Acupuncture is a time honored healing art with a history dating back over 2000 years. Research performed in the last half-century has elucidated many of acupuncture’s mechanisms of action and sparked interest in its use as a low risk alternative to prescription drugs and invasive procedures.
As a medical acupuncturist, Dr. Martin has the distinction of being a board certified physician who specializes in acupuncture. His understanding of anatomy, physiology, and disease processes, along with his knowledge of the most up to date acupuncture research, enable him to apply the ancient healing techniques of acupuncture within the context of modern science.
Clinical trials support the value of acupuncture for a variety of conditions which include the following:
Acupuncture has been shown to balance the autonomic nervous system, reducing over activity of the sympathetic (fight or flight) arm, and stimulating the parasympathetic (calming) arm. As such, acupuncture should be beneficial in the treatment of anxiety.
Indeed a study of 40 patients with chronic, treatment resistant anxiety published in “Acupuncture in Medicine” in January 2015, found that 10 weeks of acupuncture resulted in significant reductions in anxiety scores.
Acupuncture appears to be of benefit for osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative arthritis) of the knee. It has not been widely studied for degenerative arthritis of other joints but likely is of benefit for locations other than the knee.
For Rheumatoid arthritis, 2 separate groups of researchers conducted detailed reviews of 8 randomized controlled trials and found beneficial effects for acupuncture in this condition.
Bell’s Palsy (facial nerve paralysis)
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Research has shown that acupuncture stimulates release of serotonin, norepinephrine and endorphins, and thus should have significant potential for treatment of depression.
Research appears to support this, with a number of studies showing that acupuncture reduces symptoms of depression.
Acupuncture can be effective as monotherapy (by itself) or when combined with traditional antidepressant medication. Indeed, some research suggests that acupuncture may enhance the response to SSRIs (antidepressant medicines such as paroxetine and fluoxetine), and thus may be most effective when administered in conjunction with SSRI therapy.Acupuncture also appears to be effective in the treatment of depression associated with pregnancy. This is of particular importance given questions about the safety of taking SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy.
Dry mouth (xerostomia)
One study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings in 2006 showed acupuncture produced significant benefit (as compared with simulated acupuncture) in a group of 25 patients suffering from fibromyalgia.Unfortunately a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2005 found that acupuncture was no better than sham acupuncture at relieving pain in fibromyalgia.
More studies are needed to settle the question of acupuncture’s usefulness for fibromyalgia.
Studies examining acupuncture’s benefits for post menopausal hot flashes have shown mixed results, with some reporting significant benefits and others finding no conclusive evidence for benefit.
Acupuncture appears to facilitate pregnancy by reducing stress.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Low back pain and sciatica
Multiple studies have demonstrated that acupuncture is effective for chronic low back pain. One of the largest of these was the “German Acupuncture Trials for Chronic Low Back Pain” published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2007. In this study, 1162 patients were randomly assigned to receive either acupuncture, “sham” acupuncture (superficial needling at non-traditional acupuncture points), or conventional therapy (medications, physical therapy, etc). Both acupuncture and sham acupuncture significantly outperformed conventional therapy after 6 months, with response rates of 48%, 42%, and 27% respectively. (Please see comments in the Acupuncture FAQs for insight as to why sham acupuncture often produces significant benefits).Results of 33 studies of acupuncture in lower back pain were pooled and analyzed in a paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2005. The authors concluded that for short term relief of chronic back pain, acupuncture is significantly more effective than simulated (placebo) acupuncture or no additional treatment.
Regarding acupuncture for sciatica, the results of 12 studies examining this issue were combined and analyzed in a review article published in August 2015 in the journal “Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine”. The authors concluded that acupuncture was more effective than conventional therapy in reducing sciatica pain but called for more trials with standardized methodologies to allow better comparison of results.
Nausea and vomiting
Multiple studies have demonstrated that acupuncture is effective for prevention of post-operative nausea and vomiting.A number of studies also report that acupuncture reduces chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting.
For pregnancy related nausea and vomiting, results are mixed. Some studies report benefit and others are equivocal.
Many studies report acupuncture’s benefits for treatment of painful neuropathy induced by chemotherapy.There are only a few studies in the Western literature which examine acupuncture’s effect on diabetic neuropathy. Results have been mixed.
Unfortunately acupuncture is not effective for restoring sensation in numb hands and/or feet.
Plantar fasciitis/heel pain
Another study published in 2012 in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine, enrolled 30 patients with chronic, refractory heel pain and assigned 15 to receive 2 sessions of acupuncture per week for 5 weeks and the other 15 to receive 5 weeks of conventional treatment. The acupuncture group showed significantly greater reduction in pain and improvement in function as compared with the non-acupuncture group.