Acupuncture is a type of ancient therapy used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) based on the belief that the body consists of microsystems called “meridians” and that by accessing these through needles; the body’s homeostasis or “qi” can be restored. Acupuncture has been shown to be useful for numerous health conditions, and its effectiveness has been replicated in current research. So, why would someone want needles stuck into them? Well, for a short-term puncture you can experience a multitude of benefits in your health. Read below to see how acupuncture can help you.
Migraines and tension headaches can have quite an impact on quality of life, and reliance on pain-relievers can become the norm. A recent systematic review found that regular acupuncture was successful in reducing headache frequency similar to prophylactic drugs, and in some studies was more effective.1 It was shown to be helpful in both treating migraine attacks and preventing the frequency of them in the future.
Pain syndromes: Osteoarthritis, Musculoskeletal & Neuralgia
The literature for the use of acupuncture and pain management such as arthritis, musculoskeletal and nerve injuries is vast and growing. Acupuncture has been associated with significant reductions in pain intensity, improved functional mobility and quality of life in patients with osteoarthritis.2 As for nerve pain or neuralgia, acupuncture was more effective than drugs in the treatment of sciatica,3 and has been used widely for the treatment of diabetic and chemotherapy induced-neuropathy and carpal tunnel syndrome. Acupuncture was shown to be more effective than placebo in providing short-term relief from other musculoskeletal injuries such as rotator cuff syndrome (shoulder pain).4 This data proves acupuncture to be an effective, safe and affordable technique from either chronic or acute pain syndromes.
Hormonal concerns: Menopause and Menstrual disorders
Acupuncture for the use of hot flashes and other vasomotor symptoms (night sweats, flushes, vaginal dryness) proves to be a well-researched and effective treatment method. A meta-analysis confirmed that acupuncture reduces the frequency and severity of hot flashes, menopause-related symptoms, and improves quality of life in menopausal women.5 Other menstrual disorders such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and premenstrual syndrome/premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMS, PMDD) have been shown to improve with acupuncture therapy.6,7 Due to the fact that menopause can have a severe impact on the quality of life factor, implementing a therapy such as acupuncture could help ease this normal transition in a woman’s life. There is limited treatment for menstrual concerns such as PMS, so therapies that provide alterative and longstanding relief are warranted.
Mental Health: Anxiety, Depression & Insomnia
A recent randomized control trial found that bi-weekly acupuncture sessions significantly improved quality of life parameters such as physical function, pain, energy, social and emotional function in patients with depression.8 Another study found that acupuncture restored nighttime sleep and improved daytime energy in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and depressive insomnia.9 These findings provide huge implications for acupuncture in the relief and management of common anxiety and depression symptoms. It also would prove to be a useful co-therapy to improve the effectiveness of conventional therapies such as anti-depressants, counseling and cognitive based therapies, and also a safe one due to lack of interaction with pharmaceutical interventions.
Gastrointestinal disorders: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Nausea
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a difficult digestive disorder to treat due to its multifactorial nature. Stress/emotional triggers, various foods and other underlying gastrointestinal imbalances are commonly involved. Acupuncture was found to outperform the drug alternative (pinaverium bromide) in reducing abdominal pain and other bowel disturbances in a Chinese study10. Nausea is another debilitating symptom that is a frequent side effect of chemotherapy, and is also part of morning sickness. Pericardium 6, the acupuncture point located below the wrist, has been most widely studied for nausea and motion sickness, and has proven to be an effective therapy in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in particular.11
Given that acupuncture is a relatively safe, cost-effective, and highly applicable therapy, it should definitely be considered in the treatment of various common health concerns ranging from pain and headaches, women’s health, mental health and digestive disorders.
Naturopathic Doctors are commonly trained in acupuncture therapy and are capable of selecting specific acupuncture points that have been shown to be helpful for each unique concern. Using Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory, such as the knowledge of meridians and point actions, combined with current scientific evidence, acupuncture is a highly effective treatment tool.
- Linde K et al (2016). Acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraine. Cochrane Database Sys Rev. Jun 28;(6):CD001218. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27351677
- Manyanga et al (2014). Pain management with acupuncture in osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complement Altern Med. Aug 23;14:312. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25151529
- Qin et al (2015). Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Treating Sciatica: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26576192
- Green, Buchbiner, Hetrick (2005). Acupuncture for shoulder pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. Apr 18;(2). Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15846753
- Chiu et al (2015). Effects of acupuncture on menopause-related symptoms and quality of life in women in natural menopause: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Menopause. Feb;22(2):234-44. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25003620
- Jiang et al (2015). Infertility in polycystic ovary syndrome treated with acupuncture and clomiphene: a randomized controlled trial. Zhongguo Zhen Jui. Feb;35(2):114-8. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25854013
- Jang, Kim, Choi (2014). Effects and treatment methods of acupuncture and herbal medicine for premenstrual syndrome/premenstrual dysphoric disorder: systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med. Jan 10;14:11. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24410911
- Fan et al (2016). Curative effect of acupuncture on quality of life in patients with depression: a clinical randomized single-blind placebo-controlled study. Apr;36(2):151-9. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27400468
- Acupuncture Rivals Antidepressants For Insomnia and Depression (2016). HealthCMi. Healthcare Medicine Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1597-acupuncture-rivals-antidepressants-for-insomnia-and-depression
- Acupuncture Relieves Irritable Bowel Syndrome, IBS. Acupuncture Continuing Education. HealthCMi. Healthcare Medicine Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1554-acupuncture-relieves-irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs
- Rithirangsrirok, Manchana & Akkayagorn (2015). Efficacy of acupuncture in prevention of delayed chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting in gynecologic cancer patients. Gynecol Oncol. Jan; 136(1):82-6. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25449310
Dr. Kaitlyn Zorn, HBSc., ND., is a Registered Naturopathic Doctor practicing in Guelph, Ontario, at Healing Foundations Naturopathic Clinic. Kaitlyn considers herself a general family practitioner, seeing a variety of concerns, however, has a keen interest in mental health (stress, anxiety & depression), hormonal imbalances (women’s health, adrenal & thyroid conditions) and digestive concerns (food sensitivities, bloating, indigestion). She can work with you to reduce your stress, balance hormones and improve digestion alongside providing a treatment plan that is individualized for your unique concern. Most importantly, Kaitlyn helps to empower you to be your best self so you can live your life to the fullest. Did you know that most extended coverage plans offer some coverage for naturopathic services? Look into yours today and book either a complimentary 15-minute Meet & Greet or an Initial Consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay in the loop with Kaitlyn by following her on Instagram: @drkaitlynzorn.nd and Facebook: www.facebook.com/drkaitlynzornguelph/