Acupuncture has helped with medically unexplained symptoms.

Acupuncture Treatments Useful for Unexplained Symptoms

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."

Acupuncture can jumpstart the body's healing responses following surgery.

Acupuncture Healing: Before and After Surgery

No one looks forward to surgery, but in some cases, it is the best alternative. There's little doubt that both sides of the process – before and after surgery – can be a physical as well as an emotional challenge. So, for help along the way, many patients have been exploring acupuncture, which has been shown to decrease postoperative pain and reduce stress. 

Ilchi Lee points out that acupuncture, a component of traditional Chinese medicine, has been used for more than 3,000 years. In the last few decades, the technique has been rising in popularity in the U.S. and Western world, as physicians and patients better understand its healing perks. 

Calming Down
It's very common for people to feel nervous in the days leading up surgery. This is where acupuncture enters the picture. Schedule an appointment about one week before to help calm you down and even improve sleep, something many struggle with prior to a procedure. Research indicates that by stimulating blood flow in the body and establishing an aura of Zen, acupuncture can induce a better night's sleep. As counterintuitive as it may seem, these needles could help get you off of those pins and needles.

Pain Relief After Surgery
One of the biggest and most critical acupuncture benefits is that it can decrease postoperative pain and side effects. In a study led by Duke University Medical Center, using acupuncture before and after surgery significantly reduced the level of pain and discomfort. As a result, patients did not need as many potent painkillers after the surgery was over, according to anesthesiologists who combined data from 15 small randomized acupuncture clinical trials. 

"Acupuncture is slowly becoming more accepted by American physicians, but it is still underutilized," Dr. Tong Joo Gan, a Duke anesthesiologist, said in a press release. "Studies like this, which show that there is a benefit to using it, should help give physicians sitting on the fence the data they need to integrate acupuncture into their routine care of surgery patients."

Scar Therapy
Furthermore, the ancient Chinese technique aids in healing scars. Whenever there is a rupture, tear or purposeful cut of any layers of the epidermis, the skin must undergo a cellular renewal to repair the damaged area. In this way, surgeries may lead to scarring. To counter this effect, professionals have employed acupuncture in the treatment of scars, as the insertion of needles jumpstarts the body's healing response.

The venom from honeybees has proven a promising painkiller when merged with acupuncture.

Learning About Bee Venom Acupuncture

It may sound counterintuitive, but bee venom acupuncture can actually help patients suffering from painful conditions. Not only does the herbal acupuncture exert pharmacological actions from the bioactive compounds isolated from bee venom, it also serves a mechanical function via acupuncture stimulation.

Although venom produced by honeybees is harmful in large quantities, a small dose may work to relieve pain and help patients recover, much like how some vaccines contain a form of the bacteria itself to help boost a person's immune system.

While bee venom treatment is still relatively rare in the U.S., it's growing in popularity especially in South Korea. In fact, BVA has been used as a type of therapy in eastern Asia since the second century B.C., according to NCBI. The venom ?requires a subcutaneous injection of diluted venom to be administered on acupoints for stimulation.

Research published in the National Institutes of Health suggested that BVA has anti-inflammatory powers and can be helpful for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, cervical disc protrusion and progressive muscle atrophy, among others. 

Let's focus on rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that's characterized by joint disability. When BVA was used on patients dealing with arthritis, the treatment was shown to reduce inflammation and provide relief from pain. In medical terms, this is called analgesic. Since arthritis patients may have limited mobility, experiencing difficulty in everyday tasks like writing or walking, bee venom extract may fall in line with one of the many acupuncture benefits. 

A small new study, presented at a medical conference in June, showed that BVA acupuncture improved symptoms in people with Parkinson's disease. It is one of the first studies of its kind. Many of the symptoms from Parkinson's – namely, muscle spasms – develop when brain cells that create the chemical dopamine are destroyed. 

Dr. Seong-Uk Park told WebMD that acupuncture may help by increasing dopamine levels. It may also enhance the effects of the Parkinson's drug L-dopa while simultaneously lessening the drug's side effects. 

The study involved 35 patients with Parkinson's who had been on a stable dose of medication for at least a month. One group received regular acupuncture, the second received bee venom acupuncture and the last group received neither. 

Parkinson's symptoms improved in almost every patient. 

Ilchi Lee, a big proponent of acupuncture treatments, points out that while BVA proves a promising painkiller, it still requires further research.

Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy is a procedure to measure blood disorders.

Acupuncture Reduces Bone Marrow Biopsy Pain

We have long known that pain relief is one of most-cited acupuncture benefits. From standard knee injuries to chemotherapy improvements, acu-needles stimulate blood flow and help the injured area recover. A new study explored the effects of electroacupuncture to lower pain during bone marrow aspiration and biopsy.

Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy (BMA/BMB) is painful procedure mainly used in diagnosing a wide spectrum of blood diseases, including sickle-cell disease, iron deficiency anemia and myelodysplastic syndrome. BMA/BMB accurately measures red and white blood cells and platelets. Although the procedure already utilizes local anesthesia to lower pain, study authors wanted to test the potential acupuncture.

For the research, 50 patients were randomly put into two groups, one of which received electrical stimulation of acupoints while the other received a placebo. Both groups had local anesthesia, and the pain level was gauged with a visual analog scale. 

The acupuncture group showed a significantly lower level of pain compared to the placebo group. What's more, when asked if they would use BMA/BMB again in the future, all of the patients responded positively. Both pain-related complications and pain caused by BMA/BMB were reduced by electrical stimulation, according to the researchers, whose results were published in the journal Advanced Biomedical Research.

Acupuncture, which has been used for thousands of years in China, also helped to control blood pressure and pulse rates during the exam. While patients receiving the Chinese technique had lower systolic blood pressure and pulse rates, the placebo group had significantly greater increases of systolic blood pressure and pulse rates.

As a result, the researchers recommend acupuncture for dropping pain during bone marrow aspiration and biopsy. 

Other Applications
In addition to biopsies, electroacupuncture has proved useful to relieve pain and discomfort during colonoscopies and oral surgery. One of the major acupoints commonly chosen for these procedures is Hegu (LI 4), the spot between the thumb and pointer finger. 

"Electro acupuncture at Hegu (LI 4) induces central neural activation in the? pain-modulation areas, like the periaqueduct gray matter and the median raphe nucleus," the study authors wrote. 

The president of the International Brain Education Association, Ilchi Lee, calls to attention that there are a number of acupuncture healing treatments that many work for a variety of different patients, whether suffering from blood disorders or everyday injuries. 

A professional uses a gentle healing device to stimulate blood flow and reduce tension in the knee.

Acupressure Points for Self-Care

Acupressure is an ancient healing technique that uses the fingers to press key healing points, which stimulate blood flow and kick-start the body's natural self-healing abilities. 

Indeed, it sounds a lot like acupuncture, and that's because they are related. Both focus on the same pressure points and meridians spread throughout the body, yet while acupuncture employs needles, acupressure uses finger pressure. Ilchi Lee, a master of meditation and founder of Dahn Yoga, says that when these acupressure points are triggered, they help promote the circulation of blood, release muscular tension and allow one to feel deep relaxation. Through all of these methods, ancient Chinese practitioners believed these arts to enhance the flow of energy (chi) in the body. Try them at home for a great healing treatment. 

Upper and Lower Back
Since back problems are a leading cause of disability around the world, many people look to acupressure for simple relief. Important acupoints are located along each side of the spine and upper back. For some self-back care, it doesn't have to be difficult. Try placing two to three tennis balls in a tube sock. Then lay down on them, rolling gently back and forth. Many people can feel their tighter spots or knots release. This is one simple method, and the results may be surprising. In fact, acupressure and chiropractic treatments were originally practiced together in China thousands of years ago. 

Hands and Wrist
If you have pain in your hands, stretch out the fingers by softly pulling each digit forward and back with the other hand. Then work on the wrist. Once the hand feels loose, hone in on acupoints along the palm, wrist or wherever aches. Rub tiny circles with your opposite thumbs, spending as much time as you'd like to stimulate blood flow. Another technique is the "caterpillar walk," where the thumb inches forward like a caterpillar. Think of it as a self-massage. Do not continue if it hurts. 

Legs
Acupressure points on the legs and feet are used for a variety of conditions from digestive problems to stress to hot flashes. You may choose to focus on the spleen meridian, located directly on the posterior border of the tibia. You can find it by sliding your finger along the inside of the tibia up from the ankle with about four fingers width. 

Stomach
For those who deal with stomach aches, incorporating acupressure points might be able to help. With your thumb, press down on the halfway point between the base of the rib cage and the belly button. This has been cited to relieve stomach pains, indigestion and heartburn. 

One woman gets acupuncture treatments for her upper back.

Convincing the Acupuncture Skeptics

Despite acupuncture's shift into the Western mainstream within the last few decades, there are still plenty of skeptics. Many doubt its effectiveness to heal and reduce pain. However, perhaps they should talk to the 14 million Americans, including military personnel and gold medal-winning Olympic athletes, who have used the ancient Chinese technique to treat pain. 

A large body of research indicates that acupuncture can serve as an effective form of pain management, with some studies finding it even more beneficial than pain-relieving drugs. Even health insurance plans have been known to cover the healing treatment – one of the few so-called complimentary or alternative medicine approaches accepted by them.

Acupuncture is made up of a network of meridian points, sort of like veins, that run throughout the body where one's chi, or energy, flows. By inserting the small needles on these energy-carrying channels, it is believed that the needles correct the body's energy imbalances. Anatomically, these meridian points coincide with trigger points, spots on the body where pain radiates away from the center when pressed.

"Trigger points are widely accepted in modern medicine and one thought is that acupuncture may ease the stress on trigger points thereby lessening pain in that area," Dr. Houman Danesh, director of integrative pain management at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, told ABC. 

Furthermore, meridian points track closely to major nerve centers. Danesh and other doctors explain that the needles may stimulate the nerves, kick-starting blood flow that help the sore spot heal faster. It does this because blood delivers oxygen and essential nutrients while eliminating toxins. The needles may also trigger the release of endorphins, or feel-good chemicals. People who are in pain often have low levels of endorphins, which can be counteracted by the endorphins that can suppress the sensation of pain.

"I've had lots of skeptics come in for treatment and when they get better, they believe," Danesh told the source.

Many people also argue that acupuncture has a placebo effect, where the recipients trick themselves into believing acupuncture benefits, so there is an actual improvement in the condition. But placebo or not, Danesh said he doesn't care why it works, so long as it does.

Ilchi Lee, the president of the International Brain Education Association, agrees that there may be both psychological as well as physiological responses to acupuncture.

Dry needling is expected to boom in Arizona after the passing of the new legislation.

New Arizona Law Gives Dry Needling the Green Light

In April, Arizona passed a new law allowing dry needling, a variation of acupuncture that uses of thin needles to stimulate muscles, to be regulated as part of the accepted physical therapy practice.

The legislation was signed into law by governor Jan Brewer, and marks a big step forward since the Arizona Board of Physical Therapy approved dry needling as within the realm of practice for physical, yet said the board didn't have the power to make any rules for the practice. Now the bill, authored by senator Kelli Ward, requires the physical therapy board to make rules and standards for the practice by July 1, 2015. 

Acupuncture dates back thousands of years, and it involves inserting needles into specific pressure points on the body to improve health and treat illness, ranging from musculoskeletal and gastrointestinal issues to mental health, reproductive and gynecological issues. In this way, acupuncture offers a unique approach to one's well-being.

With that being said, there is a slight difference between acupuncture and dry needling. Acupuncture incorporates many different needling techniques. On the other hand, dry needling, also known as trigger point acupuncture, refers to only one of these techniques. That means a registered acupuncturist will be more qualified across the board on acupressure solutions while a licensed physical therapist will be qualified in only trigger point as well as muscle and joint rehabilitation exercises.

Either way, Sean Flanagan, a physical therapist who practices dry needling in Casa Grande, believes the new law is a great move that will benefit both practitioners and patients. 

"I think our Legislature did a really good job in being fair, and that's what this whole thing was about – to be fair and allow people to have a choice between traditional Chinese medicine and Western-based sciences," Flanagan told the Arizona Capitol Times.

Step in the Right Direction
In the larger picture, the passing of this Arizona represents a big win for the integration of acupuncture into Western society. It also reflects a wider shift of acupuncture entering the mainstream in the U.S. 

Ilchi Lee, a New York Times bestselling author and the founder of Dahn Yoga, has spent years researching acupressure points associated with acupuncture, through which one's chi, or energy flows. He finds that opening up any blockades to energy channels as well as stimulating injured muscles can speed recovery, allowing acupuncture to serve as a large benefit for the community as a whole.

A woman recovering from surgery.

Steering Clear of Hysterectomy Infections: Does Acupuncture Work?

Women may be on pins and needles before undergoing an hysterectomy procedure, but according to a new study, the needles used in acupuncture may be exactly what's needed to lower the risk of infection following the operation.

A hysterectomy involves removal of a woman's uterus, and a radical hysterectomy may affect urination while nerves in the region recover from surgery. The new clinical trial examined 120 women between the ages of 20 to 65, who were randomly divided into two groups: an acupuncture treatment group and a sham acupuncture control group, also known as a placebo form of acupuncture. None of the women had any prior acupuncture experience. 

The researchers initiated acupuncture on the sixth day following radical hysterectomy. They focused on points Sanyinjiao (right above the ankle), Zusanli (below the kneecap), Shuidao (belly) and scalp, with a needle insertion of 22 millimeters. Manual needle manipulation techniques were used to elicit deqi, often described as a sensation of soreness, pressure or heaviness. Deqi is essential for clinical efficacy according to traditional Chinese medicine. 

Patients also received electroacupuncture to a few acupressure points. Meanwhile, sham acupuncture employed the insertion of a single acupuncture point to a depth of 3 millimeters.

In contrast with the sham control group, the acupuncture treatment group showed a significant reduction of urinary tract infection. Patients reported improved bladder function in terms of bladder compliance, decreased bladder sensory loss, incontinence and flow rate after two weeks following the operation. 

"Acupuncture has positive effects on nerve regeneration process and provides an alternative treatment on nerve-injured patients," the researchers explained in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Thus, the researchers concluded that acupuncture in healing improves post-operative bladder function and drops the frequency of bladder disorder. They noted that both manual and electrical stimulation of the pudendal nerves may be responsible for the patient outcomes.

In addition, the investigative team cite other studies that needle acupoints below the kneecap and above the ankle to regulate neurotransmitters, including catecholamines. One physiologic purpose of the catecholamines is to aid in smooth muscle relaxation. They said this may play a role in the mechanisms of acupuncture to reduce post-operative complications.

Ilchi Lee, a New York Times best-selling author, adds out that acupuncture's healing benefits span beyond medical operations. Everyone from athletes to mailman to new mothers utilize the ancient Chinese technique to boost recovery times from injuries from work or recreational activities.

Acupuncture could be the key to reducing shoulder pain following surgery.

Acupuncture May Reduce Shoulder Pain After Surgery

New research has put another notch in the belt of acupuncture benefits. According to a study conducted at the department of surgery at the Bnai-Zion Medical Center in Israel, acupuncture was found effective at lowering pain after shoulder surgery. 

The focus of the study was to integrate acupuncture into conventional post-surgical pain intervention while producing the most effective method to combat pain. A total of 25 patients received acupuncture during a 14-moth period, and pressure points were customized for each individual based on traditional Chinese medicine diagnostics. 

The severity of shoulder pain, assessed with a Visual Analogue Scale from 0 to 10, was conducted prior to and two hours after acupuncture treatments. Typically after laparoscopic shoulder surgery, pain levels vary from 3 to 8, and lasts up to 72 hours after surgery. Doctors are still working on ways to lower discomfort, using current methods such as lying flat on the back with one's feet raised higher than the head and analgesic medications. However, these treatments have often proven unsatisfactory. 

So, locating specific acupressure points, researchers conducted dispersing needling for half an hour, balancing needling for 20 minutes and tonifying needling for 15 to 18 minutes. The total number of needles ranger for four to eight per treatment session. Deqi sensations, or the feeling of grabbing or pulling felt by both the patient and practitioner, were elicited at acupuncture points and needle stimulation techniques.

The patients' average pain level before receiving acupuncture was 8.3. Yet two hours after treatment, pain decreased by up to 20 percent. Nearly every patient showed improvement after the needles were removed, further underlying the effectiveness of acupuncture in healing.

Researchers have tackled several main issues associated with merging acupuncture into the traditional post-surgical setting. By comparing patients who took analgesic medications and those who received only acupuncture, acupuncture was differentiated and deemed more effective than than previous pain reduction interventions. 

While the research team favored individualized acupuncture point prescriptions based on differential diagnostics, they added that future investigation is needed to determine if the approach produces the most beneficial patient outcomes as well as easiest administrative integration. As they pointed out, this could be the beginning of incorporating the ancient medicine into modern-day practices.

The researchers concluded that acupuncture is both safe and effective, and no significant side effects occurred.

Ilchi Lee, a New York Times best-selling author, added that acupuncture can be a great outlet to lower pain for injuries that span beyond the shoulder, from backs to hands to elbows. Acupuncture has more than its fair share of healing purposes!

Those struggling with dementia could turn to acupuncture to try to ease their symptoms.

Acupuncture Could Reduce Vascular Dementia

A recent study has shown that acupuncture treatments may help patients with vascular dementia. Vascular dementia (VaD) is a syndrome caused by brain damage from cerebrovascular disease, where blood flow to the brain becomes altered. After Alzheimer's disease, VaD is the second-most common form of dementia. With people living longer than ever, VaD has become more prevalent, and patients who suffer from it have trouble with day-to-day functions such as memory, language, judgment and reasoning. So, according to the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, researchers turned to ancient Chinese medicine.

The preliminary study found that acupuncture had positive effects on mild and moderate VaD, significantly improving the cognitive and self-managing abilities of patients. The technique enhanced memory, comprehension, calculation ability and orientation of patients.

In the past, acupuncture in healing has been shown as an effective, safe and inexpensive physical therapeutic technique. The ancient Chinese medicine, which dates back thousands of years, has been used widely in a variety of forms.

For the actual study, VaD 63 patients were divided into three groups. The first was a randomized group that received acupuncture, the second was non-randomized acupuncture group that self-selected to undergo care. The third had rehabilitation training for six weeks. Using a CM scoring systems that weighs a range of syndromes of vascular dementia, researchers evaluated patient syndromes and severity before treatment, at the end of treatment and at the 4-week follow-up after completion of treatment.

Promising Results
The first two groups that had acupuncture treatment showed substantial improvement, whereas the rehab group did not. Fascinatingly, improvement in the acupuncture groups did not start until after the entire treatment regimen was completed. At the four week post-treatment follow-up, both acupuncture groups demonstrated notable improvements in the reduction of vascular dementia syndromes with the patients who opted for the treatment of their choice indicating the biggest steps forward. 

Patients who suffered from excess syndromes, particularly Liver Yang hyperactivity and phlegm obstruction of the orifices, made the most headway. On the other hand, those with deficiency syndromes, including kidney Jing deficiency, demonstrated the least improvements. 

The bottom line: Researchers highlighted that acupuncture treatments reduced the severity of VaD, placing it among the long list of acupuncture benefits.

Ilchi Lee,  the president of the International Brain Education Association, pointed out that whatever anything we can do to maintain mental clarity as we age should be seen as a step in the right direction. Slowing dementia's effects can both improve quality of life of the patient and lessen the burden on the family.