Acupuncture therapy has been a well-known part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) since ancient times dating back at least 3000 yrs. However, for anyone new to the realm of holistic medicine, this practice can seem quite the mystery. How can inserting needles into the skin possibly make a person feel better and where's the proof?
In short, acupuncture is a safe, minimally invasive technique that stimulates nerve-rich areas of the skin surface in order to influence organs, tissues, glands and various functions of the body. In a world where people are searching in earnest for safe alternatives to prescription drugs, acupuncture, well-known for its minimal side-effects, is a very compelling therapy to consider...and the evidence that it actually works is piling up.
Over the past 20 years, there have been over 13,000 studies conducted across the globe in 60 countries, including hundreds of meta-analyses summarizing the results of thousands of human and animal studies.1 The clinical areas that have been studied include pain, cancer, pregnancy, stroke, mood disorders, sleep disorders and inflammation, among many others. In 2014 the entire literature base was summarized by the Australian Department of Veteran Affairs).2 This was followed by a landmark review in 2017 called The Acupuncture Evidence Project which determined that acupuncture demonstrates moderate to strong evidence of effectiveness in the treatment of 46 conditions and is considered safe in the hands of properly trained practitioners. 3 In this review the strongest evidence was shown for migraine prophylaxis, headache, chronic low back pain, allergic rhinitis, knee osteoarthritis, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, post-operative nausea and vomiting and post-operative pain.A research studies of how acupuncture compares to other treatments in head to head analysis include :
- 2013 meta-analysis comparing treatments for osteoarthritis of the knee found that acupuncture out-performed exercise, sham acupuncture, and weight-loss. 4
- 2015 meta-analysis comparing treatments for shoulder impingement syndrome (all along with exercise) found that acupuncture outperformed 17 interventions such as steroid injection, NSAIDs, and ultrasound therapy. 5
- 2016 comparison of 20 treatments for sciatica concluded that acupuncture was 2nd most effective after the use of biological agents, outperforming epidurals, disc surgery, manipulation, opioids, exercise, and a procedure called radio-frequency denervation. 6
- 2018 meta-analysis concluded that acupuncture was more effective than drugs for treatment of chronic constipation, with fewer side-effects. 7
Concerning acupuncture for chronic pain, the Archives of Internal Medicine published a meta-analysis which reviewed 4 chronic pain conditions: back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache, and shoulder pain, and concluded that "acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option". 8 Additionally, a review published in Current Opinion in Anaesthesiology summarized acupuncture as being "effective, safe, and cost-effective for treating several chronic pain conditions when performed by well-trained healthcare professionals. 9
Many of my clients ask what acupuncture is good for, and the list is long! Naturally the first thing that comes to mind is pain, but there is so much more...
The NCCIH (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health) 10, notes that acupuncture has been proven to help in cases of:
- low back pain
- neck pain
- knee pain
- headache and migraine
In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed a number of conditions in which they say acupuncture has been proven effective. 11 These include:
- high and low blood pressure
- chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
- some gastric conditions, including peptic ulcer
- painful periods
- allergic rhinitis
- facial pain
- morning sickness
- rheumatoid arthritis
- tennis elbow
- dental pain
- reducing the risk of stroke
- inducing labor
Other conditions for which the WHO say that acupuncture may help but more evidence is needed include:
- post-operative convalescence
- substance, tobacco and alcohol dependence
- spine pain
- stiff neck
- vascular dementia
- whooping cough, or pertussis
- Tourette's syndrome
- may help treat a number of infections, including some urinary tract infections and epidemic hemorrhagic fever.
(For a more extensive list of the WHO recommendations pls refer to : 12 )
It is important to note, however, that the WHO points out that “only national health authorities can determine the diseases, symptoms, and conditions for which acupuncture treatment can be recommended.” Equally important is that the NCCIH advise people not to use acupuncture instead of seeing a conventional health care provider, and this is sage advice all around that I always encourage in my practice.
All together, this strong scientific support and global endorsement is impressive and helpful for patients in the context of a healthcare system where many treatments lack evidence for their use. Acupuncture is also considered cost-effective for a number of conditions where evidence is available and carries minimal side-effects. Patients and medical professionals alike can be confident that the recommendation of acupuncture for many patients is a safe, cost-effective, and evidence-based recommendation.
- Ma Y, Dong M, Zhou K, et al. Publication Trends in Acupuncture Research: A 20-Year Bibliometric Analysis Based on PubMed. PLoS ONE 2016;11
- Hempel S, Taylor SL, Solloway MR, et al. Evidence Map of Acupuncture. Washington (DC): : Department of Veterans Affairs 2014
- The Acupuncture Evidence Project – A Comparative Literature Review 2017 – Acupuncture.org.au. 2017;1–81.
- Corbett MS, Rice SJC, Madurasinghe V, et al. Acupuncture and other physical treatments for the relief of pain due to osteoarthritis of the knee: network meta-analysis. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage 2013;21:1290–8.
- Dong W, Goost H, Lin X-B, et al. Treatments for shoulder impingement syndrome: a PRISMA systematic review and network meta-analysis. Medicine (Baltimore) 2015;94
- Lewis R, FLCOM NHWPF, PhD AJS, et al. Comparative clinical effectiveness of management strategies for sciatica: systematic review and network meta-analyses. The Spine Journal 2015;15:1461–77.
- Zhu L, Ma Y, Deng X. Comparison of acupuncture and other drugs for chronic constipation: A network meta-analysis. PLoS ONE 2018;13
- Vickers, A. J., Cronin, A. M., Maschino, A. C., Lewith, G., MacPherson, H., Foster, N. E., et al. (2012). Acupuncture for Chronic Pain. Archives of Internal Medicine, 172(19), 1444.
- Yin, C., Buchheit, T. E., & Park, J. J. (2017). Acupuncture for chronic pain: an update and critical overview. Current Opinion in Anaesthesiology
- Acupuncture: In depth. (2017, February 21)
- Chmielnicki, B. (2003). Evidence-based acupuncture WHO official position
Fire Cupping is a modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine and has been around for thousands of years.
Unlike most traditional manual therapy techniques, which compresses tissue (massage therapy), cupping provides negative pressure to skin, muscles and connective tissue. Glass cups or jars are placed on the skin to create suction; this creates a negative pressure which lifts the skin and tissue.
To create the suction, a cotton swab is soaked in rubbing alcohol and lit with a small flame. The swab is then moved in and out of the cup to remove oxygen. Once the oxygen has been removed, the flame is extinguished and then the cup is placed on the skin over areas of pain, discomfort, tension or trigger points.
By lifting the skin and increasing the volume of space underneath the skin, pressure is decreased on the pain receptions, fluid movement (blood flow and swelling) is improved, and pain is often lessened. By improving the circulation to an area, more nutrients can enter the injured area, and more waste products are able to be flushed, potentially allowing for faster healing.
What are the benefits of cupping?
- Increased circulation of fluids
- Decreased muscle tension and pain
- Increased Relaxation
What are some common conditions that are treated by cupping?
-Pain from various degenerative conditions
-Tension or headaches
-Stress and anxiety
-Plantar Fasciitis (a disorder of the connective tissue which supports the arch of the foot)
Do you want to try fire cupping?
In our South clinic, you can add fire cupping to your massage with Elisabeth! Book online here (https://energizesouth.janeapp.com/#/staff_member/4) or contact our South clinic at 403-454-1445!
In our North clinic, you can add fire cupping to your acupuncture treatment with Dr. Joannie! Book online here (https://energizehealth.janeapp.com/#/staff_member/9) or contact our North clinic at 403-455-8220!
“I had other cupping done and in the past and I found it very effective and helpful so I was eager to try fire cupping once Elisabeth started offering it! The cups were slightly warm on the skin which I found to be very relaxing, and the suction was greater than previous cupping sessions using silicon cups. The next day my muscles had far less tension than they normally would have had. I really enjoyed fire cupping, and I will be adding to my future massages with Elisabeth!”
This is the month of resolutions, new gym memberships, scary credit card statements, and increased depression. The third Monday of January, "Blue Monday", is said to be the most depressing day of the year. This is calculated by factoring in weather conditions, debt level, time since Christmas, time since falling off new year’s resolutions, low motivation, and stress, among other things. Although it is certainly an interesting marketing quip (first published by Sky Travel in 2005), the seed of truth behind the concept of Blue Monday speaks to the state of body and mind most of us find ourselves in at this time of year. Coming off the high of Christmas, it isn’t uncommon for our eating habits to have gone awry, our exercising to be non-existent, and our stress levels through the roof as we settle back in to the busy schedule of everyday life in January.
So how can we curb the beginning of the year blues as we enter 2020? Yoga may be a good starting point for you. Yoga has many benefits to physical health, including increased strength, balance, endurance, flexibility and vital capacity. Additionally, studies have shown that yoga may reduce inflammation, improve heart health, and decrease several risk factors for heart disease. It’s no wonder so many health professionals are huge advocates for yoga! In my personal experience, yoga has been an incredibly effective way to increase my core strength and stretch out my back and shoulders, helping me avoid the chronic low back and neck/shoulder pain that often comes with sitting at a desk all day.
Beyond the many physical benefits of yoga, there are just as many mental health benefits. Yoga is known for promoting lower levels of stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression. Studies have noted that yoga can decrease the secretion of cortisol – the primary stress hormone – which explains the substantial improvements in well-being that comes from practicing yoga. Another study looked at the effect of yoga on sleep and found that those who practiced yoga fell asleep faster, slept longer and felt more rested in the morning. Although how yoga improves sleep is not 100% known, it has been suggested that yoga increases the secretion of melatonin – the sleep cycle hormone. (These findings are only the tip of the iceberg. I encourage you to following the source links below and read the other amazing studies and findings on the benefits of yoga).
There are more than 100 different types of yoga which can making starting a bit overwhelming and intimidating. Hatha yoga is most commonly recommended to beginners due to its slower paced approach, but all types of yoga have beginner classes and all yoga poses can be modified to ensure comfort and safety. I recommend trying different classes and styles until you find your personal preference. Although yoga is generally a safe activity for most people, be sure to practice under a trained instructor when beginning and consult your health care provider regarding practicing yoga if you have a herniated disk, a risk of blood clots, eye conditions, are pregnant, have severe balance problems, have severe osteoporosis, and/or uncontrolled blood pressure.
I hope you give yoga a try this year, and experience the many benefits it has to offer, just as I have. To continue exploring yoga, check out this video by our Manual Osteopath, Rima, by following the link below. And please be sure to comment below to share your personal victories with yoga! Namaste.
Link to Yoga Video: https://youtu.be/GY7oxaxIGm4
Are you currently pregnant, or newly postpartum and experiencing back pain? Well, you are not alone. Lower back pain and pelvic pain are common in pregnancy, affecting an estimated 2/3 of pregnant women. Not only is this pain annoying and, well, painful, it can interfere with sleep, your ability to work, and your normal daily activities. To top it off, this pain often carries on after delivery with an estimated 25-40% of women experiencing musculoskeletal pain in the first 18 months postpartum. Fortunately relief can be found. Manual therapies such as chiropractic care, osteopathic manipulation, acupuncture, massage, and exercise have been found to help reduce the intensity of lower back and pelvic pain in pregnancy, as well as improve the woman’s ability to function normally in her daily activities.
Lower back pain in pregnancy is thought to occur for a few different reasons. The first theory is that back pain develops due to changes in posture to accommodate the growing fetus and womb. As more weight is added to the front of the body, the lower back compensates by increasing its curvature (aka lordosis). This change in spinal curvature alters the load and stress handled by the muscles and joints of the lower back/pelvis and can lead to pain. The second theory is that hormonal changes can alter the neuromuscular control of the lower back and pelvis. These hormonal changes start to occur in the first trimester and alter the body’s ability to stabilize your joints and muscles.
The pain resulting from pregnancy-related posture and joint stability can be addressed through conservative treatments such as chiropractic, osteopathy, massage, and acupuncture. In chiropractic care, a combination of treatments including joint mobilizations, gentle chiropractic manipulative therapy, exercise, and education has been shown to lead to a significant reduction in pregnancy-related lower back/pelvic pain and disability, and reduce trouble sleeping.
For more information or to arrange an appointment with one of our practitioners, please contact Energize Health.
By Dr. Caitlyn Cameron,
George, J.W., Skaggs, C.D., et al. A randomized controlled trial comparing a multimodal intervention and standard obstetrics care for low back and pelvic pain in pregnancy. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2013;21; 295.31-295.e7
Liddle, S.D., Pennick, V. Interventions for preventing and treating low-back and pelvic pain during pregnancy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2015.
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