Acupuncture has become more popular for those seeking help with back pain.

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Why consider acupuncture?

Acupuncture as a medical treatment for pain and illness is an international practice spanning several thousands of years. In many parts of the world, this method is still considered the main treatment option for a variety of ailments and injuries. In the United States, acupuncture continues to gain clout as a beneficial, supplemental modality. This article lists only a few of the many conditions that can benefit from this treatment. 

Back pain ranks as one of the most common causes for doctor visits, effecting up to 30 million Americans annually [Source: Van Tulder]. The range of back pain severity is wide, with many episodes resolving fairly quickly, while others last for several days or even months and lead to recurrent flare-ups. The standard treatments for back pain include rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatories, back braces and surgery. Acupuncture has grown in popularity as a treatment for those who do not respond to conventional approaches. 

While studies vary on its success rate in correlation to back pain, clinically, acupuncture has enough merit to at least be considered alongside other nonsurgical treatments [Source: Van Tulder, Manheimer]. If initiated within the first few months of pain, acupuncture can work in four visits or less. With chronic back pain experienced for several years, it may take 5-10 visits to stabilize. Often relief of pain is obtained within 24 hours of treatment. Back pain can be an extremely frustrating condition, limiting both work and play, and can have substantial impact on earning capacity and quality of life. No one treatment will be able to cure all types of back pain.

Chronic headaches are another common complaint. Along with doctor visits and missed school or work, headaches contribute significantly to decreased quality of life. Whether the pain is migraine or tension related, acupuncture may be able to offer relief [Source: Vincent, Loh]. Please know several nutritional therapies can also offer benefit for debilitating headaches. Acupuncture as a treatment option can be effective without the trade off of substantial side effects.

Perhaps a lesser known use of acupuncture is the treatment of male and female infertility. In males, acupuncture has demonstrated success in improving low sperm counts and sperm quality [Source: Pei, Siterman]. For females, in a small study, it demonstrated similar success comparable to hormone therapies in achieving pregnancy, with far fewer side effects [Source: Gerhard]. Acupuncture has also been shown to significantly improve in vitro fertilization success rates [Source: Dieterle]. Infertility can put tremendous stress on a relationship. Clinically, acupuncture has shown positive, stress-reducing results. Couples should consider acupuncture as a complementary treatment to help improve chances of success.

On the road to optimal health, discontinuing the use of tobacco products can be one of the toughest challenges. Smoking is known to have a dramatic negative impact on many areas of the body, which can tally up to big costs. The nation is currently paying billions of dollars to treat tobacco users. There is really no one best way to kick the habit, as each smoker will respond differently to treatments. Once a person is ready to quit, acupuncture offers a highly effective, relaxing and safe route for cessation. Though the studies on acupuncture and tobacco are mixed, many physicians have found this method very successful in calming cigarette cravings [Source: Wu, Song]. Like nearly all treatments for smoking cessation, acupuncture should be done only after the smoker has put a plan in place. Most patients need at least 3-5 sessions for treatment.

Lots More Information

Related ArticlesSources
  • Dieterle S.  Effect of acupuncture on the outcome of in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection: a randomized, prospective, controlled clinical study.  Fertil Steril - 01-MAY-2006; 85(5): 1347-51
  • Gerhard I. Auricular acupuncture in the treatment of female infertility. Gynecol Endocrinol - 01-SEP-1992; 6(3): 171-81
  • Loh, L., Nathan, PW., Schott, GD., Zilkha, KJ. (1984). Acupuncture versus medical treatment for migraine and muscle tension headaches. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry, 47:333-337.
  • Manheimer, E. (2005). Meta-analysis: Acupuncture for low back pain. Ann Intern Med, 142(8):651-63.
  • Pei, J. (2005). Quantitative evaluation of spermatozoa ultrastructure after acupuncture treatment for idiopathic male infertility. Fertil Steril, 84(1):141-7.
  • Siterman, S. (1997). Effect of acupuncture on sperm parameters of males suffering from subfertility related to low sperm quality. Arch Androl, 39(2):155-61.
  • Song LZ.  Acupuncture combined with auricular point sticking and pressing for smoking cessation of 53 cases in Russia.  Zhongguo Zhen Jiu - 01-FEB-2008; 28(2): 133-4
  • van Tulder, M.W. (1999). The effectiveness of acupuncture in the management of acute and chronic low back pain. A systematic review within the framework of the Cochrane Collaboration Back Review Group. Spine, 24(11):1113-23.
  • Wu TP.  A randomized controlled clinical trial of auricular acupuncture in smoking cessation.  J Chin Med Assoc - 01-AUG-2007; 70(8): 331-8 
  • Vincent, CA. (1989). A controlled trial of the treatment of migraine by acupuncture. Clin J Pain, 5:305-312.