- LONDON (Reuters) - Acupuncture can be effective in treating back pain
and nausea but patients should be aware that the ancient Chinese therapy
is not completely safe, medical experts said Monday.
- An international meeting of doctors and
researchers in London to assess the treatment said acupuncture can work
for certain ailments but serious complications can occur when it is done
by an unqualified therapist.
- ``It is not totally safe. We know of
severe side effects and complications and we are at a loss of how frequently
they occur,'' Edzard Ernst, of the University of Exeter in south-western
England, told a press conference. Acupuncturists use tiny needles to try
to balance the body's energy flow, or Qi, at certain points along 12 energy
channels or meridians of the body.
- Western doctors have acknowledged that
there are areas in the body where acupuncture needles can work on muscles
to reduce pain. They also know that the needles stimulate nerve endings
that reach into the hypothalamus area of the brain that regulates metabolism,
sleep and other vital body functions. But Dr Adrian White, of the department
of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter, said nobody has
found any convincing scientific evidence for the existence of meridians
or energy flow.
- ``Acupuncture can clearly stimulate cells
deep within the brain to release transmitters; the best known are the endorphins,
which should correctly be called opioid peptides. However, just because
we now have a possible mechanism for acupuncture doesn't mean it necessarily
works in particular conditions: we need evidence from clinical trials in
every condition,'' he said.
- White added that acupuncture has proven
helpful for nausea, lower back pain and dental pain, but said the evidence
for its effects on neck pain, headache, stroke and asthma is inconclusive.
There is also no proof to show it helps people to stop smoking or lose
- The doctors said most of the complications
linked to acupuncture -- ranging from lung punctures and drowsiness to
blood poisoning and hepatitis B -- are avoidable and result from inadequate
knowledge and aggressive treatment.
- Unlike osteopaths and chiropractors who
are licensed by professional boards most countries, the control of training
for acupuncturists is much more relaxed. In some countries acupuncturists
need no training or qualifications.
- Dr Hagen Rampes, of South Kensington
& Chelsea Mental Health Center in London, conducted a review of the
published side effects of acupuncture world-wide over a 30-year period.
More than 300 cases of serious complications were reported.
- Pneumothorax, or puncture of the lung,
was the most frequent complication, with more than 100 cases worldwide.
``There have been several clusters of hepatitis B throughout the world
and all were due to careless procedures when acupuncture was used,'' he
- Dear Sightings:
- As a student of the Chinese healing arts
I was alarmed by this article that seems to show only the dangers of choosing
an unlicensed practitioner while failing to point out the beneficial uses
- I would like to point out that the Chinese
have used acupuncture for thousands of years. Their medicinal arts far
exceded those of the West until nearly the twentieth century. In China
today both Western medicine and Chinese medicine are used side by side
with exciting results. In a Chinese surgery acupuncture is used in place
of anesthesia. Electricity is applied to the needles until the area to
be cut has no more feeling. This practice has for the Chinese (and elsewhere
such as Sweden and Germany) proven to be far safer than the drugs used
for anesthesia in the West.
- Much research in currently in progress
with the use of acupuncture. To read more about this I would like to direct
you to: http://126.96.36.199/Research/ResInd.htm
- In Japan and China acupuncture has been
used quite successfully in neurology. Through the combination of both Western
medicine and acupuncture people have been brought out of comas; children
have overcome various types of paralysis. The research continues as it
appears that acupuncture seems to "jump-start" nerve-endings.
- Many acupuncturists are assigned to the
task of healing those that Western medicine has failed. They have had great
success. I feel that the article in question needlessly promotes fear in
the Western world. Already in the West, the standard medical routine has
become so insular that it refuses to reach out and try new techniques.
If acupuncture works on damaged nerves, why isn't it being tried in the
West? If the Chinese have developed a method of treating burns that is
more effective in the West, why isn't it being practiced? Instead of the
medical community being open and experimental, they have become insular
- I believe that we should open up to new
techniques and use them if they work. I do not advocate using an unlicensed
practioner. Most acupuncturists are well-trained and they used disposable
- Starla Immak Auburn, Wa
From Victor Fletcher
- Acupuncture sounds pretty safe to me!
- If only 10 people a year are having a
problem when it is allowed to be practiced by rank amateurs it sounds a
lot safer to me than institutionalized and professional medical care that
allows drug poisoning prescriptions, inadequate monitoring of antibiotic
medication follow-through, inadequate monitoring of seniors prescriptions,
- Then, we're talking hundreds of thousands
and perhaps millions of
- instances of "professional"
medical abuse. If you're dead by
- professional malpractice you're just
as dead as if it were by a rank
- amateur. Should there be standards for
acupuncture practitioners -- yes.
- Should there be condemnation of institutionalized
- for their medically induced problems
-- also yes.
- In Canada it is estimated on average
that every senior citizen is on
- three prescriptions.
- Victor Fletcher