Posted by: Thixia | January 10, 2009

Acupuncture and Acupressure 1 of 3

Traditional Chinese Medicine



In China, traditional Chinese medicine, which includes acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, has been practiced for more than 2,000 years.   In some Western countries, the use of traditional Chinese medicine, especially acupuncture, has increased over the past two decades.   Currently, more than one million Americans are treated with acupuncture each year.   


There are several components of traditional Chinese medicine.   In addition to acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, traditional Chinese medicine includes massage, qi gong, lifestyle advice, and exercise. 


This article will review acupuncture, Asian herbal medicine, and Asian proprietary medicine in the context of MS.   From this review, it is striking how differently people with MS should approach these three therapies that are all components of the same healing method.   Specifically, acupuncture is a low-risk, possibly effective therapy that may be worth considering, while Asian herbal medicine should be approached with caution and Asian proprietary medicine should probably be avoided. 








Acupuncture is based on theories of body function that are very different from those of Western medicine.   It is believed that there is a free flow of energy (“qi”) through specific pathways (“meridians”) in the body.   There are also opposites, known as “yin” and “yang,” that are in balance.   With disease, the normal flow of energy is disrupted.   


There are other major conceptual differences between Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine.   For example, Chinese medical theory does not include the concept of a nervous system.   In Western science and medicine, the nervous system is a critical component in understanding and treating a disease such as MS.   Also, while the idea of “causality” (process “a” leads to process “b”) is fundamental to many Western concepts, Chinese thought is focused more on the idea that the world is a web-like array of many interrelated processes that cannot be viewed in isolation or in simple one-to-one relationships with each other. 


Studies in MS


Surprisingly few studies have assessed the effectiveness of acupuncture for MS.   A recent Canadian study involved a survey of 217 people with MS who used acupuncture.   The preliminary findings from this study indicate that approximately two-thirds reported some type of beneficial effect.   Improvement was noted in many symptoms, including fatigue, pain, spasticity, walking difficulties, bowel and bladder difficulties, tingling and numbness, weakness, sleep disorders, incoordination, optic neuritis, and MS attacks (arranged from most-reported to least-reported).   Approximately 10% experienced side effects, the most common of which were pain, soreness at the needle site, and worsening of some symptoms (fatigue, spasticity, dizziness, and walking unsteadiness).   One person reported that acupuncture provoked an MS attack.   These results are promising, but there are limitations to this study because it was a self-assessment survey that lacked the rigorous elements of a formal clinical trial.   


There are several older and smaller studies of acupuncture and MS.   In 1974, a small study of eight people with MS found that a few experienced mild and brief benefits.   An even smaller study in 1986 reported that acupuncture produced improvement in multiple symptoms in two people with MS.   A 1986 study found that acupuncture sites were more sensitive in people with MS and that needle insertion provoked stiffness and muscle spasms.   


Some studies have evaluated the effectiveness of acupuncture for symptoms that may occur with MS.   In these studies, however, the underlying disease was not MS.   Limited research suggests beneficial effects of acupuncture for weakness (in people with strokes), anxiety, depression, pain (including facial pain, low back pain, and neck pain), dizziness, and urinary difficulties.    


Studies in Other Medical Conditions


A large number of studies have assessed acupuncture as a treatment for other medical conditions.   To evaluate these studies in an objective manner, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), created a 12-member panel in 1997.   The panel’s conclusion was that “clear evidence” existed for acupuncture being effective for nausea and vomiting related to surgery, chemotherapy, and possibly pregnancy.   Evidence for effectiveness was also noted for pain after dental procedures.   The report concluded that acupuncture was a “reasonable option” for some conditions and that “the data in support of acupuncture are as strong as those for many accepted Western medical therapies.”  


Compliments of: Rocky Mountain MS Center


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