Acupuncture and its value
Acupuncture originates from China, and it has a long and successful history there, being practiced for thousands of years.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles through the patient's skin at specific points on the body - the needles are inserted to various depths. While there are no solid scientific explanations, why and how acupuncture affects so drastically the patients’ health, the overwhelming data confirms its positive effects on numerous medical conditions and substantial therapeutic benefits, including pain relief and alleviation from nausea caused by chemotherapy.
According to traditional Chinese medical theory, acupuncture points are located on meridians through which gi vital energy runs. There is no histological, anatomical or scientific proof that these meridians or acupuncture points exist. Acupuncture remains controversial among Western medical doctors and scientists.
Creating case studies that use proper scientific controls is difficult because of the invasive nature of acupuncture - a clinical study involves a placebo, compared to the targeted treatment. It is very hard to devise an imitation of acupuncture control, that one can compare to proper acupuncture. The study resulted in article, published in a peer-reviewed British Medical Journal in March 2009, confirms that the principles of acupuncture are firmly grounded in science, and you don't need Chinese philosophy either to make it work, or to practice it.
According to WHO (World Health Organization) acupuncture is effective for treating 28 conditions, while evidence indicates it may have an effective therapeutic value for many more.
New Studies on Acupuncture and Alzheimer’s
There are several respected studies, bringing an overwhelming evidence that Acupuncture Therapy may be very effective for Alzheimer’s patients, not only slowing down the disease, but being able to reverse the cognitive impairment – the therapeutic effect, which is yet to be achieved with other traditional therapies and medications.
In two separate studies - one at the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, the other at the University of Hong Kong - scientists have found that acupuncture can increase a patient's verbal and motor skills and improve mood and cognitive function.
In the first study, Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo and a team of colleagues at Wellesley College in Massachusetts studied 11 patients, 10 with Alzheimer's and one with vascular dementia. Subjects were treated with acupuncture twice a week for three months, with each subject receiving a minimum of 22 treatments. Patients were subjected to a variety of tests before and after being treated, including the Cornell Scale for Depression, the Speilberger State Anxiety Inventory, and the Mini-Mental Status Exam (MMSE) for cognitive function.
The researchers found "statistically significant improvements" in the depression and anxiety scores of patients. For example, the average Spielberger anxiety score at the start of treatment was 49.5; at the end of three months, it had decreased to 40.1. Four subjects experienced "substantial improvement" in mood symptoms after undergoing acupuncture; of those whose moods improved, two also showed improved MMSE scores, and a third improved in tests for fluency and naming ability.
While cognitive function was not measured scientifically (no control group was used), Lombardo said that those delivering treatment seemed to note an improvement in their subjects' thinking skills along with the other improvements, which she believes indicates a close relationship between cognitive ability, anxiety and depression.
In Dr. Kao's study, eight patients diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease were treated at the University of Hong Kong. Treatment consisted of needling and fine finger turning at eight acupoints: the si shen cong (Estra 7, four points on the scalp), shen men (HT7 on the wrists) and tai xi (KI3 on the feet). Needles were inserted 0.5 inches at an angle into si shen cong; 0.5 inches directly into shen men; and 0.8 inches directly into tai xi.
Needling for each acupoint lasted a total of 30 minutes, comprising the needle testing and its reinsertion after every 10 minutes of therapy. Patients received a seven-day treatment cycle with a three-day break in between for a total of 30 days.
Patients were graded using the TCM Symptoms Checklist for Alzheimer's and the MMSE exam to measure their levels of orientation; memory; attention; and the ability to name an object, follow verbal and written commands, and write a sentence spontaneously.
After being treated, Kao's team reported that patients "significantly improved" on measures of verbal orientation and motor coordination and had higher overall MMSE scores. They also noted that patients "showed a significant overall clinical improvement" on the TCM checklist, leading the researchers to conclude that acupuncture treatment "has shown significant therapeutic effects" in reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
MRI Validation for the Acupuncture Positive Effects
MRI imaging confirmed that acupuncture therapy enhances brain activity in Alzheimer disease (AD) patients. Researchers investigated the effects of two important acupuncture points on the human brains of Alzheimer disease patients using fMRI imaging with a SIEMENS verio 3-Tesla scanner. The researchers discovered that acupuncture “can enhance the hippocampal connectivity in AD patients.”
The hippocampus is an area of the brain involved in processing emotions, memory and the autonomic nervous system. The researchers note that the MRI scans demonstrate that acupuncture “increased connectivity” in the hippocampus in patients with AD. Alzheimer’s disease damages the hippocampus resulting in memory loss, cognitive dysfunction, dementia and disorientation. The study suggests that acupuncture may provide important clinical benefits to AD patients.
The controlled clinical investigation of human subjects measured multiple regions of disrupted connectivity in AD patients. After acupuncture, MRI imaging revealed that AD patients had significant improvements in connectivity for both frontal and lateral temporal regions of the hippocampus. The researchers note, “Due to the cognitive impairment associated with AD, acupuncture on specific acupoints can modulate the cerebral blood flow and strengthen the hippocampal connectivity in AD patients.”
The researchers note that these findings are consistent with other MRI studies on the effects of acupuncture on brain activity. This investigation used fMRI imaging to measure the effects of acupuncture points LV3 (Tai chong) and LI4 (He gu). The investigators note that similar prior research on acupuncture point KI3 on patients with cognitive impairment also demonstrated increased connectivity. The researchers added that acupuncture has long-lasting and beneficial effects on the human brain. They note, “Our study provides new evidence that acupuncture has a striking, sustained effect on AD patients.”
How is acupuncture treatment done?
Acupuncture needles Acupuncture generally involves several weekly or fortnightly treatments. Most courses consist of up to 12 sessions. A visit to an acupuncturist will involve an exam and an assessment of the patient's condition, the insertion of needles, and advice on self-care. Most sessions last about 30 minutes.
The patient will be asked to lie down, either face-up, face-down or on his/her side, depending on where the needless are inserted. The acupuncturist should use single-use disposable sterile needles. As each needle is inserted the patient should feel them, but initially without pain. However, when the needle reaches the right depth there should be a deep aching sensation. Sometimes the needles are heated or stimulated with electricity after insertion. Once inserted, the needles will remain there for about twenty minutes.
How does acupuncture work?
Traditional Chinese medicine explains that health is the result of a harmonious balance of the complementary extremes of yin and yan of the life force known as gi or chi. Qi is said to flow through meridians (pathways) in the human body. Through 350 acupuncture points in the body, these meridians and energy flows may be accessed. Illness is said to be the consequence of an imbalance of the forces. If needles are inserted into these points with appropriate combinations it is said that the energy flow can be brought back into proper balance.
In Western societies and several other parts of the world, acupuncture is explained including concepts of neuroscience. Acupuncture points are seen by Western practitioners as places where nerves, muscles and connective tissue can be stimulated. Acupuncture practitioners say that the stimulation increases blood flow while at the same time triggering the activity of our own body's natural painkillers.
Acupuncture points for Alzheimer's disease
Only the trained certified practitioner is able to perform acupuncture therapy, therefore the following review of the particular acupuncture points should be considered as “for reference only”. The points listed below are by no means the only relevant points, rather the commonly used points among the experts for this condition.
* GV 20 Acupuncture Point - Bai Hui - Governing Vessel Meridian
Chinese Name: Bai Hui
English Name: Hundred Convergences
* SI 16 Acupuncture Point - Tian Chuang - Small Intestine Meridian
Chinese Name: Tian Chuang
English Name: Celestial Windows
* LI 17 Acupuncture Point - Tian Ding - Large Intestine Meridian
Chinese: Name Tian Ding
English Name: Celestial Tripod
* LV 3 Acupuncture Point - Tai Chong - Liver Meridian
Chinese Name: Tai Chong
English Name: Great Surge
* LI 4 Acupuncture Point - He Gu - Large Intestine Meridian
Chinese Name: He Gu
English Name: Union Valley
* HT 7 Acupuncture Point - Shen Men - Heart Meridian
Chinese Name: Shen Men
English Name: Spirit Gate
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