In the past 2,000 years, more people have been successfully treated with acupuncture than with all other health modalities combined. One of the most common questions that I am asked, however, is ‘Does it work?’. Fortunately, many studies conducted in the past decade show that yes, acupuncture does work. Research shows us why acupuncture is one of the fastest growing treatments in the Western World.
In 1995, a study was conducted of 175 acupuncture patients from six clinics throughout the United States. Of the patients who filled in the questionnaire, 79% said that they now used fewer medical drugs, 71% said that they avoided surgery, and 84% said that they needed to see their doctor less frequently. Furthermore, 90% of the patients reported the disappearance or improvement of their symptoms after treatment with acupuncture.
Even with these dramatic results, there is still much confusion over which health problems that acupuncture can really help. While acupuncture is often associated with pain control, in the hands of a well-trained practitioner it has a much broader application. Acupuncture can be effective as the only treatment used, or as a complementary treatment modality for many common disorders. Massage, chiropractic care, and acupuncture work exceptionally well together in the management of pain and muscular-skeletal disorders.
Acupuncture can provide pain relief and control inflammation, allowing the need for surgery to be postponed or eliminated. Often with minor knee and shoulder strains, acupuncture combined with home stretching and strengthening exercises can completely heal the joint. The needling of acupuncture points moves energy, called Qi, through the injured area stimulating the body’s ability to heal. Treatment also aids the release of the body’s own natural painkillers, called endorphins. In these ways, acupuncture is helpful in treating such conditions as  neck pain, low back pain, frozen shoulder, tendonitis, sciatica, IT Band syndrome, and osteoarthritis of the knee.
Another action of acupuncture strengthens the body’s resistance to disease. Physiological measurement before and after acupuncture has demonstrated that it brings about a change in the concentration of white blood cells, boosting the body’s immune system. Getting acupuncture treatment on a regular basis can prevent colds and flu’s and help eliminate the common complaints of sore throats and sinusitis. Strengthening the immune system also allows the body to fight off viral conditions and keep annoying symptoms of viral illness from flaring up.
Insomnia is a growing problem in today’s fast paced society. Acupuncture causes a change in brain activity to help ease the mind and body and allow for a good night’s sleep. Treatments have a calming or sedating effect, explaining why it is also helpful in anxiety disorders and stress induced illness. In addition, at least 26 randomly controlled trials have shown that acupuncture is proven to be effective against headaches. Needles inserted around the head and neck can release bands of knotted up muscles, thus relieving headaches. Patients can have immediate relief and the treatment can keep pain at bay for several weeks.
Acupuncture has also been found to cause a homeostatic effect in the body, bringing about physiological regulation and harmony. It has now been shown that acupuncture can help to regulate blood pressure, urinary excretion and elimination. These effects allow treatment to be helpful for digestive disorders, such as diarrhea, constipation, ulcer pain, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is so common in the U.S. today that 1 in 3 people are on prescription medication for it. Acupuncture combined with dietary and lifestyle changes can get patients off these medications and allow their digestive system to strengthen and normalize within a few months.
Acupuncture, as an important complementary health modality, has proven its efficacy in the treatment of a number of health problems. Today, we are once again beginning to learn what the Chinese realized many thousands of years ago, that disease is mostly the result of our failure to concern ourselves with the promotion of health. Treating yourself with regular acupuncture is one simple way to begin promoting health in your daily life.

Jane Matthews, Licensed Acupuncturist, practices acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine on Ridge Street in downtown Breckenridge, Colorado. She can be reached at (970)470-3347.