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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...

In what was hailed as "the largest, longest, and most rigorous study of acupuncture" ever conducted, acupuncture was found to reduce pain and improve function and movement among patients with osteoarthritis of the knee when used with other treatments.

That study paves the way for more and better research of acupuncture, Wayne tells WebMD. "This was a landmark study not only in its finding for osteoarthritis. It shows that if we put resources into a carefully designed trial, we're likely to see something definitive ... we may be able to say with more certainty that other [applications of acupuncture] are effective."

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.

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