Leaving aside the more exotic claims made for acupuncture, in the West it is used for the treatment (either on its own or in conjunction with other therapies) of a wide range of musculoskeletal problems such as ‘frozen’ shoulder, problems occurring in the small of the back and generalized aches and pains often with no known cause. Unlike orthodox medicine the technique cannot alter the body’s structure but it can be very useful in stabilizing and alleviating the symptoms of wear and tear on joints, such as in osteoarthritis and the phases of acute inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Allergies and skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema have also be found to respond to it. The treatment for hay fever illustrates the potential of acupuncture as a preventative therapy: sufferers are claimed to be symptom-free as a result of receiving one or two sessions of treatment before the onset of the pollen season. Juvenile asthma readily responds to acupuncture, but with adult asthma and bronchitis it is generally possible only to stabilize the condition. Acupuncture has also been used successfully to treat
A migraine, headaches and some neuralgias. Many people who have undergone acupuncture treatment report a feeling of increased well-being. This effect can be used to help treat nervous tension, anxiety and associated symptoms generated by our modern way of life. It can also help in overcoming the side-effects of giving up smoking, alcohol and other drugs.
Acupuncture is used quite often as a method of pain relief. In pain clinics it is used successfully to treat post-operative pain and terminal pain; it is used during childbirth to depress or relieve labour pains; and with varying levels of success it has been used as an anaesthetic, both with and without conventional anaesthesia, for procedures such as Caesarean section deliveries. A related form of pain relief known as cupping is carried out by placing heated cups over wounds made by needles. The air in the cup cools and as it does so creates a vacuum which sucks blood into the surface tissues. Valid claims have been made for acupuncture’s ability to help agoraphobia, claustrophobia, dysmenorrhoea, amenorrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and nocturnal enuresis (bed-wetting). An experienced acupuncture practitioner would probably venture the opinion that, although it is not a panacea for all ills, acupuncture has a definite place in primary health care.