Monday, June 06, 2011

Symptoms Without a Diagnosis? Acupuncture Helps!

A recent study from the UK found significant improvement in patients with multiple physical symptoms after a series of five-element style acupuncture sessions. When the control group was offered the same treatment after the initial series was completed, they reported similar improvement. What I find interesting about the "mystery symptoms" moniker is the bypassing of somatoform disorder as a diagnosis. This condition tends to do well with psychotherapy, an aspect of treatment many acupuncturists include as part of their practice, whether or not it is formal or intentional. I do not downplay the significance of acupuncture as a contributing factor to recovery and improvement - as part of my current doctoral training in mental health I have been integrating auricular acupuncture as part of CBT with impressive success. It is important to give credit to the interpersonal aspect that contribute to symptom improvement and look at designing future studies that make clear differentiation between interventions and with clear measurement of  their individual and/or combined effects effects. 

Acupuncture for mystery symptoms

The researchers looked at a group of 80 adults with an average age of 50 years, 80% of whom were female. All of the patients had consulted their GP at least eight times in the past year; they had symptoms such as chronic pain, fatigue and emotional problems that affected work; around 60% had symptoms of musculoskeletal health problems which had been ongoing for a year. The patients had each had different experiences: some had spent time in hospital, visited outpatient clinics, undergone physiotherapy, chiropody and counselling, some had also had MRI scans and visited complementary therapists.

Dividing the study participants into two random groups, one was given acupuncture treatment of up to 12 sessions over a period of 26 weeks. (The same treatment was offered to the control group, once the 26-week period was complete.) At the end of the treatment period, the patients completed questionnaires to assess their overall health. The acupuncture group had a significantly improved score, when compared to the control group. Once the control group were also given the acupuncture treatment, their results also improved. The beneficial effects continued for up to a year afterwards.

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