Chinese acupuncture practitioners believe that disease is caused by a disruption in the flow of an energy called qi. All bodily functions are regulated by qi and the procedures aim to correct any imbalance in its flow. Certain “points” of the body located under the skin are stimulated by inserting thin needles. There are different types of acupuncture that use certain types of needles, insertion points an techniques. Some complement the method with moxibustion or electricity. Microacupuncture uses uses forty-eight non-traditional acupoints while auriculotherapy views the ear as a map of the entire body. Japanese style acupuncture uses thinner needles and Korean hand acupuncture concentrates on the points located in the palm.
The United States National Institutes of Health, the National Health Service and World Health Organization endorsed acupuncture for treating certain conditions. Research shows that traditional methods are more effective than placebos for treating post-operative nausea and pain. Acupuncture trials represent a challenge for scientists because of the invasive nature and the difficulty in designing a placebo group. “Sham acupuncture” includes insertion in non-relevant sites, superficial needling and retracting needles.
A study performed in 2012 revealed significant differences between results from the true and placebo group, proving that the method is effective in treating chronic pain condition. A 2011 review of trials concluded that the methodology is poor and that non-Chinese journals have higher quality levels. A study from 2009 concluded that there is no difference between the stimulation of the traditional “points” and the sham acupuncture.
Acupuncture and pain
A 2012 review found evidence to support the fact that acupuncture is more effective for alleviating pain caused by osteoarthritis than sham acupuncture or standard care. Similar results were found in 2007 and 2008 but one review suggested that the method is not efficient for treating knee osteoarthritis patients. A study conducted in 2011 states that the technique is beneficial for headaches and a 2011 review shows that it can relieve pain from migraines, tension-type headaches, peripheral joint osteoarthritis and neck disorders. A Cochrane Review from 2009 concluded that there is no difference between the results of the sham and true groups, but apparently both are more effective in treating migraines than the standard routine and have less side effects than medication.
Nausea and vomiting
A particular point, PC6 located several finger-widths above the wrist is thought to alleviate postoperative nausea symptoms. A Cochrane Review from 2004 showed that acupuncture is more effective than medication in treating vomiting and nausea, but retracted the study because of an Asian publication bias. A 2009 update revealed that acupuncture and acupressure are as effective as antiemetic drugs.