Acupuncture – Does it work? Read some of the evidence here


Have you ever used Acupuncture?

Did it work?  Tell us your view in the comments section below?

Acupuncture is a treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine in which fine needles are inserted at certain sites in the body for therapeutic or preventative purposes.

It is often seen as a form of complementary or alternative medicine (CAM), although it is used in many NHS general practices, as well as the majority of pain clinics and hospices in the UK.


Western medical acupuncture is the use of acupuncture after a proper medical diagnosis. It is based on scientific evidence that shows the treatment can stimulate nerves under the skin and in muscle tissue.

This results in the body producing pain-relieving substances, such as endorphins. It is likely these substances are responsible for any beneficial effects seen with this form of acupuncture.

Traditional acupuncture is based on the belief that an energy, or “life force”, flows through the body in channels called meridians. This life force is known as Qi (pronounced “chee”).

Practitioners who adhere to traditional beliefs about acupuncture believe that when Qi does not flow freely through the body, this can cause illness. They also believe acupuncture can restore the flow of Qi, and so restore health.

Read more about what happens during acupuncture.

What is it used for?

Acupuncture practitioners – sometimes called acupuncturists – use acupuncture to treat a wide range of health conditions.

It is often used to treat pain conditions such as headache, lower back pain and osteoarthritis, but is also sometimes used in an attempt to help people with conditions ranging from infertility to anxiety and asthma.

Acupuncture is occasionally available on the NHS, although access is limited. Most acupuncture patients pay for private treatment.

Read more about the common uses of acupuncture.

Does it work?

Currently, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) only recommends considering acupuncture as a treatment option for chronic lower back pain, chronic tension-type headaches and migraines. NICE makes these recommendations on the basis of scientific evidence.

There is also some evidence that acupuncture works for a small number of other problems, including neck pain and post-chemotherapy nausea and vomiting.

Acupuncture is sometimes used for a variety of other conditions as well, but the evidence is not conclusive for many of these uses.

Read more about the evidence for and against acupuncture.

Having acupuncture

When it is carried out by a qualified practitioner, acupuncture is generally very safe. Some people experience side effects such as feeling drowsy or dizzy, but these are usually mild and short-lived.

If you choose to have acupuncture, make sure your acupuncture practitioner is either a regulated healthcare professional or a member of a recognised national acupuncture organisation.

Read more about acupuncture safety and regulation.

[Original article on NHS Choices website]

Evidence for and against acupuncuture

There is some scientific evidence acupuncture has a beneficial effect for a number of health conditions.

However, there is less clear scientific evidence about the benefits of acupuncture in the majority of conditions it is often used for.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) only recommends considering acupuncture as a treatment option for chronic lower back pain, chronic tension-type headaches and migraine.

Assessing the evidence

One of the best ways researchers can assess the evidence behind a particular treatment is by carrying out a systematic review. This is a “study of studies” that combines findings from separate but similar studies to come up with an overall conclusion.

Systematic reviews are an important part of health research because they can identify findings that might otherwise be missed in individual studies. They can also help distinguish the effects of treatment from the effects of chance.

It is important to remember that when we use a treatment and feel better, this can be because of a phenomenon called the placebo effect and not because of the treatment itself. Systematic reviews can help reduce the potential influence of the placebo effect.

While systematic reviews cannot always determine conclusively whether a treatment does or does not work, they can be useful in assessing how a particular treatment (such as acupuncture) compares to another (such as “sham” acupuncture or medication).

However, even this can be challenging – both acupuncture and placebo treatments can stimulate the release of natural painkilling substances called endorphins, which can make it difficult to distinguish between them.

What evidence is there for acupuncture?

One of the largest and most respected organisations that carries out and publishes systematic reviews into the effectiveness of medical treatments is The Cochrane Collaboration.

A number of systematic reviews into the effectiveness of acupuncture have been published by The Cochrane Collaboration, and the basic results are summarised below.

Some positive evidence

Systematic reviews carried out by The Cochrane Collaboration have found there is some evidence acupuncture may have a beneficial effect on the following conditions:

However, because of disagreements over the way acupuncture trials should be carried out and over what their results mean, the existence of some positive evidence does not mean acupuncture definitely works for these conditions.

In many cases, the evidence appears contradictory. For example, some high-quality studies may suggest acupuncture is no better than “sham” acupuncture, whereas some lower-quality studies may suggest acupuncture is better than an established medical treatment.

The issue is sometimes also further complicated by the fact some “sham interventions” include active needling and are therefore not true placebos.

In addition, it can be difficult to make sure the patients involved in acupuncture studies are unaware of the specific treatment they are receiving (known as “blinding”).

This is because it is obvious whether you are receiving a conventional medical treatment such as medication or if you are receiving acupuncture, for example. This is a problem as it means the preconceptions of the person being treated may influence the result.

Some systematic reviews, however, have demonstrated the effects of acupuncture over sham treatment in studies where patients are unaware whether they are having real acupuncture or sham treatment.

For example, one large meta-analysis (a type of systematic review) not carried out by The Cochrane Collaboration included data from more than 17,000 patients. It compared acupuncture to sham acupuncture or no acupuncture without patients being aware of whether they had received real or sham treatment.

This review found acupuncture to be superior to both sham and no treatment for headaches, osteoarthritis, back pain and neck pain.

Little or no evidence

In many conditions where acupuncture is used, there is not enough good quality evidence to draw any clear conclusions over its relative effectiveness compared with other treatments.

For example, systematic reviews published by The Cochrane Collaboration have suggested more research is needed to assess whether acupuncture is effective for: asthmaglaucomaschizophreniadepressionshoulder, painelbow, painrheumatoid arthritisBell’s palsyrestless legs syndromeinsomnia vascular ,dementiastroke, stroke rehabilitation and swallowing problems caused by stroke

More research is needed to establish whether acupuncture is better or worse than best standard treatments for these conditions.

More information and research

If you want to find out more about studies into acupuncture, you can search for high-quality research using the NHS Evidence and Cochrane Library websites.

Eye cancer – Do You Know the Signs of Ocular Melanoma?

Melanoma is a particular kind of cancer — one that develops in the cells that produce the pigment which colors your skin, hair, and eyes. It most commonly develops in the skin, but in rare instances, it can develop in the eyes, as well.

Do You Know the Signs of Ocular Melanoma?
Do You Know the Signs of Ocular Melanoma?

The form of melanoma that develops in the eyes, known as ocular melanoma, is the most common cancer of the eye in adults. According to the Ocular Melanoma Foundation, it is diagnosed in approximately 2,500 adults every year in the United States. People with light skin and eye colors, and people over 50 years of age are at the greatest risk, but all races or ages can develop ocular melanoma.

As with many other cancers, ocular melanoma, or OM, is malignant, meaning if left untreated it can metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body. Once this happens, OM becomes much more difficult to control, and is often fatal.

As with many cancers, OM is not well-understood. It can grow in the uveal tract, which comprises three areas of the eye: the iris, the ciliary body, and the choroid uvea. The iris is the colored part of the eye. It is the least likely to be the origin of OM, but often gives the best prognosis. The choroid uvea is an area filled with blood vessels between the retina and the white part of the eye, and the part of the eye where melanoma is more likely to form. The ciliary body, which produces the aqueous humor inside the eye, is less likely, but OM can occur in any of these parts, or sometimes more than one simultaneously.

The Signs of Ocular Melanoma

Unfortunately, sometimes OM can develop without any overt symptoms. The signs you should watch for include:

  • Loss of peripheral vision, or loss of vision in the center of the eye
  • Blurred or fuzzy vision in one eye
  • Seeing specks floating in your field of vision
  • The sensation of flashing lights
  • A change in the shape of your pupil (the dark circle in the center) of your eye
  • A dark spot in the iris (colored part) of your eye that seems to be increasing in size
  • Glaucoma (high pressure inside the eye). A painful, red eye, often with blurred vision can be a sign not only of glaucoma, but of OM.
  • The first sign is sometimes the development of cancer in other parts of the body, like the bones, lungs, or liver.

The often hidden nature of OM is yet another reason to get a comprehensive eye exam every year just to be certain everything is okay with your eyes. Of course, if you have any of the above symptoms, you should see a doctor at any point of the year. Sudden changes in vision are always a sign for a visit to a medical professional.

On certain occasions, your doctor may not see the need to treat a small eye melanoma immediately, if it doesn’t seem to be growing. Once it is clearly growing, or begins to cause complications, it may be time to begin treatment.

Treatments for Ocular Melanoma

As with other forms of cancer, there are a number of methods used to treat OM, some of them fairly specific to this type of melanoma.

Surgery is often used to remove small melanomas, just as with other types of tumors. The melanoma is cut away, along with a small bit of healthy tissue, in the hope the tumor will not grow back. When the melanoma is larger or is causing the patient great pain, sometimes the entire eye has to be removed, and eventually replaced with a prosthetic eye, which is colored to look like the original eye.

Radiation therapy uses proton rays or gamma rays to kill cancer cells. This is best used for smaller or medium sized melanomas. Often, the radiation is administered by putting a radioactive object directly over the tumor itself, secured by temporary stitches. This object is held over the eye for several days before being removed.

Radiation can also be administered through actual beams directly into the eye, over a process that usually takes several days.

Lasers are often used to cut even more finely than a scalpel, and can sometimes be used to kill tumors. A special kind of infrared laser is sometimes used along with radiation therapy to treat OM.

Cryotherapy, or treatment using extreme cold, is a rare way to treat small eye melanomas.

As with any form of cancer, the best course is always to find it and treat it as soon as possible. Get regular checkups, both with your eye doctor and with your general doctor to make sure your eyes, and the rest of you, are as healthy as they can possibly be.



Laura O’Donnell writes smart content on behalf of the eye doctors at EyeCare 20/20. As an avid writer and learner, she loves to use her skills for engaging others in important topics in creative and effective ways. When she is not working, she loves meeting new people, traveling, and bringing her Pinterest dreams to life. Find her on LinkedIn.

World Glaucoma Week – What is Glaucoma? Are you at risk?

world glaucoma weekThis week as you can see is World Glaucoma Week. As one of my aunts suffers from the condition I am delighted to share a bit more about the week with my readers.

So what is glaucoma? Well the World Glaucoma Week web site has produced an excellent definition which we would like to share with you.

“Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause progressive damage of the optic nerve at the point
where it leaves the eye to carry visual information to the brain. If left untreated, most types of
glaucoma progress (because the person with glaucoma cannot see the symptoms) towards slow
worsening visual damage and possible blindness. This visual damage is mostly irreversible, and this
has led to glaucoma being described as the “sneak thief of sight”.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, yet 90% could have been
prevented. 9 million persons globally are blind from it and this number will rise as the population ages and increases
. Owing to the silent progression of the disease – at least in its early stages – up to 50%
of affected persons in developed countries are not aware of having glaucoma and are receiving no
. This number rises to 90% in less developed parts of the world. ”

To find out more about risk factors, screening and treatments please check out our blog post for National Glaucoma Awareness Month which tool place in January.

World Glaucoma Day

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month – find out more.

National Glaucoma Awareness Month
National Glaucoma Awareness Month
January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, an important time to spread the word about this sight-stealing disease. The Glaucoma Research Foundation have produced the following really useful information which we would like to share.

You may also wish to read some of our previous coverage of glaucoma here.

They say “Currently, more than 2.7 million people in the United States over age 40 have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030, a 58 percent increase.

Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it’s permanent. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness. Moreover, among African American and Latino populations, glaucoma is more prevalent. Glaucoma is 6 to 8 times more common in African Americans than Caucasians.

Over 2.7 million Americans, and over 60 million people worldwide, have glaucoma. Experts estimate that half of them don’t know they have it. Combined with our aging population, we can see an epidemic of blindness looming if we don’t raise awareness about the importance of regular eye examinations to preserve vision. The World Health Organization estimates that 4.5 million people worldwide are blind due to glaucoma.

Help Raise Awareness

In the United States, approximately 120,000 are blind from glaucoma, accounting for 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness. Here are three ways you can help raise awareness:

  1. Talk to friends and family about glaucoma. If you have glaucoma, don’t keep it a secret. Let your family members know.
  2. Refer a friend to our web site,
  3. Request to have a free educational booklet sent to you or a friend.

Connect with us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for regular updates on glaucoma research, treatments, news and information. Share information about glaucoma with your friends and family.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steal sight without warning. Although the most common forms primarily affect the middle-aged and the elderly, glaucoma can affect people of all ages.

Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve. This nerve acts like an electric cable with over a million wires. It is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain.

There is no cure for glaucoma—yet. However, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma among other factors. Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease. Watch a video from the research scientists working to find a cure.

Types of Glaucoma

There are two main types of glaucoma: primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), and angle-closure glaucoma. These are marked by an increase of intraocular pressure (IOP), or pressure inside the eye. When optic nerve damage has occurred despite a normal IOP, this is called normal tension glaucoma. Secondary glaucoma refers to any case in which another disease causes or contributes to increased eye pressure, resulting in optic nerve damage and vision loss.

Read more about Types of Glaucoma.

Regular Eye Exams are Important

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization. In the most common form, there are virtually no symptoms. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision, so if you have glaucoma, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost.

The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination. Then, if you have glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among African-Americans. And among Hispanics in older age groups, the risk of glaucoma is nearly as high as that for African-Americans. Also, siblings of persons diagnosed with glaucoma have a significantly increased risk of having glaucoma.

Read about Glaucoma Eye Exams.

Risk Factors

Are you at risk for glaucoma? Those at higher risk include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent. Other high-risk groups include: people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted. Regular eye exams are especially important for those at higher risk for glaucoma, and may help to prevent unnecessary vision loss.”

Optometrists notice increase in young people suffering from potentially serious eye conditions

  • Going to the opticians
    Going to the opticians

    A Survey of Optometrists shows two thirds have seen an increase in the number of younger patients presenting symptoms of eye conditions

  • Almost half are concerned that people will start losing their sight, or suffering from conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts at a younger age
  • Increased use of screens is considered one of the major reasons for deterioration in eye health
  • Consumer survey shows one in 10 people would only have an eye test if they were experiencing problems
  • Around 45% wouldn’t get their eyes tested if they were struggling to read road signs and one in ten have even got behind the wheel of a car with blurred vision.

The number of young people who are being diagnosed with serious eye conditions is thought to be growing, according to a survey of Optometrists released today. The study saw two thirds of Optometrists say they have seen an increase in conditions such as Dry Eye disease and Blepharitis, while almost half are concerned that people will start losing their sight or suffering from conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration at a younger age. The Optometrists surveyed say the increased use of screens in our daily lives is one of the major factors in the deterioration of the nation’s eye health (63%).

Also the increasing prevalence of diabetes in the UK (72%), poor diets (70%), smoking (74%), not wearing sunglasses (75%) and not following a proper hygiene routine for contact lenses (62%) all contribute to the worsening of our eyes.

Three quarters of Optometrists say that they are concerned generally about the eye health of their patients, while more than 90% say they don’t think people take their eye health seriously or look after their eyes as much as they should.

Furthermore, consumer research also released today by Spectrum Thea shows one in 10 people would only have an eye test if they are experiencing problems, with less than half saying they would get checked out if they had blurred vision from screen-time, while a third wouldn’t even if they were unable to read small print.

Worryingly, for road users, around 45% wouldn’t get their eyes tested if they were struggling to read road signs from a distance and one in 10 have even sat behind the wheel of a car with blurred vision. Watch the following video for more details of the report.

Readers may also be interested in our recent blog post to celebrate National Eye Exam Month which gave five great reasons to have an eye test.