Over two-thirds of women will experience some degree of back pain during pregnancy, and nearly a fifth suffer from pelvic pain.

Researchers from Cochrane collaboration reviewed research on various therapies available to relieve back pain during pregnancy. The researchers confirmed that stabilizing exercises and acupuncture were better than usual care alone for relieving pelvic pain. Among women with both back and pelvic pain, there was evidence that acupuncture was more effective than physical therapy.

SOURCE: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 2.

Researchers from Peninsula Medical School at the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth in the UK reviewed 13 studies and found 5 with more than 1300 patients and analysed the results.

Acupuncture was superior to sham acupuncture (pretend acupuncture) for both pain and function. The effects were also significant at long-term follow-up.

This systematic review of acupuncture for knee pain was published in journal Rheumatology (Oxford). 2007 Mar;46(3):384-90.

Mar. 27- Two years ago, Ivan Toirac was admitted to Mercy Hospital in a coma following a drug overdose.

“All the doctors told us he was going to die, or was going to be like a vegetable for the rest of his life,” recalled his father, Arturo Toirac.

Then Patty Hutchison began working with the hospital’s doctors. Founder of Mercy’s holistic care program, she began acupuncture therapy on him.

“The first thing that happened was his kidneys, which were totally closed according to the doctors, opened up,” Arturo says. “My son is alive, talking to us and recognizes us.”

“Patty, she’s all right,” adds Ivan, his voice labored but clear.

What makes Mercy’s program unusual is that Hutchison practices on site, integrating her primary treatments — acupuncture, homeopathy and cupping — with that of the hospital’s 700 doctors.

“There is not just one way of doing things . . . we integrate,” Hutchison says. “If you need an antibiotic, that is fine. But after you take the antibiotic, there are probiotics to put the intestinal flora back in so you don’t catch something else.”

The medical community is starting to take notice.

“It’s growing because our medical knowledge only takes us so far,” says Dr. Hugo Gonzalez, chief medical officer for Sister Emmanuel Hospital, a Coconut Grove facility that treats long-term care patients, in stays of 25 days or more. “Holistic offers an additional way to help people.”

The University of Miami’s medical school, for example, has provided alternative medical care through its Complementary Medicine Program for a decade. The program is housed in a building on the grounds of the Jackson Memorial Hospital campus.

“It’s an important program for patients,” says Dr. Pascal Goldschmidt, dean of the UM’s Miller School of Medicine.

“With the patient population I work with . . . cancer therapy . . . Patty works on relaxation and to ease nausea and some of the vomiting,” says registered nurse Karen Stephenson, oncology clinical specialist coordinator at Mercy.

Hutchison says she has treated approximately 300 patients since 2005. Each patient is visited an average of five times. Doctors are coming along, too. “It’s tough to accept something new; most doctors are not educated about this in medical school. I would like to see it grow. It’s a good tool to have here,” Stephenson says.

Teaching hospitals, such as UM’s medical school, now require courses in complementary alternative medicine (CAM). In fact, 78 percent of medical schools required courses in CAM in 2004, up from 26 percent in 2001, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Some studies on acupuncture have shown promise (…) There is no evidence, however, that acupuncture can be directly linked to bringing someone like Ivan Toirac out of a coma, says substance abuse expert Dr. Lauren Williams, assistant professor of psychiatry for the University of Miami.

“Acupuncture has been used in the treatment of addiction, but it’s always been an adjunct to psychosocial programs. Proponents say acupuncture works for them, but it’s not mainstream and not a stand-alone treatment by any means,” Williams says.

“Cancer, in particular, is a multidisciplinary disease,” says Dr. Jorge Antunez De Mayolo, a hematologist oncologist at Mercy. “It requires multiple medical specialties to handle each aspect. Patty does Oriental medicines, helps with massage, acupuncture, the control of pain. Physical therapists help us keep patients ambulatory. Nutritionists regulate caloric intake to help patients overcome the side effects of medicines. Psychologists help with coping. None of us has a predominant role.”

German Federal Committee of Physicians and Health Insurers is considering to reimburse acupuncture by state health insurance funds. This is considered as a result of another large controlled trial on osteoarthritis and acupuncture published in current issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

The study showed that acupuncture significantly improved the qualify of life of patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee or hip and reduced the symptoms of osteoarthritis like pain.

This was a very large controlled trial. 3,553 patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee were observed. The study took 3 years.

A combination of physical exercise, relaxation training, and acupuncture provide long-lasting improvements for patients with chronic tension-type headaches. This is the conclusion of Swedish study published in the current issue of the journal Cephalalgia.

tension headachesFrequent use of pain medications can lead to chronic headaches. This is why it is important that analgesics are discontinued as a first step in treating tension headaches.

My comment:
I’ve treated lots of patients suffering from headaches over the years and have combined acupuncture, gentle manual therapy and sometimes exercise with most of the patients. It is comforting to know that what I find most effective in practice is being confirmed by the research.

More on acupuncture and headaches:
Acupuncture and migraines: a new conclusive study
Acupuncture pain relief
Acupuncture for headaches and neck pain
Laser acupuncture can make a significant difference for tension headache
Acupuncture Relieves Chronic Headache

Hugh MacPherson and scientists at the University of York in England said the benefits of a short course of acupuncture were evident in their study of 241 back pain sufferers.

‘If you offer acupuncture to someone with back pain on average it is expected you are likely to benefit, not just in the short term but particularly in the longer-term of 12 and especially 24 months,’ he said in an interview.

‘That’s a remarkable finding in that normally you would expect the benefit of the treatment to wear off,’ MacPherson added.

The researchers compared the impact of adding 10 acupuncture sessions over three months to the normal treatment for back pain, which includes medication, physiotherapy and exercises.

Patient satisfaction and pain levels were measured and recorded during the two-year study. After three months there was not too much difference between the acupuncture group and patients who had the standard therapy.

Weak evidence of improvement in the acupuncture group was found at 12 months, according to the study published in the British Medical Journal.

By 24 months the difference between the two groups increased.

‘This is the first study to show this growing gap up to the two-year point. It is quite unique in that sense,’ MacPherson added.

In a separate study in which they looked at the cost of acupuncture, the researchers found that the additional money spent on the acupuncture treatment appeared cost-effective.

The cost of treating each patient in the acupuncture group was 460 pounds ($863) during the study, compared to 345 pounds ($647) for patients who received just the standard care.

More on Acupuncture pain relief

According to a new study published in British Medical Journal, Acupuncture helps to relieve the chronic headaches, migraine in particular. Such are the conclusions of a clinical study, carried out in England and in Wales.

The study aimed at evaluating if acupuncture could be effective, in the case of the headaches, to be integrated into the free care of the system of public health in England.

The researchers followed 401 patients suffering from chronic headaches, mainly of migraines for 12 months.
These patients had been divided in two groups: one received up to 12 treatments of acupuncture for three months, while the others were treated by a usual medication and were used as a reference group.

Researches measured the gravity of the headaches among patients after 3 and 12 months. They also evaluated, the need to take drugs or to consult a doctor.

After 12 months, the results showed that the headaches had decreased twice more in the group treated by acupuncture that in the group which received a medication (reduction of 34% against 16%).

The patients, who belonged to the group treated by acupuncture, counted on average 22 days fewer headaches per year. Acupuncture group had used less drugs, made less medical visits and taken less sick leave.

The researchers concluded that acupuncture produces beneficial and persistent effects among patients suffering from chronic headaches, especially from migraines.

My comment:

In my experience acupuncture combined with gentle mobilisation of neck muscles is the most effective way to treat migraines. Sometimes the researchers are so busy determining what exactly worked and how, that they stop seeing the bigger picture. And in the case of migraine, a combination of therapies is significantly more effective than either therapy on its own. It is important to relax the neck muscles and acupuncture alone is not as effective. There was another study on migraines, where they injected botox into acupuncture points to relax the neck muscles and to stimulate the acupuncture points. The result was a long term relief. However, there are risks involved in using botox, not to mention it is very expensive.

More about acupuncture, neck pain and headache here

Fibromyalgia, is characterized by chronic, widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, joint stiffness and sleep disturbance.

No cure is known and available treatments are only partially effective.

According to a research team led by Dr. David Martin, an anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic, fibromyalgia patients who received acupuncture reported improvement in fatigue and anxiety, among other symptoms.

Acupuncture was also well tolerated with minimal side effects, the researchers said in the June issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

The study involved 50 fibromyalgia patients enrolled in a randomized, controlled trial to determine if acupuncture improved their symptoms. Twenty-five in the acupuncture group and 25 in the control group.

In the acupuncture group, total fibromyalgia symptoms were significantly improved compared with the control group during the study period.

Fatigue and anxiety were the most significantly improved symptoms during the follow-up period.

“We found that acupuncture significantly improved symptoms of fibromyalgia. Symptomatic improvement was not restricted to pain relief and was most significant for fatigue and anxiety,” the researchers concluded.