Besides relieving pain in some patients, acupuncture has also shown to ameliorate itchy eyes and sneezing based on the findings of recent studies.
The sniffles caused by seasonal allergies can plague a lot of people. For relief, most of them turn to antihistamines. But when these medications do not work, some will try alternative forms of treatment such as acupuncture. This Eastern healing modality uses hair thin needles inserted into the skin at pressure points in the body to help quell symptoms.
Acupuncture Allergy Studies
Researchers did a study involving 422 patients who all had runny nose and other allergic nasal symptoms and who all tested positive for pollen allergies. The study, which was featured in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, required the subjects to report their symptoms and the drugs and doses they utilized to treat the symptoms.
The subjects were grouped into three: one group took antihistamines only for the symptoms. The second group was treated with sham acupuncture that involved the random placement of needles at pressure points not specifically designated for the treatment of their symptoms. The last group took antihistamines, when needed, as well as a dozen acupuncture treatments.
The researchers asked their patients about how much drugs they utilized and evaluated their symptoms after two months. Compared to the other groups, the group treated with antihistamines and acupuncture demonstrated a much better improvement of their symptoms which led to a lesser use of the drugs.
However, the group treated with false acupuncture also showed a significant reduction of their symptoms which may imply that what may be may be responsible for at least part of the improvement is the placebo effect generated by the fake acupuncture treatment.
This placebo theory was reinforced by the fact that a follow-up appointment four months later, the difference between the groups was less pronounced. Those who orchestrated the study think that the belief of the patients on how much acupuncture might help them may have something to do with the improvement of their symptoms.
The researchers concluded that further investigation into acupuncture’s potential role in treating allergies should be done if the therapy is shown to give some form of relief. They wrote that, “Compared with other anti-allergic therapies and the possible underlying mechanisms of any effect, acupuncture’s effectiveness for the treatment of seasonal allergies ought to be researched further.”
Dr. Jongbae of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill the Regional Center for Neurosensory Disorders, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, and Dr. Remy Coeytaux of the Duke Clinical Research Institute, both supported this view.
The two doctors agreed that the benefits of acupuncture are only now beginning to be widely appreciated. There are more than enough clinical researches that have been done for the last 15 years involving meta-analyses of patients and they all point to the efficacy of acupuncture for the relief of allergy symptoms.
Both doctors agree that certain questions important need to be asked that can help clarify certain issues with regards to acupuncture allergy treatment. Some of these questions include:
- Compared with other treatment modalities, how does acupuncture fare?
- Which of the several approaches or traditions of acupuncture treatment is proper or the most effective for a given clinical indication?
- What process measures or results should a researcher be evaluating in clinical trials involving acupuncture?
- From the policymakers, payer, or patients’ viewpoint, is the effectiveness of the effect, related to acupuncture for a specific clinical indication ‘worth it’?”
The author of that study, Dr. Benno Brinkhaus of the Berlin-based Charité University Medical Center’s Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics responded to an e-mail query about the study. He said that as a researcher, acupuncturist, and medical doctor, he would advocate the use of acupuncture if the patient suffers from serious sides effects caused by conventional drugs or if he’s is not satisfied with the results of the traditional anti-allergic drug treatment. He also recommended acupuncture because it is a safe form of treatment.
Ni Nan Gilbert is a board certified and licensed acupuncturist and the founder of Ni Nan Healing Art Center in Bellmore, NY.