Scientists Seek Clues for Acupuncture's Success
Learn how acupuncture might help when Western medicine doesn't have an answer.
What Acupuncture Can Do for You continued...
Cancer Side Effects: Nausea and vomiting -- the distressing
side effects of chemotherapy -- respond well to acupuncture. A study published
a few years ago showed that acupuncture plus antinausea medication worked
better than just medication alone. The NIH "has given us two thumbs
up," Wayne says.
Depression: A study in the late 1990s from the University
of Arizona showed that clinically depressed women responded well to a course of
acupuncture. Other preliminary studies of anxiety and depression show that
anxiety related to medical procedures can be resolved with some acupuncture at
treatment time, Wayne adds.
Stroke: Results from a study of acupuncture in treating
stroke patients are just coming in. "We've seen responses, even among
people who suffered their strokes many years ago," Wayne reports.
"Their chronic paralysis and spasticity are responding well." However,
results from other stroke studies have not always shown an effect. More
research is needed, he notes.
Pelvic Pain: A study currently underway involves
endometriosis-related pelvic pain in young women. "It's a very serious
condition in which the standard course of [drug treatment] doesn't always
work," says Wayne. "They can't go to school or do sports. The last
resort is to induce menopause in 15-year-old girls. But there's some evidence
acupuncture may help."
Infertility: Acupuncture also boosts the effectiveness of
high-tech reproductive medicine procedures. Small studies have found that
adding acupuncture to traditional in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments
increased pregnancy success. There is also evidence that acupuncture stimulates
blood flow and egg production in women who can't -- or don't want to -- use
fertility medications to help them get pregnant.
The treatment "has a calming, restorative effect that increases a sense
of well-being and ultimately helps the body to accept the creation of
life," said acupuncturist Ifeoma Okoronkwo, MD, a professor of medicine at
New York University School of Medicine, in an earlier interview. Studies have
shown a clear link between acupuncture and the body's natural "feel
good" brain chemicals.
Acupuncture also appears to affect three areas critical to egg production
and ovulation: two areas of the brain that control hormone production (the
hypothalamus and pituitary glands) as well as the ovaries. "My guess is
that acupuncture is changing the blood supply to the ovaries, possibly dilating
the arteries and increasing blood flow, so that ultimately, the ovaries are
receiving greater amounts of hormonal stimulation," Sandra Emmons, MD,
professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health Sciences University,
told WebMD in a previous interview.
Acupuncture may also "boost" the uterine lining when it is too weak
to sustain a pregnancy, a problem known to increase the risk of
The Science Behind Acupuncture
According to Chinese traditional medicine, acupuncture affects the life
force called "chi." More than 2000 acupuncture points in the body are
connected by meridians, or pathways, through which energy must pass freely for
optimal wellness. Disturbances in this flow result in illness or