Part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture is a healing method developed over the past 2000 plus years in China and the Far East. Popular culture portrays acupuncture as pain therapy administered by practitioners using thin needles placed in specific points (i.e. acupoints) of the body. All in all this is a fair portrayal, although the patient in these portrayals is usually shown to be a bit different and quirky and not deserving the fruits of the ancient practice. Although so-called “modern” medicine has been slow to accept the ancient practice it has become increasingly more “open” because it’s becoming more and more difficult to dismiss the successes of treatments on conditions like depression.
The specific origin of acupuncture has been lost in the mists of time. One might logically conclude that acupuncture has survived because it works and that the successful aspects of acupressure and bloodletting slowly developed over the centuries into a separate discipline, fueled by the confidence of the patient in this so-called mysterious practice. Unlike Western science, the discoveries and studies of TCM practitioners were never documented and shared with the public at large. Rather, theories and practices were passed down from master to apprentice in secret. Nobody knows for sure, but it’s possible that successful techniques were compiled around the beliefs of the Eastern cultures.
Acupuncture treatment depends on precise placement of fine needles in “acupoints” drawn by centuries of practitioners. Points are found along lines of “chi” or energy from major organs that run along the back and limbs of the human body. As with Feng Shui, the idea is to allow the chi to flow unimpeded while balancing yin and yang. Needles are mostly placed along the right side of the body to correct the flow of chi when treating depression with acupuncture.
A study done in Tucson divided women with mild depression into three groups. The first group was treated with the recommended therapy for acupuncture and depression. The second group was treated using acupuncture therapy normally used for other conditions and the third group; the control group was simply put on a waiting list.
The first two groups were told they received the traditional acupuncture and depression treatment. The finding showed the first group had as much improvement as if they had received medication. The other two groups fared less well but had a little improvement.
The Cochrane Group, a scientific group that is looking for evidence concerning acupuncture, looked into this study for the effectiveness of acupuncture and depression and decided that the results were not convincing enough to receive their seal of approval. Of course, the conclusions of the Cochrane Group must be taken with a grain of salt because it’s filled with people who hold a bias against traditional Chinese medicine and unless the results were so overwhelming they couldn’t discount them they would look for any reason they could to discount the results.
While science will continue to study the so-called efficacy of acupuncture and depression, the bottom line is that acupuncture has been used successfully on a wide range of health conditions for thousands of years. The proof is in the many anecdotal stories told by happy patients.
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