Acupuncture and conventional medicine
In principle, the idea of the meridians initially recalls the nervous pathways that are familiar to the Western school physician, which run through the entire body. Although a special stimulation of such nerve tracts by the needle irritation could, for example, influence the perception of pain, an allocation of the meridians to the known nerve tracts can not be easily made. Another thesis suggests a connection between the course of the channels and of lymphatic vessels. However, there is no clear link between interconnections and body structures, nor is there any definitive explanation for the effects of acupuncture.
Acupuncture: in the West still associated with skepticism
Nevertheless, the wide spread and long tradition of acupuncture speaks for this healing method. But like other therapies and medicines, acupuncture in the West has to undergo a modern review, based on statistical and medical criteria. This also includes questions such as: Is the treatment method compatible and does it have no incalculable or serious dangers? Does the treatment actually bring relief to the condition? If so, is this positive effect actually so high that it can no longer be explained by the so-called placebo effect?
"Gerac" study on the effectiveness of acupuncture
In recent years, several studies have been carried out according to modern criteria and with sufficiently large numbers of patients to check the effectiveness of acupuncture.
In 2001-2005 the first part of the "Gerac" (German Acupuncture Trials - Clinical Examinations of Acupuncture in Germany) investigated the extent to which acupuncture causes undesirable effects, ie side effects. The results showed that acupuncture is a very tolerable therapy. For example, far fewer than one percent of those treated showed local infections after treatment.
In the second part, which ran until 2008, it was to be determined whether the effectiveness of acupuncture can be statistically proven, especially in comparison to other, "Western" therapies. For this, pain patients were treated with one of three possible therapies: either traditionally western, for example, with medicines, or with one of two acupuncture types - one of which followed the rules of Chinese medicine, while the other deliberately disregarded them and acupunctates randomly selected body sites were. This should make it clear whether concentrating on the classic acupoints is really important. For example, B. 1039 patients with knee joint wear - 28 percent of those treated with standard thereafter had less pain and better joint function; the success rates for acupuncture patients was about 50 percent.
Further studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture
In April 2005, the Berlin Charité and the Techniker Krankenkasse published the final report on the efficacy study "Acupuncture increases the quality of life and is economical". Around 10, 000 physicians treated over 300, 000 patients with acupuncture in four and a half years and recorded the results using questionnaires, among other things. The result: Acupuncture helps permanently with many ailments - from allergies to spinal pain. For example, nine out of ten allergic patients were significantly better off than they had been for half a year after the treatment. 82 percent of asthma sufferers had significantly fewer complaints.
The results of a study by German complementary physicians in the American Medical Journal (Klaus Linde et al .: Acupuncture for Patients With Migraine, Journal of the American Medical Association - JAMA, 2005, vol 293 pages 2118-2125) shows a high efficacy in migraine. About 300 men and women over 40 were divided into three groups for this study. One group received twelve applications after traditional Chinese acupuncture. A second group received nonspecific acupuncture, a third group received no therapy, but was allowed to take painkillers. Both acupuncture therapies had significantly fewer migraine attacks - instead of five, only two a month.
Acupuncture: Side effects barely exist
In a Korean study, hardly any side effects were found in acupuncture. In 100 treatments there were on average three times side effects. The examined patients suffered most frequently from bleeding in the puncture area. Also, bruising and pain occasionally occurred. In general, however, all side effects were gone after 48 hours at the latest. Incidentally, the symptoms were particularly frequent in patients treated by physicians with less than three years' professional experience. However, with experienced physicians who follow all guidelines, acupuncture is a very safe treatment method.
Conclusion: acupuncture helps
The results of the studies could confirm one thing: acupuncture helps, with some complaints it works even better than standard therapies. This applies especially to migraine, back and joint complaints and allergies. It may be that, as some doctors suggest, a greater release of endogenous painkillers, the endorphins, contributes to the effect.
But all physicians agree: Acupuncture is not suitable for all complaints alike. Severe pain underlying a cancer or other serious illness should be treated conventionally.