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Author Archives: Robin Costello
Researchers in the Department of Ophthalmology, University Hospital Dresden, Germany looking at acupuncture and glaucoma, have found that blood flow to the eyes can be improved by giving acupuncture to patients with primary open-angle glaucoma. Disturbances in ocular blood flow have been coming under scrutiny as a cause of visual field damage in glaucoma patients.
In the randomised study, 56 patients aged 32 to 69, were assigned to receive either a single acupuncture treatment using acupuncture points traditionally used to benefit eye health, or to a single treatment using points which are not specific to eye health. Ocular blood flow parameters were measured before treatment, and again ten minutes afterwards. Pulsatile ocular blood flow was seen to increase significantly after only the eye-specific acupuncture treatment.
(The short-term effect of acupuncture on different ocular blood flow parameters in patients with primary open-angle glaucoma: a randomized, clinical study. Clinical Ophthalmology, 19 July 2018.)
A Chinese research team looking at whether acupuncture benefits prostatitis, has concluded it offers long-lasting and clinically significant improvements for chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome. A total of 68 men aged 18 to 50, were randomised to receive either eight weeks of acupuncture or eight weeks of non-insertive sham needling. Both groups were followed up for a further 24 weeks.
At weeks 8, 20 and 32, pain scores differed significantly between the two groups, with the acupuncture group exhibiting significant improvements. Most secondary outcome measures were also better in the acupuncture group.
(Acupuncture for Chronic Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome: A Randomized, Sham Acupuncture Controlled Trial. Journal of Urology, October 2018.)
Authors of a study undertaken in Korea have concluded that electro-acupuncture should be recommended as a non-pharmacological treatment for the pain of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. A total of 126 patients with the condition were randomly assigned to either electro-acupuncture or to a non-treatment control group. Treatment was given twice a week for eight weeks. Both groups were given dietary and lifestyle advice, diabetes medication and painkillers (paracetamol) to use when required.
Patients in the treatment group showed significantly more improvement in pain scores compared to those in the control group: 16% of treatment group patients had a greater than 50% reduction in pain score, compared to only 6% in the control group. The treatment group also experienced significantly greater improvements in sleep and quality of life scores. By week 9, 82% of patients in the treatment group were reporting global improvements, compared with 34% in the control group. This was maintained through eight weeks of follow up.
(Electroacupuncture for Painful Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy: A Multicenter, Randomized, Assessor-Blinded, Controlled Trial. Diabetes Care, online ahead of print 30 July 2018.)
A large American trial has shown that acupuncture can help postmenopausal women with breast cancer, who experience joint pain (arthralgia) as a side-effect of taking aromatase inhibitor drugs eg anastrozole/arimidex. Researchers randomised 226 such women, mean age 61, across 11 academic centres and clinics, to either true acupuncture, sham acupuncture or a waiting list control. Real or sham acupuncture was given twice a week for 6 weeks, then once a week for a further 6 weeks. All patients were followed up for a further 12 weeks.
Compared with the sham acupuncture and waiting list groups, the true acupuncture group at 6 weeks experienced a statistically significant reduction in their worst joint pain: 58% had at least a two-point pain reduction, compared with 33% in the sham group and 31% in the waiting list group. There were also improvements in average pain and joint stiffness in the true acupuncture group. Even at six month follow-up, average worst pain in the true acupuncture group was lower than in the other two groups.
(Effect of Acupuncture vs Sham Acupuncture or Waitlist Control on Joint Pain Related to Aromatase Inhibitors Among Women With Early-Stage Breast Cancer: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 10 July 2018.)
From December, I notice a good deal of tiredness afoot among my patients: the days are shorter, giving us a subtle yet powerful cue to slow down, expend less energy, and sleep longer. Despite this, what happens in our modern culture? People instead seem to have to work ever harder through this month: projects at work have to be finished before the Christmas holidays, and we have preparations to be made in our own lives at the same time. Life actually gets relentlessly busier!
We are now having occasional frosty mornings, but it has mostly felt damp and devoid of sunshine in Devon; the damp of an English winter, especially if combined with cold, can be a challenge to the body if we are inadequately dressed. In Chinese medicine, it is particularly important to protect your lower back (considered the seat of your warming Yang Qi), and your joints (considered vulnerable to adverse climatic factors). In Britain, rheumatic aches and pains are unfortunately very common: I treat a lot of people who can categorically state that their troublesome joints are more uncomfortable when the weather is cold and/or damp.
The Chinese recognised this pattern centuries ago, and gave it the name “Bi”; it is described in a medical text dating from 610 AD. Sometimes, but not always, there is evidence of osteoarthritis in the affected joint(s); other times, it may instead be an old injury which plays up in unfavourable weather. What can you do to help yourself if this sounds like you or someone you know? When I am treating this condition, I recommend that my patients wear additional warm layers over the joint concerned, that they avoid the damp eg kneeling on damp ground if the knee is affected, that they have an appropriate diet of warm cooked foods, and that they take up the right kinds of exercise. Acupuncture and self-help can mean that winter need no longer herald in the dreaded rheumatism.
Finally, if your mood tends to be lower at this time of year, be sure to soak up plenty of daylight at every opportunity: try to work by the window for example, as the intensity of natural light is many times greater than artificial light, even when it’s dull and overcast. If you have more time, go out and explore the Devon countryside for a longer trek: clamber down into some of our deep, wooded valleys, and follow rivers like the Bovey or Teign, to tune into the stillness of a season which is actually very special in its own way. Let the meditative state of mind which can be induced by walking, help you to reflect quietly on the year that has gone by, and the year of opportunity which is to come.