Acupuncture’s merits are still hotly debated by the medical community, with many experts claiming that the acupuncture’s pain relief benefits are purely the placebo effect. Two recent studies related to lower back pain acupuncture in Bellmore and arthritis show that this alternative pain treatment has real effects that exceed the pain relief benefits of medication and physical therapy.
In a study led by Dr. Daniel Cherkin of Group Health, 638 patients with chronic low back pain were divided in to four groups. The first group received generic acupuncture treatments for low back pain, while the second were given individually prescribed acupuncture treatments. The third group received “false” acupuncture done with toothpicks on the surface of the skin. The fourth, a control group, received medication and standard physical therapy.
At the end of a seven week period, all three of the acupuncture groups – even the toothpick one – showed 60% improvement in pain levels and the patients’ ability to function. The standard treatment group without acupuncture was improved by only 40%.
A similar study was conducted two years earlier, in Germany, on arthritis patients. Here, the acupuncture group showed a 50% improvement and the “fake” acupuncture subjects – who were given acupuncture needle treatments on points other than the real acupuncture points – experienced a 40% improvement and lessening in their arthritis pain.
Acupuncture treatments are said to aid the flow of “Qi,” chi, or energy throughout the body, restoring health. Traditional Chinese Medicine accomplishes this by releasing blocked energy that may have stagnated at certain points along the energy lines or meridians – invisible lines of energy that carry chi through the body. Key points along the 14 meridians are used as the acupuncture treatment points and this is where needles are applied.
Traditional acupuncture uses extremely fine needles that are inserted into the meridian points – but there are other treatment approaches on these same points that don’t involve needles. It’s possible to do a treatment on the acupuncture points without inserting needles at all, simply by applying light or moderate pressure to the same treatment points. This kind of treatment is known as acupressure.
The Group Health study on lower back pain indicates that acupressure using toothpicks is just as effective as traditional acupuncture pain treatments. This kind of treatment can be used for pain relief or for any health concern that might require acupuncture treatment – including emotional or psychological distress. In fact, this kind of treatment is very similar to the kind of acupressure “tapping” done in energy psychology protocols using the same treatment points.
Why is surface treatment just as effective as acupuncture with needles? No one is really sure, but it may be due to nerve, emotional, or hormonal responses that are triggered from skin contact as well as by using acupuncture needles. Whatever the method, Traditional Chinese Medicine approaches that use acupuncture or acupressure have been shown to be even more effective than medical and pharmaceutical approaches for the treatment of low back and arthritis pain.