Acupuncture is gaining new traction–and respect–in hospitals and doctors’ offices as evidence of its curative power piles up. Here, why it works–and what conditions it’s best for.
Virginia Ginsburg, 35, of Santa Monica, CA, didn’t put much stock in acupuncture. So when she woke up one morning in September 2009 with pain in her back and leg so excruciating that she could barely walk, she begged her husband to take her to the emergency room. She was diagnosed with sciatica, given a shot of morphine and some pain pills, and sent limping home. But after a few days, when the pain hadn’t abated, she remembered how acupuncture had eased her morning sickness when she was pregnant. “I was skeptical that it could help with a more serious condition, but I didn’t know where else to turn,” she says. So she called the acupuncturist again.
The results astonished her. After just one treatment, the agony began to subside. She went to two or three sessions a week and, after 10 weeks, she was completely pain free.
Stories like Ginsburg’s have become increasingly common over the past few years. Marilyn Burack, 52, of Livingston, NJ, says she was cured of vertigo in two sessions of acupuncture after 6 months of medications had failed her. Rhalee Hughes, 38, of New York City, found that just one treatment could stop a flare-up of the pinched nerve in her neck. And similar accounts are told by many of the more than 3 million Americans who have turned to the 2,500-year-old Asian technique to relieve osteoarthritis, back pain, migraines, nausea, hot flashes, anxiety, addiction, insomnia, and infertility.
Western doctors are taking notice.
“More people in the medical community are embracing acupuncture because they see it works–often in cases where conventional medicine hasn’t been as effective,” says Geovanni Espinosa, ND, the director of the Integrative Urology Center at NYU Langone Medical Center. An estimated 1,500 US physicians are now trained in acupuncture. And some hospitals even have acupuncturists on staff, who tote their needle kits into cancer and orthopedic wards.
What’s behind this wave of acceptance is more than treatment trendiness. As reports of acupuncture’s potency accumulate, researchers have discovered more evidence about how the technique functions–and the conditions for which it’s most effective.
Acupuncture can boost immune function and reduce swelling, studies show