I have copied below a response that I posted online to an article written by the medical reporter David Noonan that appeared in the January 26 issue of Newsweek titled, “My elbow is killing me!” Hits on a couple of issues that are near and dear to my heart. I failed to mention in my response to David that I felt strongly that the health issues he mentions, the garden-variety aches and pains that so many people suffer with on a daily basis, are exactly the types of conditions that acupuncture treats most effectively, with the cost effectiveness.
I enjoyed your article, and was particularly interested in your description of how alluring the media often finds the newest, sexiest, most technically exciting elements of modern medicine. All while many people suffer with some level of the “garden-variety aches and pains”, that go relatively unexplored by the media. I am an acupuncturist, and have noticed a parallel trend in how people approach my branch of medicine.
I am shocked by how much interest there is, from the media, other medical providers and the public in general, in some of the applications of acupuncture that are very much outside the mainstream practice of our medicine. Acupuncture anesthesia (in which surgery is performed using only acupuncture as anesthesia), its ability to flip breech babies, as well as its use for weight loss and smoking cessation are all areas of our medicine which may hold some clinical value, but they are all far outside acupuncture’s mainstream bread and butter applications.
Acupuncture’s ability to effectively treat the common every day discomforts which, as you ably point out, afflict a shockingly large percentage of our society (who doesn’t have a family member who suffers regularly with back pain, knee pain, hip pain, painful periods, or even yes, elbow pain), has been known for literally thousands of years. Its efficacy to do so has recently been demonstrated repeatedly in a steady stream of well designed, large scale randomized controlled trials. It is a constant source of mild frustration to me though, that more people seem more interested in its ability to help people quit smoking and make them look 10 years younger, rather than the more traditional uses where it has excelled for millennia.
Adam Learner, Licensed Acupuncturist