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Alternative Medicine: Acupuncture

I tried acupuncture for several sessions for a frozen shoulder. My symptoms did not improve.

Of course, I do not know if they would have got worse without the acupuncture.


Some sincere and intelligent people report that acupuncture worked for them.

The fact that acupuncture did not work for my frozen shoulder does not mean it would not work for someone else's stiff neck, or knee pain: they are different people and they have different conditions. For comparison: in conventional medicine, we know that penicillin may cure one person's rash, give someone else an allergic reaction, and have no effect on a third person's broken leg.)

One individual's recovery from an injury after a period of acupuncture may be simply a coincidence, or the result of careful and cynical timing by the therapist, or an actual beneficial effect of the acupuncture.

But even if we could establish that in any given case, recovery was caused or accelerated by the acupuncture, that would not mean that the traditional explanation for why it works is correct. For comparison: just because people in the 1600s could predict what was combustible, it didn't mean that the phlogiston theory was correct.

I suspect that in some cases, acupuncture may have a beneficial physical effect (rather than a placebo effect) either by introducing physical tension or triggering a release of physical tension in muscles that are causing pain by "working against each other".

I also suspect that the placebo effect and confirmation bias are significant factors in many cases.

However, there seems to be no doubt that in some circumstances, acupuncture is better than no acupuncture. I am aware of no adverse effects other than the cost.
 
However, there seems to be no doubt that in some circumstances, acupuncture is better than no acupuncture. I am aware of no adverse effects other than the cost.

The worst-case scenario is if, say, a needle in the shoulder is put in too deep and punctures the top of the lung, or an intercostal needle pierces the heart. Quite rare, though. Actual side effects are pretty minor.

Random article :
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2010/oct/18/dozens-killed-acupuncture-needles
 
The worst-case scenario is if, say, a needle in the shoulder is put in too deep and punctures the top of the lung, or an intercostal needle pierces the heart. Quite rare, though. Actual side effects are pretty minor.

Random article :
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2010/oct/18/dozens-killed-acupuncture-needles
If a needle punctures the something it shouldn't and thereby causes injury, I would not call that an adverse effect of acupuncture. I would call it a mistake or an accident. Similarly, if an intravenous drip was 10 times too strong a solution and caused an adverse reaction, or a surgeon's knife slipped and nicked an artery.

I meant that I am aware of no adverse effects to properly administered acupuncture: properly sterile needles carefully inserted the right depth into the right place by someone with the right skills.
 
I tried acupuncture for several sessions for a frozen shoulder. My symptoms did not improve.

Of course, I do not know if they would have got worse without the acupuncture.


Some sincere and intelligent people report that acupuncture worked for them.

The fact that acupuncture did not work for my frozen shoulder does not mean it would not work for someone else's stiff neck, or knee pain: they are different people and they have different conditions. For comparison: in conventional medicine, we know that penicillin may cure one person's rash, give someone else an allergic reaction, and have no effect on a third person's broken leg.)

One individual's recovery from an injury after a period of acupuncture may be simply a coincidence, or the result of careful and cynical timing by the therapist, or an actual beneficial effect of the acupuncture.

But even if we could establish that in any given case, recovery was caused or accelerated by the acupuncture, that would not mean that the traditional explanation for why it works is correct. For comparison: just because people in the 1600s could predict what was combustible, it didn't mean that the phlogiston theory was correct.

I suspect that in some cases, acupuncture may have a beneficial physical effect (rather than a placebo effect) either by introducing physical tension or triggering a release of physical tension in muscles that are causing pain by "working against each other".

I also suspect that the placebo effect and confirmation bias are significant factors in many cases.

However, there seems to be no doubt that in some circumstances, acupuncture is better than no acupuncture. I am aware of no adverse effects other than the cost.
I think that is a good summing up. The one (for me) really dramatic effect of the acupuncture was on the circulation. My foot, indeed my right leg in general, always had very poor circulation, and my ankle, especially after my injury, actually had a grey, unhealthy colour. My doctor said that the circulation was the real issue, and the effects of just a couple of acupuncture sessions was quite extraordinary. I could suddenly see veins that just hadn't been visible as long as I could remember. They got more and more prominent, and the doctor said she would stop the treatment as there was a risk of them rupturing, and to be careful when applying the cream that I was using on it not to push downwards but always away from the foot.
The Chinese always emphasize the importance of good circulation and I have no doubt that that is a major factor in the success of this method. As for the theory, that there are a series of energy channels in the body that have not yet been identified by Western medicine, I was quite open minded about that and also about energy healing in the West, in fact I was having both at that time. [Something very interesting happened around that period that convinced me that the energy approach has some validity. I have described this in a previous post in this thread.]
Obviously individual experiences must vary. Treatments that work for some won't on others. I was lucky that my doctor had been educated in both traditional and Western medicine (her father had been chief surgeon in a major hospital, and she had done a lot of ops including heart surgery), and she knew the strengths and weaknesses of both. I would say that the most obvious difference is in diagnosis. After months of going to my GP about my problems, being sent for blood tests, X rays, etc., all the NHS could do was to offer me painkiller for my ankle, a useless medication for my eyes, etc., and they still had no idea what the problem was. In contrast, a Chinese doctor could, by taking my pulse and scanning my tongue, determine my main problem (liver failure) within 8 minutes, and the herbs I was prescribed took effect on my ("incurable") eye problem within six hours. No contest...
 
The concept of meridians is fundamental to acupuncture. The recent discovery and authentication of an ancient Chinese medical text - the oldest known surviving medical text in the world - illustrates that the meridian concept dates back more than two millennia.
2,200-year-old Chinese text may be oldest surviving anatomical atlas

A series of 2,200-year-old Chinese texts, written on silk and found buried in ancient tombs, contain the oldest surviving anatomical atlas, scientists say.

The texts were discovered in the 1970s within tombs at the site of Mawangdui in south-central China. The tombs belonged to Marquis Dai, his wife Lady Dai and their son. The texts are challenging to understand, and they use the term "meridian" to refer to parts of the human body. In a paper recently published Sept. 1 in the journal The Anatomical Record, a research team led by Vivien Shaw, an anatomy lecturer at Bangor University in Wales in the United Kingdom, argues that these texts "are the oldest surviving anatomical atlas in the world."

Additionally the texts "both predate and inform the later acupuncture texts, which have been the foundation for acupuncture practice in the subsequent two millennia," the researchers wrote in the study. The find "challenges the widespread belief that there is no scientific foundation for the 'anatomy of acupuncture,' by showing that the earliest physicians writing about acupuncture were in fact writing about the physical body," they added. ...

FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/oldest-known-human-atlas-china.html
 
Here are the bibliographic details and abstract of the published report on the ancient Chinese medical / anatomical text cited above. The full research article can be accessed at the link below.

Hiding in Plain Sight‐ancient Chinese anatomy
Vivien Shaw, Rui Diogo, Isabelle Catherine Winder
The Anatomical Record
First published: 01 September 2020
https://doi.org/10.1002/ar.24503

Abstract
For thousands of years, scientists have studied human anatomy by dissecting bodies. Our knowledge of their findings is limited, however, both by the subsequent loss of many of the oldest texts, and by a tendency toward a Eurocentric perspective in medicine. As a discipline, anatomy tends to be much more familiar with ancient Greek texts than with those from India, China, or Persia. Here, we show that the Mawangdui medical texts, entombed in the Mawangdui burial site in Changsha, China 168 BCE, are the oldest surviving anatomical atlas in the world. These medical texts both predate and inform the later acupuncture texts which have been the foundation for acupuncture practice in the subsequent two millennia. The skills necessary to interpret them are diverse, requiring the researcher firstly to read the original Chinese, and secondly to perform the anatomical investigations that allow a re‐viewing of the structures that the texts refer to. Acupuncture meridians are considered to be esoteric in nature, but these texts are clearly descriptions of the physical body. As such, they represent a previously hidden chapter in the history of anatomy, and a new perspective on acupuncture.

SOURCE: https://anatomypubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ar.24503
 
A newly reported study involving US military veterans undergoing surgery at VA medical centers indicates acupuncture helps reduce perceived pain and need for pharmaceutical painkillers - especially opioids.
Study: Veterans with acupuncture before surgery have less pain

Veterans who have acupuncture before surgery reported less need for opioids for pain, a pilot study presented Monday at the ANESTHESIOLOGY 2020 meeting shows.

"Six percent of patients given opioids after surgery become dependent on them, and veterans are twice as likely to die from accidental overdoses than civilians," said study lead author Dr. Brinda Krish ...

"Clearly it is crucial to have multiple options for treating pain, and acupuncture is an excellent alternative. It is safe, cost effective and it works," said Krish, an anesthesiology resident at Detroit Medical Center. ...

In both acupuncture groups, veterans reported significant reduction in post-operative pain and post-operative opioid use compared to control patients undergoing surgery without acupuncture. ...

"It's easy, patients love it, it's not just another medicine and it's very safe. Because battlefield acupuncture was developed by an armed services doctor, veterans also were more willing to participate."

FULL STORY: https://www.upi.com/Health_News/202...-before-surgery-have-less-pain/1751601923534/
 
My best friend is a licensed acupuncture practitioner in upstate New York. He feels that Western medicine is more effective for some ailments and traditional Chinese medicine more effective for others.

I myself benefitted from acupuncture many years ago. I had a chronically stiff neck that seemed impervious to massage and that sometimes caused very sharp and temporarily disabling pain. The acupuncturist put needles in my neck, feet, legs and probably a few other places. I felt immediate relief after treatment and for years afterward.
 
Yes, my mum had terrible trouble with her back, and the GP used acupuncture as pain relief. Don't know how it works, but even if it's psychosomatic, I'm really glad it does.
 
"Psychosomatic"?! What am I talking about?! I meant even if it's a placebo, I'm glad it works.
 
Our cruise ship has a resident acupuncturist and I thought I'd give it a try for my chronic knee pain.
I was slightly surprised when he stuck two needles between the knuckles on my right hand - and the pain in my left knee disappeared almost instantly!
Needles were left in place, albeit with a little bit of twisting, for 40 minutes and, after he removed them, he got me to walk up and down stairs. Instead of wincing and with my now habitual slightly lopsided gait, I managed the stairs perfectly normally and without any pain. I spent an euphoric evening, walking the promenade decks, free from the usual aches and pains. By the next morning though, the pain and stiffness had returned. I have a follow-up session tonight.
 
I once had a bad headache and I rubbed/squeezed my earlobe (don't ask me why) and it cured it.
There is definitely something to acupuncture, although the mechanism is not at all understood.
 
There is definitely something to acupuncture, although the mechanism is not at all understood.
I suppose if paracetamol works by blocking signals along the nerves at a point from the source of the pain to the brain, then it is quite feasible.

And then there is (moxibustion) where the needles are lit with a burning incense.
 
More intrusive treatment this afternoon.
As well as the needles in the knuckles, I had a needle in the left shoulder, one in the temple and a suction cup on my upper back. The needles in my hand were quite unpleasant, causing a throbbing electrical feeling up the back of my hand. The other needles were no big deal. He left them in place for a full hour this time and, once again, the arthritic pain disappeared. I'm supposed to take it easy tomorrow, which is a bit difficult, as we have an excursion planned to Monte Carlo, so I guess taxis and lots of drink stops will be in order. Ain't life a bitch eh?
 
The comedian on our cruise ship was a bit hit and miss, but did make me laugh out loud with this:

I used to suffer from terrible stage fright and tried all sorts to overcome it: sedatives, hypnosis, meditation and that thing with the needles. What was it called again? That's right... heroin!
How was Monaco?
 
How was Monaco?
In the end, I took the acupuncturist's advice to take it easy for 24 hours, so we opted out of the long excursion, which would have required a great deal of walking. We had an easy day in sunny Villefranche instead, lazing in sea-front cafés, whilst my wife wrote an extraordinary number of post cards.

My final acupuncture session was the most painful, involving 5 needles in my right hand, with the two knuckle ones being inserted deeper than before. I also had two needles in my left shoulder and two suction cups on my back. The doc would adjust the needles periodically, whilst asking me to stand, walk up and down stairs and try flexing my knee. Each tiny twist or movement of the needles caused an unpleasant electric-like throbbing. When he felt he had positioned the needles to optimum effect, he left me like that for an hour. On completion of the treatment, I honestly felt that my once chronically painful left knee now felt better than my right knee.
Now that we're home once more, I will be putting it to the test with my normal activities, including usual amounts of walking, a little cycling and cricket next Wednesday. Obviously, my expectations are realistic i.e. I couldn't expect acupuncture to give me the knees of a teenager once again, but I am happy to report a significant improvement and I just hope it will be long-lasting. The three acupuncture sessions, plus the complementary suction cupping treatment, cost me around £280. A not inconsiderable sum, but I certainly don't regret giving this alternative therapy a try. Will give an update in a week or so.
 
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