Acupuncture Basics for Physicians
I am writing in an effort to promote a better understanding of acupuncture in the medical community. According to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey, the largest and most comprehensive survey of complementary and alternative medicine, an estimated 8.2 million adults have used acupuncture. Furthermore, acupuncture currently has the highest rate of physician referral (43%) among all CAM therapies followed by chiropractic (40%) and massage (21%) (Arch Intern Med. 1998;158). But few physicians know how and when to use acupuncture as a referral. When utilized effectively, acupuncture is a valuable conservative approach to pain, neuropathy, fatigue, insomnia and many internal disorders.
Is acupuncture effective?
Numerous randomized, controlled trials and more than 25 systematic reviews and meta-analyses have evaluated the efficacy of acupuncture. The NIH has made the following statement:
“Efficacy of acupuncture [exists] in adult post-operative and chemotherapy, nausea and vomiting and in post-operative dental pain. There are other situations such as addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and asthma where acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative or be included in a comprehensive management program. Further research is likely to uncover additional areas where acupuncture interventions will be useful.”
Studies involving physiologic aspects of acupuncture have allowed physicians and acupuncturists to bridge the gap, connecting modern and Chinese medicine in ways more fully comprehensible:
Are acupuncturists properly trained?
Acupuncturists in California are some of the best trained in the country. Programs such as Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego require almost four years postgraduate work comprising 3500 hours of study in acupuncture, Chinese herbology, diagnostic theory, biomedicine, safety, and integrative methods along with extensive clinical training. Each year Chinese medicine programs are becoming more rigorous, incorporating more conventional physiology and practice and the growing pool of applicants allows schools to choose the very best for admission.
So, when should I think of acupuncture?
The answer to this question is constantly evolving among academics, researchers, and clinicians alike. The following is a short representation of prevailing views within the Chinese medicine community and my own clinical insight.