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Comments on Acupuncture Research

There has been a surge in demand for acupuncture in the United States in the last ten years. As a result, funding for acupuncture research is growing substantially. Most of these studies attempt to confirm treatment results for specific health conditions or they focus on discovering how acupuncture works in western medical terms. While this growing body of research offers scientific validity to the clinical results we have seen for years in our clinic, it also comes with some potential blind spots.

Chinese medicine is a deeply holistic science in which the body is seen as a vastly interconnected system. Reductionist techniques used to test and confirm treatment effectiveness are often too narrowly focused on specific symptoms. Little consideration is given to measure positive changes in the physiologic status of the whole system within the body. Such studies often miss the larger range of benefits that naturally arise as the body becomes healthier.

For example, research that focuses on evaluating acupuncture in the treatment of back pain might fail to note improved sleep, increased energy, improvement in blood pressure or better digestion that can accompany pain relief as a patient receives treatment from a skilled practitioner.

It is common sense that a person’s life, lifestyle and attitude has everything to do with treatment outcome. However, these things are very hard to isolate, quantify and control in a research study-and so they aren’t. But without controlling these variables and viewing the totality of a person’s health picture, how can a truly holistic approach be measured and effectively tested for its validity?

Clearly it is far easier to study symptoms in isolation. The risk, however, is that acupuncture will be misunderstood and simply integrated into the western medical model which wrongly equates symptomatic relief with healing. Acupuncture must be understood and appreciated for its ability to offer holistic support benefiting the health of the whole body as an integrated system. Acupuncture should also be studied for its potent role as preventive care. This is especially important because prevention is the only answer to the nation’s current health care crisis.

In summary, it is our contention that treating the whole system, not just a particular symptom, is the only way to help people get out of pain and sickness and into the healthy fulfilling life they deeply yearn for.

Acupuncture Research List-Click titles below to link to information about each study.

The above studies and more can be found at