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    Why Does Acupuncture Work?

    Chronic Pain continued...

    The National Institutes of Health calls the study "the most rigorous evidence to date that acupuncture may be helpful for chronic pain.”

    Now, doctors are eager to find a drug-free approach to pain treatment in light of the dangers of opioids -- the class of powerful pain medications that includes codeine, morphine, OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin. In March, the CDC called deaths from opioid overdoses "an epidemic."

    Now, the CDC says doctors should turn to other treatments for chronic pain in cases that don't involve active cancer, palliative care, and end-of-life care.

    "Now, you're like, 'OK, well, if we're not using opioids, what should we use?'" says Houman Danesh, MD, director of integrative pain management at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital. That dilemma has many people giving acupuncture a second look when it comes to treating pain.

    "If a lot of people recognize the value of acupuncture," Hui says, "it will be one of the components of addressing the prescription drug epidemic that we're talking about in our country right now."

    Cancer

    Many who get treatment for cancer get acupuncture in addition to standard cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. Acupuncture can help people who have nausea and vomiting during treatment.

    "We have many patients come through with cancer," Hui says. He adds his department treats people in all phases of cancer treatment: from those who are newly diagnosed, to those dealing with the discomfort of cancer treatment, to those in the later stages.

    Keep in mind, chemo and radiation weaken the body's immune system. So it's important for your acupuncturist to follow strict clean-needle procedures.

    Menstrual Cramps

    Some women who have extremely painful periods, a condition known as dysmenorrhea, try acupuncture. The science looks promising. Some research suggests acupuncture may help with pain from menstrual cramps. So far, though, that research is limited.

    Fertility Treatment

    For women trying to get pregnant with expensive and time-consuming fertility treatments, acupuncture can make a big difference. It can improve the success rates of treatments such as in vitro fertilization. One study suggests acupuncture can help some women get pregnant by:

    • Alleviating anxiety and stress felt by those having fertility treatment
    • Promoting blood flow to the uterus

    "Logic tells me more blood flow, more access to eggs," says Magarelli, who founded Reproductive Medicine & Fertility Centers in Colorado and New Mexico. "More eggs, more embryos, more choice, better chance for a baby."

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