Many people are increasingly turning to acupuncture—one of the oldest healing practices in the world—to help relieve pain and bring the body back into balance. In fact, acupuncture is the focal point of several new studies, from treating hot flashes during menopause to restoring balance after a stroke.
The practice of acupuncture typically involves inserting hair-like needles into a variety of pressure points—called acupoints—on the skin. According to Chinese philosophy, stimulating these points triggers the body’s natural healing abilities.
In a new analysis, published in the journal Menopause, acupuncture was found to reduce the severity of hot flashes. The researchers looked through 12 studies that involved acupuncture on 869 menopausal women (ages 40-60). During the research, participants experienced several different types of acupuncture: acupressure, electroacupuncture, laser acupuncture, ear acupuncture, and traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture.
The findings showed that, in general, acupuncture was able to lessen the severity and frequency of the participants’ hot flashes for up to 3 months. Interestingly, acupuncture was found to have an overall benefit on hot flashes regardless of the number of visits or the length of each session.
In another recent study, conducted by researchers from Taipei Medical University, acupuncture combined with physiotherapy was found to be extremely effective in improving balance in 132 hemiplegic stroke victims, compared to physiotherapy alone.
Another new study, published in PLOS one, confirms that acupuncture is effective in reducing the risk for stroke in patients with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The study, which involved nearly 30,000 patients, showed that patients who received acupuncture had a “lower probability of stroke than those without acupuncture treatment during the follow-up period.”
Previous studies have shown that acupuncture is effective in lowering back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as easing migraines and arthritis. In clinical trials, acupuncture also showed promise in relieving the nausea that comes from chemotherapy.
So how does acupuncture work? According to traditional Chinese medicine philosophy, yin and yang are two types of energy present in every person’s body. This energy, also known as qi, flows along the body’s meridians (or pathways), keeping everything in balance. Approximately 2,000 acupuncture points lie along the body’s meridians. If these forces become blocked, or unbalanced, the body becomes unhealthy. Acupuncture is believed to stimulate these points to restore a healthy flow of energy.