Though acupuncture has a history of thousands of years, using it for anesthesia is something that was only invented about five to six decades back. The method has become popular in China. Today, scientific studies have confirmed the benefits of using acupuncture anesthesia for various medical procedures.
A study published in 2011 looked at how a combined acupuncture-medicine anesthesia (CAMA) strategy could help patients deal with surgery. One-hundred patients were subjected to CAMA strategy, while another 100 were placed under general anesthesia. Patients following the CAMA program practiced unique breathing techniques prior to their operation. During surgery, acupuncture needles were inserted at vital points in the body. Drugs like midazolam and fentanyl were injected in very low doses compared to those applied to patients under general anesthesia. Both groups of patients underwent open heart surgery.
After collecting results of the experiment, researchers discovered that not only did CAMA patients have less drug usage compared to the other group, but they only had to stay for a short period of time in the ICU, had less pulmonary infection post-operation, and had to shell out less money in medical expenses. The researchers concluded that CAMA strategy was effective in minimizing medical costs and postoperative morbidity in patients.
Another study published in 2015 states that acupuncture helps reduce the adverse effects of anesthesia. For instance, postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) is a common occurrence among people who have undergone surgical anesthesia. In fact, 70 percent of surgeries are estimated to induce PONV in patients. Many patients often state PONV as being worse than the actual physical surgical pain. The report quotes previous studies in which acupuncture was shown to be helpful in enabling patients to control nausea and vomiting.
Slow adoption in the West
However, not everyone has been keen on integrating acupuncture anesthesia into the regular medical framework. This is because the subject matter is still under research and the positive effects of acupuncture anesthesia have not been quantified in a way that would make it a part of modern medical systems.
Plus, the West’s obsession with ensuring that the treatment given is always perfect is also a major stumbling block in the widespread adoption of acupuncture anesthesia. In China, people are more willing to experiment with medical techniques that might not come across as “100 percent perfect.”
“The Chinese look upon acupuncture anesthesia as a useful working method for local or regional anesthesia. They do not consider their methods of acupuncture anesthesia to be perfect, but they look upon it as a subject that is being evaluated and developed all the time. The majority of operative procedures in Chinese hospitals are done with local or regional anesthetics, and acupuncture anesthesia is probably the commonest form of a regional anesthetic in use,” according to Healthy.Net.
Benefits of acupuncture
Anesthesia is just one area where acupuncture holds immense benefits. Acupuncture is known to help reduce migraines and headaches. People suffering from chronic pain in areas like the neck, back, or knee often report relief after multiple sessions of acupuncture.
In cancer patients, the immune-boosting effect of acupuncture comes in handy when trying to recover from chemotherapy. One study found that such patients reported a reduction in side effects like nausea. People who suffer insomnia also benefit from acupuncture. Those who take herbs to deal with the issue improved their chances of getting a better sleep when they incorporated acupuncture therapy in their routine.