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Discovering The Power of Acupuncture

Great article from the Buffalo News.
November 6 2014

You may not like the idea of being needled, but acupuncture has been a go-to therapy for 5,000 years. And this Chinese healing art, which uses hair-thin needles to stimulate points in the body that affect chi or qi, the life energy, has been in the news lately – not just because celebs like pop star Alicia Keys and bike racer Vincenzo Nibali (winner of the 2014 Tour de France) use it to stay energized, but because modern medicine is discovering more and more about the powers of acupuncture to heal the mind and body.

The World Health Organization says acupuncture may help ease digestive problems, including constipation and diarrhea; chronic sinus and lung infections; all sorts of pain, from headaches and migraines to neck pain, back pain and osteoarthritis; infertility; and even urinary and menstrual problems.

At the Cleveland Clinic, where Dr. Mike is Chief Wellness Officer and there are more than 10 certified acupuncture practitioners in the Wellness Institute’s Center for Integrative Medicine, a review of the best research found good evidence that it works to ease gastroesophageal reflux, nerve pain and post-surgery pain.

No wonder the number of North Americans being needled jumped from 2 million in 2002 to more than 14 million in 2007. And now at least four states include health-insurance coverage for acupuncture under the Affordable Care Act, with more states likely to follow.

So, if you’re one of the folks who likes the idea, and the treatments work for you, here are some recent insights into what acupuncture can do for you:

1. Relieve stress: Levels of neuropeptide Y – a combo of 36 amino acids that acts as a neurotransmitter and constricts blood vessels – skyrockets when you’re tense, triggering the fight-or-flight response. Acupuncture helps control levels of neuropeptide Y, lowering blood pressure and relaxing muscles.

2. Sooth pain: In a new University of California San Diego study, after 31 kids ages 2 to 17 had tonsillectomies, acupuncture muted their throat aches within minutes.

3. Cool a hot flash: A new review of 12 studies involving 869 menopausal women concludes that acupuncture reduces the number and intensity of this annoying menopause symptom.

4. Melt pounds: When 91 overweight people followed the same healthy diet and got real or sham ear acupuncture, those who got the real thing lost weight.

5. Promote energy for cancer patients: In two recent University of Pennsylvania studies, women receiving chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer reported reductions in tiredness, anxiety, depression and joint pain after receiving acupuncture.

We know that in some studies, sham acupuncture produces results almost as good – or as good – as the real thing. Perhaps the sham technique – pricking acupuncture points – works as well as inserting needles … or, in some cases, acupuncture works because people want it to. Future research will help sort that out.

What we know for sure? Here’s how to get the most out of this healing therapy:

• Talk with your doctor first: Don’t stop medications or other treatments on your own. Instead, ask your doctor about combining the two.

• Check your insurance: Some plans cover it; others may offer a discount if you use certain providers. If you have a health spending account, you’ll probably be able to use it for acupuncture, too.

• Find a certified practitioner: There are 27,835 acupuncturists in the U.S. who’ve been certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Find one at Medical doctors with acupuncture training are listed by the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture on the Internet at Ask if your practitioner is certified and state-licensed; it’s a requirement in 42 states and Washington, D.C.

• Know what to expect: Needles are thin, sharp and sterile – only disposable, prepackaged needles should be used. You may feel a twinge or nothing at all when they’re inserted. Depending on your health, you may need one to 10 treatments or visits that continue for several months. We hope you get the point!

Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen is chief wellness officer and chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Roizen is a Buffalo native and returned to the city on Tuesday to talk about seven steps toward better health.

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