Answered by Heather Morgan on Monday, June 1, 2009
Though many of us hear the word acupuncture and immediately think, Needles...voodoo dolls—not for me, medical acupuncture is increasingly used by doctors as an alternative to conventional Western treatments. Robert A. Schulman, M.D., a New York City-based physiatrist and a member of the American Association of Medical Acupunturists, says he's seen miraculous success with acupuncture for musculoskeletal (stress or tension-related) pain, and other cases in which the pain is acute rather than chronic. How do these guidelines apply to everyday maladies? Consider the stomachache: If you touch your stomach when you're experiencing pain, you can feel the tightening of the muscle, technically known as diaphragmatic tension. An acupuncturist would insert needles near the diaphragm to release the tension, thereby increasing both the fullness of your breath and the bloodflow to the intestines. "Acupuncture is a great stress mediator," says Dr. Schulman, and so many of our daily aches are stress- or tension-related. He feels that Western medicine does not necessarily have the answer for someone who is basically functional (i.e., holds a job, maintains relationships, exercises) but does not truly feel well. "That's where acupuncture comes into play. It can create that profound relaxation." He adds that acupuncture also yields impressive results in cases of sprains, gym shoulder, and soreness, where there's minor injury to a particular area. However, Dr. Schulman cautions, for more severe injuries, advanced arthritis, or chronic pain, acupuncture treatments provide only temporary relief. It is also important to note that a small fraction of the population is not receptive to acupuncture. This resistance is often associated with either excessive alcohol consumption or long-term treatment with oral steroids. For more information, check out the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture's Web site at www.medicalacupuncture.org.