In the largest study of the effects of acupuncture for lower back pain in the US (published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, now JAMA, in 2009), it’s demonstrated that acupuncture is a more effective way of treating chronic low back pain than the standard conventional treatments of medication and physical therapy.  Clearly, this finding is noteworthy in and of itself. Its findings are similar to those of the largest study on acupuncture for lower back pain conducted for insurance companies in Germany in 2008. It concluded that acupuncture helped improve lower back pain for at least 6 months, an effectiveness rate “almost twice that of conventional therapy.” [1]

If acupuncture has been shown to work staggeringly better than the current standard plan of care, why hasn’t it become THE treatment of choice, rather than seen as a “complementary and alternative treatment?”

The problem is that in both of these studies, patients in a control group who were given sham acupuncture treatments also experienced meaningful improvements, though not as significant as those who received real acupuncture. Critics drew the erroneous conclusion that because the sham treatments yielded positive results, the placebo effect must be the most important factor. It’s understandable that acupuncturists may shy away from bringing up research that may attribute part of our medicine’s success rate to the placebo effect: people are still largely naïve about the power of Chinese medicine, and we don’t want our very legit medicine to be perceived as something one needs to believe in. But the placebo effect is a factor in all forms of medicine whether it’s pills or receiving an acupuncture treatment. And the fact that acupuncture works on dogs and cats (who presumably don’t “believe in” acupuncture) demonstrates that there is clearly something beyond the placebo effect at work.

Returning to the lower back pain studies: let’s not overlook the fact that people got better. And that the patients who received real acupuncture got better results than they would have through conventional means. 60-80% of the public will experience lower back pain in the course of their lives (http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/low-back-pain). People should know that acupuncture is an outstanding treatment strategy, outperforming the standard of care for lower back pain. Share this, tweet it, post it on your blog, shout it from the rooftops and help those you care about make an informed choice.

 

[1] Haake M, MüLler H, Schade-Brittinger C, et al. German Acupuncture Trials (Gerac) For Chronic Low Back Pain: Randomized, Multicenter, Blinded, Parallel-Group Trial With 3 Groups. Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(17):1892-1898. doi:10.1001/Archinte.167.17.1892.

 

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Rope knotWorry. It’s the force behind that knot in your stomach, the clenching of your jaw, your trouble falling asleep and the furrow in your brow. You know it’s not accomplishing anything, but your mind resists getting off the hamster wheel.

How can you change the channel? Turns out, there are points for that. The Stomach and Spleen are responsible for digesting not only our food, but our lives: absorbing what’s useful, letting that nourish us, and passing on the not-so-useful stuff to the Large Intestine so we can let it go. Worry is the mental equivalent of sluggish digestion, or chewing on the same thing over and over again without swallowing. Just as there are points to aid digestion, there are points to help dissolve the mental knots. Here are three:

SP 5

Spleen 5

Spleen 5 is the point to use when your compassionate heart leads to a worried mind and you can’t stop thinking about the problems your friend (or your kid, or co-worker) is facing, even though you know there’s nothing you can do to change their situation. This is empathy gone astray. First, summon some compassion for yourself – it’s tough to watch someone you love go through something hard. Then, find the point on the inner foot, just below and in front of the bony bump on the ankle. Press this point firmly with your thumb, and massage in circles for a minute while thinking to yourself “I let go.”

Lung 7

Lung 7 is the go-to point to help clear your mind of worry. Like the breath itself, this point helps anchor us to the present moment rather than projecting into a future that may never come to pass. Take a long, slow breath and massage Lung 7 – Make a “thumbs up”, and HT 5 and LU 7locate the point about an inch towards your elbow from the thumb/wrist crease.

Heart 5

Tap Heart 5 when you’re worried about what you’re going to say. This point helps you express what’s in your heart, so it’s especially useful for speaking your truth, confronting someone, or having to say “no.” Located on the inner wrist, one thumb-width up from the inner crease, just inside the tendon that leads to the pinky. Tap this point gently for 30-60 seconds, visualizing raindrops striking and bouncing up from a puddle at the point.

Changing your relationship with stress is the most powerful thing you can do for your health. If you’re ready to revamp your nervous system for more ease and confidence, check out your bodymind toolkit:

 Calm Yourself: Self-Care Strategies for Stress and Anxiety