September 2007

The Worldwide Scope of Acupuncture

By Elliot Wagner, O.M.D., L.Ac., Doctor of Oriental Medicine

Did you know that acupuncture and Oriental herbal medicine are part of a system of medicine that is the most widely used in the world? Even in the United States, where acupuncture is still classed as alternative medicine, thousands of people visit an acupuncturist every day. According to the NCCAM, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the 2002 National Health Interview Survey — the largest and most comprehensive survey of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use by American adults — an estimated 8.2 million U.S. adults have ever used acupuncture, and an estimated 2.1 million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the previous year.

In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a landmark study, titled "Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials." After an extensive review of the world literature on acupuncture efficacy, it made a report of its findings. The diseases or disorders for which acupuncture therapy has been tested in controlled clinical trials, as reported in the recent literature, were classified into two main categories, shown below:

1. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture has been proved — through controlled trials — to be an effective treatment: Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy, Allergic rhinitis, Biliary colic, Depression, Dysmenorrhea, Epigastric pain, Facial pain, Headache, Hypertension, Hypotension, Induction of labor, Knee pain, Leukopenia, Low back pain, Malposition of fetus (correction of), Morning sickness, Nausea and vomiting, Neck pain, Dental pain, Periarthritis of shoulder, Postoperative pain, Renal colic, Rheumatoid arthritis, Sciatica, Sprain, Stroke, Tennis elbow.

2. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown, but for which further studies are needed: Abdominal pain, Acne vulgaris, Alcohol dependence and detoxification, Bell's palsy, Bronchial asthma, Cancer pain, Cholecystitis, Cholelithiasis, Competition stress syndrome, Craniocerebral injury, Diabetes mellitus, type 2, Earache, Hemorrhagic fever, Epistaxis (simple), Female infertility, Facial spasm, Fibromyalgia and fasciitis, Gouty arthritis, Hepatitis B carrier status, Herpes zoster , Hyperlipidemia, Hypo-ovarianism, Insomnia, Labor pain, Lactation deficiency, Male sexual dysfunction, Ménière's disease, Neuralgia (post-herpetic), Neurodermatitis, Obesity, Opium cocaine and heroin de- pendence, Osteoarthritis, Pain due to endoscopic examination, Polycystic ovarian syn- drome, Postoperative convalescence, Premenstrual syndrome, Prostatitis (chronic), Pruritus, Radicular pain syndrome, Raynaud's syndrome, Recurrent lower urinary tract infection, Reflex sympathetic dystrophy, Retention of urine (traumatic), Schizophrenia, Sjögren's syndrome, Sore throat (including tonsillitis), Spine pain (acute), Stiff neck, Temporomandibular joint dysfunction, Tobacco dependence, Tourette's syndrome, Ulcerative colitis (chronic), Urolithiasis, Vascular dementia, Whooping cough (pertussis).

Although we have had occasion to treat patients with many of the problems shown above, the following list makes up a large part of the health issues we have personally seen and treated in the last few years: Chronic sensitivity to cold and drafts, Circulatory problems (particularly lower leg, foot, and ankle) Depression and anxiety, Diabetes, Facial palsy (Bell's palsy), Fatigue, Foot and ankle pain/stiffness, Headache and migraine, Hip, groin, and pelvic pain, Hormonal imbalances, Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating of hands, feet, or whole body), Hypertension, Induction of labor, Infertility (male and female), Insomnia, Low back pain/stiffness, Menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, insomnia, fatigue, loss of libido, weight gain), Menstrual irregularities (cramps, premenstrual syndrome, bleeding between periods, loss of periods), Metabolic Syndrome/Syndrome X, Neck and shoulder pain/stiffness, Neuropathy and neuritis (numbness and stiffness in the feet or hands), Plantar fasciitis (painful soles/heels), Polycystic ovarian syndrome (thinning of hair, excess hair on face, irregular menses, weight problems, infertility), Postoperative pain, Sciatica, Trigeminal neuralgia, Vertigo (dizziness).