Modern Day Acupuncture - the latest on research techniques!

People decide to try acupuncture for a number of reasons.  It might be because a friend recommends it, or you have read something in the press, on line, or via social media, or it may be because you have a chronic condition that isn't responding to any other treatment.

Behind all of these reasons, it is important to know that like other medical interventions, a huge amount of effort goes into researching the effectiveness of acupuncture as well as trying to understand how it might work.


There are three different types of research into acupuncture:


The first category is known as 'real world comparative effectiveness trials' where acupuncture is measured against another standard treatment. One example of this is a trial carried out by the NHS into the the use of acupuncture for migraine headache against other drug based treatment. (Vickers et al. 2004). Results were encouraging and indicate that acupuncture is more effective and safer. This aspect is an especially important advantage of acupuncture. It was reported in the BMJ that the risks of side effects and dependency from a number of commonly used pain killers is a growing concern. (BMJ : 356, Feb 2017)


The Cochrane review, which sets out the highest standards of evidence for a given treatment, states that "patients reported greater benefits from acupuncture than from two antispasmodic drugs, both of which have been shown to provide a modest benefit for IBS". So that's good news for people suffering from Irritable Bowl Syndrome.


The second type of research, the RCT (random controlled trial)  is designed to prove efficacy.  This is the gold standard trial for pharmaceutical drugs but not for interventions such as surgery, physiotherapy or the talking therapies, where there is an active intervention in that the person giving the treatment is part of the treatment.  


Despite a number of problems in performing this sort of acupuncture research, 8,000 such clinical trials have taken place around the world. The Acupuncture Evidence Project (McDonald and Janz 2017) have recently concluded that the quality of research is improving and there is now good evidence for acupuncture in the improvement of migraines and headache,  low back pain, knee osteoarthritis pain, allergic rhinitis, post operative pain and chemo and post-operative induced nausea and vomiting.


 One of the the problems for acupuncture in carrying out these trials is that numbers of patients for clinical acupuncture studies are simply not large enough, partly because funding for acupuncture research is limited. However, one trial with 17,922 patients found that acupuncture was significantly superior to sham acupuncture. (Vickers et al 2012).


Finally there are plenty of studies that investigate the possible mechanism of acupuncture - that is, what actually happens in the body when an acupuncture needle is inserted.

There is still a lot to discover but MRI scans of the brain during acupuncture reveal changes in blood flow there. (See studies by Zhang Jin Zhang et al 2012, and Anderson et al 2012).  Observations have noted biomedical changes in the release of painkilling neuropeptides, and the release of adenosine that promotes healing and reduces inflammation.


As practitioners, we learn from acupuncture research in order to promote best practice in clinic. If you want to learn more about acupuncture research visit the website of "Acupuncture Now", or for research on specific conditions see the research pages of The British Acupuncture Council.


Charmian Wylde 2017


PAIN - is subjective, tiring, all consuming and comes in all sorts of disguises.

Headaches/migraines, injuries/trauma, lower back pain/sciatica, arthritic conditions, osteoporosis, neuropathy, period pains.... the list goes on.

In Chinese medicine any pain means there is a blockage of Qi and/or Blood and our primary treatment principle is to move this stagnation. Our secondary treatment principle is to find the cause of the stagnation. This could be from the elements of Wind, Damp and Cold - often seen in arthritic conditions.
The nature of Cold is contracting (freezes Blood flow), it gives a tight, vice like pain and is worse for cold. Damp will give a heavy dull ache often with some swelling. Wind can give 'wandering pains' or pains that come and go, usually in the upper parts of the body. Wind is associated with tics and tremors too.
Other causes of stagnation can be emotional. Stress or worry 'knots' the Qi, slows down the movement of energy and thus slows down the blood flow until eventually it creates stagnation and pain. This can often be a factor in menstrual problems.
When the energy slows down and creates congestion, the blockage can produce Heat. Think of the analogy of a traffic jam causing road rage. The nature of Heat is to rise up and this can cause headaches and migraines - perhaps associated with PMT or periods, or times of stress.
Acupuncture is very good a moving Qi and energy and getting the flow going again. Herbs may be necessary if there is a more substantial blockage (Blood stagnation) or some other pathogen like Wind Damp or Cold involved.

As you can see Chinese medicine is always looking for patterns of disharmony and seeks to alleviate the symptoms but address the underlying cause to prevent recurrence.
In this way many seemingly dissociated conditions are often related in Chinese medicine.

Please get in touch if you would like to know more about how it could help you.
01305 759405.

Treating Diarrhoea in Children - a case study.

A Case by Kim Latore

A boy of 2 came for treatment for diarrhoea, he was experiencing bowel movements up to 10x day. He had had a minor operation on his bowel at 3 weeks old and the consultant was considering another. His mother did not want any further surgery.

At the first visit he looked very pale, under weight, dull eyes with dark patches underneath. With so many loose bowel movements I was not surprised that his immune system was weak and he often had colds and experienced frequent high temperatures. He was unable to absorb enough nutrients from the food he was ingesting and therefore getting weaker.

One of the most common conditions when treating children is an immature digestive system, or as we diagnose Spleen Qi deficiency. A proper well cooked diet is essential for maximum absorption of food. Too many cold, raw foods, wheat, sugar and diary products can all have a negative impact on the gut as can overuse of antibiotics. I suggested using goats milk instead of cows, as the fat globules are smaller and are more easily digestible.

He had 13 treatments in total, each one lasting just 10 minutes, as the needles were not retained. He gained confidence with each treatment and went from strength to strength and did not require any further surgery. The bowels firmed up and became normal and thus his immune system strengthened, he gained weight and is now a thriving 7 year old.

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