The principles of acupuncture are firmly grounded in science, and you don't need Chinese philosophy either to make it work, or to practise it, says a leading medically trained acupuncturist.
Dr Adrian White, editor in chief of the scientific journal Acupuncture in Medicine, was speaking today (12 March 2009) at the launch of the journal's transfer to publication by BMJ Group after 27 years of publication with the British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS).
"One of the major problems facing medical acupuncture is the preconceived notions both the public and healthcare professionals have of it," he said. "The perception is that acupuncture is still all about chi and meridians."
This view has hindered its acceptance among healthcare professionals, and its wider use as a valid addition to pain control in conditions, ranging from nausea to arthritis, as well as after surgery, he contends.
"In the past it was easy for doctors and scientists to dismiss acupuncture as 'highly implausible' when its workings were couched in talk of chi and meridians. But it becomes very plausible when explained in terms of neurophysiology," he explains.
Unfortunately, the scientific approach just isn't as sexy," he continues. "Many people, including practitioners and the public, have held on to the traditional explanations."
And there's plenty of scientific evidence, which has been building up for the past 30 years, to show that acupuncture stimulates the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, releasing feel good chemicals, such as opioids and serotonin. The research also shows that a needle placed outside of the traditional meridians will have an impact.
While it may not be a cure all, acupuncture does have a place, and is a relatively inexpensive approach to common conditions that can be difficult and often costly to treat, he says.
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"Well, acupuncture is derived from the Latin (acus punctere), so the word seems more appropriate for the Western method. If you want to use the classical Chinese concepts then it would be more sensible to call it Chen-chiu (Chinese for needle and moxa) or something, rather than use a Western word acupuncture." - Adrian White, Editor, Acupuncture in Medicine
"By the very word acupuncture, one is talking about Qi and Meridians. Sticking a needle in someone does not make it 'acupuncture'. Perhaps dry needling but not acupuncture. If one wants to use science to try and explain acupuncture fine, but once one disposes of the 'qi & meridian' then call it dry needling in medicine, not acupuncture. Talk about confusing the public, this will do it. Acupuncture is based in Taoism not science. They may intersect; dry needling is based in science and still cannot explain acupuncture well, if at all." - David Sontag, USA
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