What Science Tells Us

With a history spanning more than 2500 years, acupuncture has proven effective over a wide range of diseases and symptoms.  This effectiveness has been demonstrated through numerous clinical and preclinical research studies in recent years.[1-6]  It is proposed that acupuncture produces its effects through regulating the nervous system, thus aiding the activity of pain-killing biochemicals such as endorphins and immune system cells at specific sites in the body.  In addition, studies have shown that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones and, thus, affecting the parts of the central nervous system related to sensation and involuntary body functions, such as immune reactions and processes that regulate a person’s blood pressure, blood flow, and body temperature.[7,8,9]  Further research studies have proved the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating numerous conditions.  For links to a wide variety of studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture, click here.

In 1997 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus of Acupuncture stated, “The data in support of acupuncture are as strong as those for many accepted Western medical therapies.”  The NIH Consensus further reported that “studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can cause multiple biological responses, mediated mainly by sensory neurons to many structures within the central nervous system. This can lead to activation of pathways affecting various physiological systems in the brain as well as in the periphery.”  In reference to acupuncture’s clinical efficacy, the NIH Consensus indicated that “promising results have emerged, for example, efficacy of acupuncture in adult post-operative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and in postoperative 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.”  For full view of the NIH Acupuncture Consensus please follow this link:http://consensus.nih.gov/1997/1997Acupuncture107html.htm

Acupuncture has also been cited by the World Health Organization to treat over forty-three recognized conditions.  These conditions include allergies, asthma, back pain, carpal tunnel, colds and flu, constipation, depression, gynecological disorders, headache, heart problems, infertility, insomnia, pre-menstrual syndrome, sciatica, sports injuries, tendonitis, stress and numerous others.  For a more detailed list of the conditions that can be effectively treated with acupuncture, click here.

Research results indicate the following additional facts about acupuncture:

  • In a 2002 acupuncture research study, 64% of doctors recommended complementary treatments such as acupuncture.
  • In 2002, approximately 1.15 million American adults reported having tried acupuncture.
  • 91.3% of patients in a 2000 acupuncture research study reported their symptoms “disappeared” or “improved.”
  • 84% of patients in the same acupuncture research study saw their M.D. less often.79% of patients in the same acupuncture research study reduced their use of prescription drugs.
  • 70% of patients in the same acupuncture research study who had been recommended for surgery before treatment were able to avoid it.
1.  Eskinazi DP. NIH Technology Assessment Workshop on Alternative Medicine: Acupuncture. Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA, April 21-22, 1994. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 1996;2(1):1-256.
2.  Tang NM, Dong HW, Wang XM, et al. Cholecystokinin antisense RNA increases the analgesic effect induced by electroacupuncture or low dose morphine: conversion of low responder rats into high responders. Pain. 1997;71(1):71-80.
3.  Cheng XD, Wu GC, He QZ, et al. Effect of electroacupuncture on the activities of tyrosine protein kinase in subcellular fractions of activated T lymphocytes from the traumatized rats. Acupuncture and Electro-Therapeutics Research. 1998;23(3-4):161-170.
4.  Chen LB, Li SX. The effects of electrical acupuncture of Neiguan on the PO2 of the border zone between ischemic and non-ischemic myocardium in dogs. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 1983;3(2):83-88.
5.  Lee HS, Kim JY. Effects of acupuncture on blood pressure and plasma renin activity in two-kidney one clip Goldblatt hypertensive rats. American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 1994;22(3-4):215-219.
6.  Okada K, Oshima M, Kawakita K. Examination of the afferent fiber responsible for the suppression of jaw-opening reflex in heat, cold, and manual acupuncture stimulation in rats. Brain Research. 1996;740(1-2):201-207.
7.  Takeshige C. Mechanism of acupuncture analgesia based on animal experiments. In: Pomerantz B, Stux G, eds. Scientific Bases of Acupuncture. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag; 1989.
8.  Lee BY, LaRiccia PJ, Newberg AB. Acupuncture in theory and practice. Hospital Physician. 2004;40:11-18.
9.  Portions of the above were excerpted from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website, www.nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture (10/1/2006).