Brain mapping like the White Matter fibers map in the picture can be used to design transcranial therapy or cranial electro-acupuncture tretments.

Transcranial current stimulation

There are a number of new studies on transcranial direct current stimulation and on transcranial magnetic stimulation. The newly discovered benefits of these therapies include pain relief, treatment for major depression, cognitive enhancement (including speeding up learning, creativity enhancement, and improving mathematical abilities, etc.).

Are these new transcranial therapies really novel? The treatment seems to be strikingly similar to scalp electro acupuncture, which has been used safely and effectively for decades.

We have numerous studies supporting scalp acupuncture for treatment of conditions such as

Acupuncture is much cheaper compared to transcranial therapies

  • US$300 is a cost of a typical transcranial magnetic stimulation session
  • NZ$70 (US$57) cost of a typical acupuncture session in New Zealand

As brain mapping techniques are becoming more accessible and we’re getting a better understanding of the human brain. This opens opportunities to design new treatments for numerous other conditions with electro-acupuncture, transcranial current stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation.

The image: mapping of the White Matter fibers

Stress

Acupuncture and stress (new study)

Acupuncture is great at reducing stress. Even the patients who are seeing me  for treatment of other health issues with acupuncture such as infertility report reduced stress. One of the first things they often notice is that sleep improves and they experience reduced irritability. They feel more relaxed at work and at home.

Even though we had viable theories how and why acupuncture helps stress, we know very little about what exactly happens on the cellular level. Researchers at the Georgetown University Medical Center made a major contribution to understanding how acupuncture helps stress. They discovered that acupuncture interferes with the mechanism of stress. It  blocks the chronic, stress-induced elevations of the HPA axis hormones and the sympathetic NPY pathway. Read more

depression-acupuncture-stroke

Acupuncture for post-stroke depression

Depression and anxiety after stroke are common and affect about a third of stroke survivors. While acupuncture to help stroke recovery has been well researched and recognised, specific studies to show acupuncture to treat post stroke depression are not as abundant. Researchers from China have searched the studies to perform an analysis and review.

They discovered that almost all of the studies compared acupuncture to using of antidepressant medications, and that acupuncture was as effective as medications, but with fewer side effects and adverse reactions.

Obviously at the early stage of the disease most of the post stroke patients will have a difficulty to travel to an acupuncturist to have treatments. But those who are lucky enough to have an acupuncturist travel to their hospital to help their stroke recovery, should remind acupuncturist to take their mental state into account when designing a treatment plan.

Acupuncture for premenstrual syndrome

Acupuncture for premenstrual syndrome, a new study

The current issue of BJOG, a leading publication in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, features a study on acupuncture and premenstrual syndrome.  In attempt to evaluate current evidence, the researchers searched for high quality studies and included 10 of them in this review.

The results showed that acupuncture is superior to all controls.  Four studies comparing the effects of acupuncture with different doses of progestin and anti-anxiety medications also supported the use of acupuncture. Acupuncture significantly improved symptoms when compared with sham acupuncture, ruling out the improvements were due to the placebo effect.

The researchers concluded that considering the potential of acupuncture, it needs to be further rigorously studied.

Depression during pregnancy and Acupuncture


Acupuncture – effective and safe treatment for pregnancy depression

I’ve written on the subject of depression and acupuncture before. Now a new and largest study to date published in Obstetrics & Gynaecology confirms acupuncture to be effective for pregnancy depression. I sincerely hope, that for the benefit of the developing babies, acupuncture becomes a mainstream therapy for pregnancy depression.

Why antidepressants is such a bad idea during pregnancy?

Since 2008 NZ Medsafe has been warning that SSRI antidepressant use in pregnancy may increase the risk of congenital abnormalities, and that in later stages of pregnancy can lead to neonatal complications indicative of a withdrawal syndrome, and to persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn; and that doctors need to discuss this with their patients.
Some antidepressants were considered to be relatively safe not so long ago, but there is more and more evidence confirming that any kind of antidepressants may temporary or permanently harm the developing foetus. The March 2010 issue of Pediatrics reports that antidepressants may permanently or reversibly affect fetal brain development.

Why you shouldn’t delay and address pregnancy depression as soon as it is diagnosed

  • Many thousands of preterm births could be prevented if women with clinical depression receive treatment during pregnancy.
  • As a result of stress or depression increased cortisol levels may lead to babies, who are born small and possibly smaller brains in proportion to their bodies.
  • Babies born to mothers with depression have a blunted stress response, which may mean it is harder for them to react to stressful situations.
  • Stress experienced by a pregnant female can alter the structure of her offspring’s brain, particularly regions vital for emotional development [reference]
  • Pregnancy depression has a long-term effect on the child. Children born to stressed mothers have shown abnormally high cortisol levels at age 10.

The bottom line? Depression during pregnancy may harm the developing foetus and so can antidepressants. Acupuncture is safe and effective treatment for pregnancy depression. If you are pregnant and suspect that you may be suffering from depression, remember to discuss acupuncture with your obstetrician, midwife or GP and give me a ring!

Insomnia

Acupuncture for Insomnia

The largest study on acupuncture and insomnia to date found acupuncture to be more effective than orthodox sleeping medications in improving your sleep and relieving insomnia. The researchers also found that combining acupuncture with medication was more beneficial than medication alone. Acupuncture plus herbs also improved sleep better than herbs alone.

This study (meta-analysis) included 46 randomized trials and 3811 patients. It was published The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

The bottom line:

The most common solution your doctor will offer for insomnia is sleeping pills. Unfortunately the sleeping pills are addictive and their effect diminishes with time. Furthermore, sleeping pills don’t give you quality sleep and have a sedative effect, which may affect your performance during the day as well as driving. Acupuncture offers a superior alternative to sleeping medications. Acupuncture does not have the side effects of the sleeping pills and it is more effective in treatment of insomnia.

 

Acupuncture eases depression

If you are in New Zealand, you may have read the article on stuff.co.nz titled “Needles ease depression“. The article cites a small Australian study, which shows that acupuncture can effectively relieve severe depression. A quick web search has shown that the results of this particular study, even though quite dramatic, are still preliminary. The study is not completed yet.

I did a bit more digging in medical databases online and found another study published earlier this year in Journal of affective disorders. This study is a meta analysis (which is quite a lot higher up on the evidence based medicine hierarchy ladder).

The researchers reviewed and summarised results of eight randomised controlled trials. They confirmed that acupuncture significantly reduced the severity of depression, which was indicated by decreased scores of Hamilton rating scale for depression (HAMD) or Beck Depression Inventory (BDI).

chemotherapy-acupuncture

Acupuncture improves quality of life of patients exhausted by chemotherapy

People exhausted by chemotherapy felt better and had the energy to walk to the shops and to socialise, so their quality of life improved significantly after six sessions of acupuncture in a study conducted by Alex Molassiotis, professor of cancer and supportive care at the University of Manchester.

In this randomised placebo-controlled trial, the chemotherapy patients were randomly assigned to one of three groups to receive either (1) acupuncture or (2) acupressure or (3) sham acupressure.

The acupuncture group (1) received six 20 minute sessions spread over three weeks.

Patients in the acupressure group (2) were taught to massage the same acupuncture points.

The sham acupressure (3) patients were taught the same massage technique, but were told to massage points on not associated with energy and fatigue.

Patients receiving acupuncture (1) reported a 36% improvement in fatigue, whilst those in the acupressure group (2) improved by 19%. The sham acupressure group (3) reported a mere 0.6% improvement.

Reference: Complementary Therapies in Medicine (DOI: 10.1016/j.ctim.2006.09.009)