Has your doctor ever prescribed you a round of acupuncture? Probably not. Alternative treatments often get short shrift in standard healthcare because doctors are generally unaware of the science showing that they really are effective alternatives to drugs and medication. But a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine may (hopefully) change that.
The researchers pooled data from nearly 18,000 people who had participated in studies examining the effectiveness of acupuncture and found that, yes, it really is a good treatment for chronic pain and that doctors should start recommending it as treatment for arthritis and other chronic ailments.
Chronic pain is certainly one of the most common reasons people seek out acupuncturists, but here are six other scientifically studied ways that acupuncture therapy can alleviate what's bothering you:
#1: Eases your aching back. Using acupuncture therapy to successfully relieve chronic back pain is well documented in scientific literature, and acupuncturists say that it's the leading reason that people visit their clinics. A study published in May's issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine even found that people who were given "simulated acupuncture," where pressure was place on certain acupuncture points but no needles were actually used, saw as much as a 15 percent greater improvement in their symptoms (equal to the improvements seen in people who were receiving true acupuncture) than people who were taking medications and undergoing standard chiropractic care.
#2: Boosts the effectiveness of pharmaceuticals. A study from China, published in the August issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that a low-dose of fluoxetine (Prozac) combined with acupuncture therapy was just as effective at reducing anxiety in patients being treated for depression as full-dose medication. Cutting the dose and adding acupuncture also reduced the drug's side effects, which can include nausea, weight gain, and a decreased sex drive.
#3: Soothes the burning in your stomach. This June, Brazilian researchers published research finding that acupuncture therapy alleviated heartburn and indigestion in pregnant women. One group of pregnant women was given a combination of acupuncture and medications, and another group was counseled on dietary changes and given medications if needed. Over the course of the study, 75 percent of the women in the acupuncture group saw heartburn intensity, and antacid use, decline, while only 44 percent of women in the standard-treatment group saw those same effects.