Tara McElroy, MD, is sticking more needles in her patients than ever before. Three years ago, the Cleveland Clinic OB/GYN completed a physician's course in acupuncture. With it, she says, she has had increased success in treating problems that often resist Western medicine, such as female sexual dysfunction and compulsive overeating. "Physicians feel helpless in these areas," McElroy says. "I needed something more for my patients."
Acupuncture, which has been practiced for millennia in China, is a small part of her own practice. But she makes frequent referrals to the clinic's Center for Integrative Medicine. There, acupuncture, which uses needles to stimulate specific parts of the body, is increasingly popular for problems like chronic pain, allergies, and asthma. Five thousand patients underwent acupuncture at the facility in 2009, up from 3,600 in 2007.
By Serusha Govender
The Rumor: Your mind-set has no influence on a medicine's effectiveness
You’ve heard of the placebo effect, right? That's what occurs when patients think they’re getting a fancy new drug, but what they’re really getting is just a sugar pill. Then, in a case of "mind over medicine," they start to recover from their ailment as though they'd been taking the real deal.
But the placebo effect has a dark side, too -- a sort of negative placebo effect called the nocebo effect. It’s...
"The demand is out there," says Hakima Amri, PhD, assistant professor of physiology and biochemistry at Georgetown University and director of Georgetown's master's of science degree in complementary and alternative medicine. But "there is an overall lack of an educational platform for physicians and future physicians," she says.
There is also a lack of definitive research on the effectiveness of acupuncture treatments. A recent NCCAM-funded study, for example, reported that acupuncture outperformed conventional medicine in relieving chronic back pain, but the same study also found that simulated acupuncture was just as effective as the real thing.
Still, more than 3,000 U.S. physicians integrate acupuncture into their clinical practice, including James Gordon, MD, founder of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine and author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression. When he began studying acupuncture 40 years ago, "acupuncture was considered at best a superstition," Gordon recalls. "Now, it's increasingly being accepted as part of mainstream medicine."