Acupuncture has stood the test of time, having been practiced in the Orient for thousands of years. Now it is time for this ancient medicine to be tested rigorously, with the most modern research methods. Future randomized clinical trials should focus on standardizing comparison groups and treatment methods, be at least single-blinded, assess biologic mechanisms, have adequate statistical power, and involve multiple acupuncturists.
Although there is much work to be done before we can truly understand the mechanisms of acupuncture, there is a growing body of solid evidence that suggests acupuncture is safe and effective for the treatment of many conditions.
In 1997 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) convened a Consensus Development Conference on Acupuncture. An objective panel summarized the results of acupuncture research presented at the conference and concluded:
There is sufficient evidence of acupuncture’s value to expand its use into conventional medicine and to encourage further studies of its physiology and clinical value.
As a result of the NIH conference many physicians now feel comfortable referring their patients to acupuncturists, at least for the conditions specified in the consensus statement. In addition to postoperative- and chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting and postoperative dental pain, other conditions included in the consensus statement are myofascial pain, low back pain, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoarthritis, headache, menstrual cramps, fibromyalgia, and asthma. Since the NIH consensus statement, these trials have had a positive effect on healthcare reimbursement for acupuncture.
PubMed lists more than 1,000 randomized controlled trials that have assessed either the efficacy (compared to placebo) or effectiveness (compared to other treatments) of acupuncture for many other conditions, such as anxiety and stress, pain management including post-operative pain, and many women’s health conditions. The NIH lists some recent resources on the webpage for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
The field of acupuncture cancer research is beginning to gain momentum. For a good description of acupuncture, including an overview of recent acupuncture research on cancer by the National Cancer Institute, check out the cancer.gov website.
The 5 Element Institute collaborates with our research partners by providing acupuncture treatment for controlled trials, to further our understanding of how best to integrate acupuncture and other integrative medicine modalities into our conventional medical system, for the benefit of the patient.
The Institute’s current research efforts are focused on cancer patients. Acupuncture is proven to effectively treat some side effects in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and radiation, thus providing better health outcomes and patient satisfaction ratings. More research is needed to learn how acupuncture can effectively treat unstudied or understudied cancer therapy side effects.
For more information on our current research projects, please Contact Us.