of acupuncture proponents.  Their new guidelines, published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine, recommend acupuncture for nonradicular lower back pain.  The authors selected therapies that were low risk and low cost, criteria that very much describe the nature of acupuncture care.  Other therapies featured in the guidelines include mindfulness-based stress reduction and tai ji (t'ai ch'i).  

Stay tuned for more mainstream research validating the effectiveness of Chinese medical care.  For those of us who are familiar with Chinese medical care, generations of empirical experience has more than confirmed the tremendous value of traditional Chinese medicine.  New research, however, adds to our understanding and opens doors for new ways to incorporate these ancient therapies into modern practice.