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Mayo Clinic: Acupuncture Useful for Low Back Pain

Worth mentioning: Acupuncture recommended by John Bartleson, MD, of the Mayo Clinic for low back pain as evidenced on their website:

(http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/acupuncture-for-back-pain/AN02055)

From wikipedia, the Mayo Clinic  ”is a non-profit organization and an internationally renowned group of medical practice headquartered in Rochester, Minnesota. Its headquarters consist of the Mayo Medical School, the Mayo Graduate School, the Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education, and several other health science Mayo Clinic partners with a number of smaller clinics and hospitals in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, an organization known as the “Mayo Health System.” Mayo also provides medical treatment and performs research in its facilities in Arizona and Florida.”

So what does it have to say?

“When performed properly by trained practitioners, acupuncture has proved to be an effective therapy for back pain. Several studies have found that acupuncture can help reduce chronic back pain and improve daily function.”

Very very important: when performed PROPERLY by TRAINED practitioners.  Why do I emphasize this? Time and time again I say that acupuncture is not a pill but a procedure.  It’s not just sticking a needle in, but practitioner skill is vital in the selection of acupoints and proper manipulation depending on the patient’s particular condition.  In fact, I am giving a lecture later on low back pain and will be emphasizing on several “kinds” of lumbago such as Blood Stasis (trauma), Damp-Cold, Kidney Yin Deficiency, etc etc…

The point is that not all back pains are created equal, and each must be met at their own terms.

Oh but what about the studies showing sham acupuncture also works? Doesn’t that debunk acupuncture?  And how the heck does it work anyway?

Scientists don’t fully understand how or why acupuncture affects the amount of pain you feel. Several studies have found that acupuncture causes the same effects as sham (minimal or simulated) acupuncture used in some studies for comparison. Sham acupuncture involves tapping the skin with a toothpick at the same strategic points used in acupuncture to simulate the insertion of a needle. Sham acupuncture may not be an accurate way of studying the benefits of acupuncture, however, because it’s possible that acupuncture points can be stimulated by even surface pressure. Both acupuncture and sham acupuncture showed improvement over usual medical treatments. (emphasis mine)

If only I had a penny for every time I’ve said this.

And now to complete the cycle:

Acupuncture is generally recognized as safe if done by a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner. Possible side effects and complications can occur, which include soreness, bleeding, infection or bruising at the needle sites.
Acupuncture isn’t a cure and not everyone responds to acupuncture for back pain. If your back pain doesn’t begin to improve within a few weeks, acupuncture may not be the right treatment for you. If you’re considering acupuncture for back pain, talk with your doctor, who can refer you to an acupuncturist.

Acupuncture is generally recognized as safe if done by a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner. Possible side effects and complications can occur, which include soreness, bleeding, infection or bruising at the needle sites.
Acupuncture isn’t a cure and not everyone responds to acupuncture for back pain. If your back pain doesn’t begin to improve within a few weeks, acupuncture may not be the right treatment for you. If you’re considering acupuncture for back pain, talk with your doctor, who can refer you to an acupuncturist.

There you have it folks:

a) acupuncture is a procedure, not a pill

b) sham acupuncture seems to work because it is still stimulating the acupoints, albeit less directly and less strongly

c) we may now know exactly how it works, but would that stop you from trying it if it does work?

and d) like ANY other treatment, it may not work for everyone.

This last point requires me to point out a certain bias.  If a western medicine treatment doesn’t work for a particular patient, we’ll say that it just didn’t work for a particular patient.  No one questions western medicine in general if a pill didn’t lower someone’s blood pressure.  Yet we in the so-called “alternative” field have to overcome a tendency by people to dismiss acupuncture and herbal medicine if it didn’t work for a particular person.  Know what I mean?

Well, off to University to enlighten some minds.

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