Doctor of Oriental Medicine
Doctors get the point
Employers looking for low-cost additions to medical plans are embracing the treatment.
January 31, 2006
Acupuncture, long shunned by mainstream medicine but
In the past few years, the number of hospitals offering acupuncture and other alternative therapies has doubled. "A lot of physicians who used to be extremely reluctant to refer patients for the treatment are now doing it regularly," says Dr. Nader E. Soliman, president of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture.
A visit to an acupuncturist can cost $50 to $100. More and more employers looking for low-cost additions to medical plans are embracing the treatment. Nearly 50 percent of workers with benefits received coverage for it in 2004, compared with just over 30 percent two years ago, according to a survey last fall by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust.
Government financed research on acupuncture dates from the 1970s. It originated in China more than 2,000 years ago.
"Of the many different alternative therapies,
this was really the first
In some cases, acupuncture has been shown to ease certain conditions -- such as drug addiction -- when combined with other treatments, but not necessarily when used alone. For other ailments, however, acupuncture has been found to work better than standard medications -- and without side effects. It has been widely used for years to ease chronic pain, and studies have repeatedly endorsed its usefulness.
Last fall, researchers at Duke showed that it was far more effective for postoperative sickness in a group of subjects than Zofran, a widely used anti-nausea drug. Roughly a quarter of all those who undergo major surgery in the United States experience retching and illness afterward, usually brought on by anesthesia. Anti-nausea medications offer relief, but because they sometimes cause severe headaches and cramps a number of patients are reluctant to take them, says Dr. Tong J. Gan, an author of the recent study, published in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia.
Gan's study looked at a group of 75 women who were either given Zofran before major breast surgery or hooked up to an electro acupuncture machine that delivered low doses of current during the operation. This high-tech acupuncture technique prevented illness in all but 27 percent of those who received it, while about half of the women given the anti-nausea drug complained of sickness the next day. The rate of sickness in a control group that received neither treatment was about 60 percent.
"We are seeing more and more evidence suggesting
To some extent, the increased acceptance of acupuncture
But whatever acupuncture's underlying effects turn out to be, experts say its gradual merger with conventional medicine will have broad implications, eventually opening the door to closer examination of other popular therapies.
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