Strongest evidence yet of benefits of acupuncture

 

Acupuncture could be a great, side-effect-free alternative to drugs

Acupuncture is often dismissed by the medical profession despite the growing number of people who extol its benefits for relieving a variety of conditions. Now a new study shows that the ancient Chinese practice mimics the same changes in the body that occur from taking stress-relief drugs.

Ladan Eshkevari, PhD, a nurse anesthetist, licensed acupuncturist and associate professor in the department of nursing and the department of pharmacology and physiology at Georgetown University Medical Center, noticed that the acupuncture patients coming to her for pain were reporting improvement of symptoms unrelated to their pain, like chronic stress, depression, sleep and appetite.

“There was nothing in the literature about acupuncture for PTSD and chronic stress,” she says, so she decided to study it. To find out if acupuncture was affecting chronic stress, Eshkevari and a team of researchers looked at what happened in a key pathway in dealing with stress for both humans and rats.

They found that needles placed at just the right parts of the body interrupt the transmission of stress hormones—the most robust evidence yet to indicate that acupuncture’s positive effects go beyond just placebo.

“The benefits of acupuncture are well known by those who use it, but such proof is anecdotal. This research, the culmination of a number of studies, demonstrates how acupuncture might work in the human body to reduce stress and pain, and, potentially, depression,”

In the study, published recently in the journal Endocrinology, the researchers tested the effects of electroacupuncture, in which the needles carry a mild electric current, on stressed-out rats. They were targeting the stomach meridian point 36, which is located on the shin in humans, or behind the hind paw in rats. It’s considered in acupuncture to be one of the most powerful points on the body because it influences a pathway for chronic stress pathway called the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis.

When the researchers inserted needles at this point on rats that were stressed from cold, their stress hormone levels were much lower compared to those who did not receive the acupuncture treatment. Many drugs used to treat anxiety and depression tap into the same systems of hormones, bolstering the legitimacy of the findings.

Interestingly, this works even during the stressful event (in a previous study, Eshkevari successfully tested the application of acupuncture before stress was applied), and the effects of the acupuncture continue for up to four days after treatment is stopped.

If acupuncture works the same way in humans as it does in rats, it would be a promising alternative to medication; acupuncture may have fewer side effects and wouldn’t require so much tinkering with dosage.

“This work provides a framework for future clinical studies on the benefit of acupuncture, both before or during chronic stressful events,”

Obviously, more research into human responses to acupuncture is necessary before we can say for sure how the practice affects the body exactly, but this does indicate that the traditional Chinese medicine technique is more than just the placebo treatment some doctors claim it is.

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Reiki to be used to help children in hospital

Reiki treatment has improved sleep, fear, anxiety, distress and pain for children

Royal Alexandra Children’s hospital in Brighton has introduced Reiki therapy for its young patients.

The hospital’s official fundraising charity, Rockinghorse, has provided the money needed to provide four specialist Reiki therapists.

The therapists, who have been treating patients on a voluntary basis since 2012, are being funded for an initial three years.  The funding will allow the Reiki therapists to double the amount of time they are able to offer treatments, from five hours per week to ten.

They can provide massage and Reiki treatment for parents with children and babies on the unit, to help provide a sense of calm during what can be a very stressful time.

Consultant paediatrician Kamal Patel said:

“The Reiki treatment has improved sleep, fear, anxiety, distress and pain for children on our paediatric critical unit over and above what we can achieve through modern medicine.

To have such a fantastic team of people offering Reiki really helps our patients get better quicker.”

Therapist Ali Walters said:

“It is wonderful to be able to give both the children and parents an opportunity to relax and unwind.

So often parents tell me they are delighted that during treatment their child drops off to sleep or they see their child become more calm and comfortable. I am delighted that Rockinghorse is now funding our work so we can provide more therapists and treatments to support the critical care that is provided.”

Rockinghorse is the official fundraising arm of the hospital and raises money for life-saving and cutting-edge medical equipment.

For more information visit rockinghorse.org.uk

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