When it comes to alternatives to conventional medical practice, one of the most popular concepts is acupuncture. Acupuncture is a traditional medicine that involves inserting very thin needles into certain places on the body in order to relieve a patient’s symptoms. If you have considered trying out acupuncture, knowing the various pros and cons ahead of time will help you make an educated decision.
Pro: Acupuncture may provide pain relief
One of the most commonly listed benefits of acupuncture is pain relief. Proponents of acupuncture say that it can reduce temporary or even chronic pain as well as pain in various parts of the body and pain brought about by a wide array of causes. The National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health confirms that research has shown the positive effects of acupuncture on pain relief, and the Center for Young Women’s Health specifically lists back pain, headaches, stomach problems and menstrual cramps as conditions often treated by acupuncture.
Pro: Acupuncture may help relieve depression
Some doctors claim that acupuncture can help relieve the symptoms of depression. Hugh MacPherson, the United Kingdom’s first Professor of Acupuncture Research, conducted a study alongside a team of researchers at the University of York that concluded that acupuncture combined with normal counseling offered a cost-effective and more successful treatment to conventional methods.
Pro: Acupuncture usually has few side effects or drug interactions
Since it doesn’t involve ingesting pills or medicine, acupuncture typically won’t interfere with a patient’s current medications. The Mayo Clinic lists temporary soreness and minor bleeding or bruising as the main side effects of acupuncture, which are relatively low-risk compared to other medical approaches.
Con: Acupuncture carries a higher risk of infection if performed incorrectly
Acupuncture requires the insertion of needles into your body, so it carries extra inherent risks. If the acupuncturist doesn’t properly clean the needles, they can pass bloodborne illnesses from person to person or cause a dangerous infection. The standard for the industry is single-use, disposable needles, which considerably decreases the risk of infection.
Con: Acupuncture may not do anything, and sometimes makes the problem worse
Both proponents and critics of acupuncture agree that it may not work. In clinical research, many patients reported no noticeable results after undergoing acupuncture, even if they relaxed and enjoyed the treatment. According to the CYWH, some have suggested that acupuncture makes their symptoms worse for a while before they experience any improvement.
Con: There isn’t a consensus that acupuncture helps
Some medical professionals strongly advocate for acupuncture. Mike Cummings, director of the British Medical Acupuncture Society, wrote an opinion piece for the British Medical Journal supporting acupuncture, saying that those who choose the procedure and respond well to it will enjoy a better quality of life
On the other hand, critics like professors Asbjorn Hrobjartsson from the University of Southern Denmark and Edzard Ernst from the University of Exeter say there isn’t enough evidence that acupuncture is any better than a placebo. In an opposing opinion piece to Cummings’, they pointed out that even among doctors in China, where acupuncture originated, the practice has gone in and out of favor. They conclude that, after decades of research, there is still no clear evidence that acupuncture is clinically worthwhile.
Above all, patients should see a medical professional to discuss symptoms and acupuncture. A doctor will be able to direct care and notify you of potential risks and reward, so be sure to consult their expertise prior to undertaking any substantial changes to your health routine.
This article is presented by Zimbrick European in Madison, WI.