Over its 2,500 years of development, a wealth of experience has accumulated in the practice of acupuncture, attesting to the wide range of diseases and conditions that can be effectively treated with this approach. Among the various conditions in which acupuncture has been found to be very effective are cardiovascular disorders, psychiatric disorders and mental disturbances, paediatric disorders, disorders of the sense organs, skin diseases and cancers, etc.
Cardiovascular disorders: Acupuncture is suitable for treating primary hypotension and early essential hypertension. Encouraging results have been reported for a number of controlled studies on the treatment of heart disease with acupuncture, particularly in psychosomatic heart disorders, such as cardiac neurosis. In coronary heart disease, acupuncture has been effective in relieving angina pectoris.
Psychiatric disorders and mental disturbances: Acupuncture is being increasingly used in psychiatric disorders. The effect of acupuncture on depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke) has been documented repeatedly in controlled studies. Acupuncture is comparable with amitriptyline in the treatment of depression, but has fewer side-effects. Acupuncture has been found to be more effective in depressive patients with decreased excretion.
The possible use of auricular acupuncture as a treatment for opium dependence was first noted in 1973. In 1979, a study carried out jointly in Hong Kong and London showed that endorphin concentrations were raised by acupuncture in heroin-dependent persons, resulting in successful suppression of withdrawal symptoms. Acupuncture treatment has also been used in patients who wish to give up smoking. Acupuncture has also been useful for treating alcohol recidivism.
Paediatric disorders: Diarrhoea in infants and young children is still a daunting problem worldwide, particularly in developing countries. Acupuncture seems to be worth using, at least as an adjunct to conventional treatments, because it regulates intestinal function and enhances immune response without causing an imbalance in the intestinal flora as do antibiotics.
Convulsions due to high fever are not infrequently encountered in infants and young children. In a controlled clinical trial, convulsions stopped two minutes after needling was started, a result superior to that of intramuscular phenobarbital injection.
Although the specific treatment for pertussis is antimicrobials, the paroxysmal coughing is usually very distressing. There has been a report that acupuncture could hasten the cure as well as relieving the cough.
Disorders of the sense organs: A recent randomised controlled clinical trial on sudden-onset deafness in adults favoured acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture might be useful in the treatment of Meniere disease for relieving symptoms and also for reducing the frequency of attacks. It seems to be more effective than conventional drug therapy. Unexplained earache that is neither primary nor secondary is often regarded as a manifestation of psychogenic disturbances. Acupuncture has been effective in this kind of earache in a placebo-controlled trial.
Skin diseases: Many skin diseases are customarily treated with acupuncture. Acupuncture is known to have an antipruritic effect. For the treatment of acne vulgaris, acupuncture, particularly ear acupuncture, is worth recommending.
Cancers: One is to relieve cancer pain, and the other is to control the adverse reactions to radiotherapy and chemotherapy. For cancer pain, acupuncture provided an immediate analgesic effect similar to that of codeine and pethidine, with a more marked effect after use for two months.
For radiotherapy and chemotherapy, acupuncture can greatly lessen the adverse reactions in the digestive and nervous systems, as well as providing protection against damage to haematopoiesis.