Medically unexplained symptoms can be distressing for both the patient and the doctor. And the number of problems that medical professionals have not diagnosed may be surprisingly high: About one in five patients have symptoms that remain unexplained by conventional medicine, according to The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry. What's more, the cost of managing this type of treatment can be twice that of a patient with a diagnosis.
However, acupuncture has been shown to have a significant and sustained benefit for patients without a specific explanation for their problems, according to the Institute of Health Services Research, Peninsula Medical School and University of Exeter.
Researchers carried out a randomized control trail along with an interview study with 80 patients, 80 percent of whom were females age 50 and older. Almost 60 percent reported musculoskeletal health problems, of which almost two-thirds had been present for a year.
The patients were split randomly into either an acupuncture or control group. Individuals in the acupuncture group received up to 12 sessions of five-element acupuncture over 26 weeks, whereas the same number of treatments were made available to the control group after 26 weeks.
The acupuncture group reported a significantly improved level of well-being compared with the control group, noting a decrease of long-standing symptoms such as chronic pain, fatigue and emotional problems that they said affected their ability to work, socialize or carry out everyday tasks.
"Our research indicates that the addition of up to 12 five-element acupuncture consultations to the usual care experienced by the patients in the trial was feasible and acceptable and resulted in improved overall well-being that was sustained for up to a year," Dr. Charlotte Paterson, the leader of the randomized control trial and the longitudinal study of patients' experiences, said in a press release. The research is published in the British Journal of General Practice.
Acupuncture comes from ancient Chinese practitioners that dates back thousands of years. It is largely reflective of Oriental medicine, compared to Western medicine. Though focused on more herbal, mind-body techniques instead of pills and procedures, acupuncture is being incorporated into many U.S. hospitals as an effective healing treatment for a number of health conditions.
One of the participating patients, who preferred to go unnamed, was thrilled about the improvement.
"The energy is the main thing I have noticed. I had to reduce my medication. That's the big help actually, because medication was giving me more trouble…[and] side effects"; and "It kind of boosts you, somehow or another."