Acupuncture Associates

News News News

September 2006


San Francisco has become the first city in the United States to offer “universal” health care to its citizens, at an estimated cost of 200 million dollars for the first year to cover some 82,000 “uninsured” residents. Being a political program, you can be sure the real cost will end up much, much higher. According to the American Medical News of August 21, 2006, “participating physicians would receive some form of reimbursement, but the exact amount is unclear” (page 5, same issue).

So, they haven’t decided how the doctors will be paid, but they know how much it is going to cost, a truly incredible situation. Even more astonishing, in the same article, Michael Dreenan, M.D, who is the director of primary care for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, estimates that his department is already treating “40% to 60% of these 82,000 uninsured residents”. So now it is 200 million for 41,000 residents, no? With imaginative mathematics such as this, look for this program to become an expensive and unwieldy boondoggle, as will all programs which focus on funneling cash to the third party fat cats instead of actual providers of medical care.


Competition among third party profiteers is declining, according to Competition in Health Insurance: A Comprehensive Study of U.S. Markets, a new report published by the AMA. In 56 per cent of markets, one insurer holds greater than 50 per cent of market share, and in 95% of markets, a single insurer holds greater than 30% of market share. “Patients do not appear to be benefiting from the consolidation of health insurance markets,” states a surprised AMA board member J. James Rohack, M.D., “Health insurers are posting historically high profit margins, yet patient health insurance premiums continue to rise without an expansion of benefits.”  Exactly.

The situation with HMO/PPO markets is much the same: effectively no choice for patients or physicians. Of 92 metropolitan areas studied in 21 states and also in 27 states where metropolitan data was not available, 93% of markets are "highly concentrated" according to Justice Department guidelines. For PPO's alone, the number is 100%. This data was collected before the Anthem/Wellpoint and United Healthcare/Oxford mergers, which concentrated market power even further. In a land where fat cats rule, it is no surprise that the Justice Department has focused more on physicians, not "health" plans, when it comes to antitrust issues.


A study that compared the healing rates of ultrasound therapy on calf muscle injury in rats, found no difference in any criteria measured between rats that received ultrasound therapy, and those that did not. Ultrasound is one of the most frequently prescribed physical therapy treatments for skeletal muscle contusions - one of the most common sport and athletic injuries. (Int J Sports Med 2004;73-77).


There has been a lot of exciting research concerning turmeric (curcumin) recently. The latest is experimental research on mice with cystic fibrosis, which showed that turmeric reduced the death rate within 10 weeks, from 60% to 10%. (Science, 23 April 2004: 600-602).


In a study whose results are important for those treating or self-treating elevated cholesterol levels, it has been found that these levels tend to rise in autumn and winter, especially in women and those with already elevated levels. Monitoring cholesterol levels should therefore take account of these variations. (Arch Intern Med. 2004;164:863-870).


Women who take the combined oral contraceptive pill for a long time, take longer to conceive when they stop, than women whose partners used condoms, although long-term fertility does not appear to be compromised. The effect was more pronounced the longer the pill was used, as well as in obese women and those with scanty menstrual periods. Progesterone-only pills, or intra-uterine devices, however, appeared to have no significant effect. (Hum. Reprod. 2004 19: 344-351).


An Italian study into breech presentation compared 112 randomly selected women who were given acupuncture and moxibustion at Zhiyin BL-67, with 114 women who were simply observed. All were at 33-35 weeks of gestation. The proportion of caesarean sections required in the acupuncture treatment group was significantly lower than in the control group (52.3% versus 66.7%). (Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine, 15; 4:247-252).


In a clinical trial of 21 HIV infected individuals with peripheral neuropathy treated by acupuncture, it was found that the treatment significantly reduced pain, aching, burning, pins and needles and numbness of the hands and feet. 10 treatments were given over 5-week period. (J Altern Complement Med. 2004 Jun;10(3):449-55).


A Brazilian study which compared the levels of low back and pelvic pain in women treated by acupuncture compared to non-treated controls, found that the acupuncture group showed a greater reduction in overall pain, maximum pain and pain at the time of interview, reduced use of analgesics, and greater capacity to perform general activities, to walk, and to work. (Acupuncture in Medicine, 2004 vol 22(2), 60-67).



A small Norwegian study has found that acupuncture can have significant long term effects in reducing neck pain. 24 female office workers with chronic neck and shoulder pain were randomly assigned to receive acupuncture to either true points or to non-points. All received 10 treatments over a 3-week period. The pain intensity had fallen by 70% in the true acupuncture group after treatment and remained at about half of its original severity 3 years later. The pain in the sham acupuncture group fell slightly by the end of treatment, whilst 3 years later they reported more severe pain than at original assessment. The true acupuncture group also showed a reduction in associated headaches which also lasted for 3 years. (Pain, July 2004; 109(3):299-307).


In a single blind controlled trial of 51 patients with mild to moderately active Crohn’s disease, 27 were randomly assigned to receive traditional acupuncture, and 24 to receive sham acupuncture at non-points. The true acupuncture group showed significantly greater improvements in the Crohn’s disease activity index than the sham group, and significantly greater wellbeing scores. Serum markers of inflammation decreased in the traditional acupuncture group but not in the sham group. (Digestion. 2004;69(3):131-9. Epub 2004 Apr 26).


A small crossover study, carried out by Dr. George Lewith from Royal South Hants, into the use of acupuncture for disabling breathlessness has failed to find any significant benefit. 36 patients assigned to receive either a standardized true acupuncture treatment, or a sham acupuncture treatment, showed similar improvements after a first course of treatment, with only a minor degree of greater improvement in the true acupuncture group after a second course. Acupuncture has previously been shown to be of benefit in cancer patients with breathlessness. (Chest 2004 125: 1783-1790).


A systematic review of 26 acupuncture trials into the use of Neiguan P-6 for post-operative nausea has found that it is as successful as routine anti-sickness medication and is both cheaper and has fewer side effects. (


In a study of 18 anxious subjects, five weeks of acupuncture treatment was associated with significant improvements in a variety of sleep determinants (polysomnographic measures of sleep onset latency, arousal index, total sleep time and sleep efficiency), reduction in anxiety and nocturnal increase in endogenous melatonin secretion. (J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2004 Winter;16(1):19-28).


In a randomized study, women suffering menopausal symptoms were treated either with acupuncture points specifically chosen to treat their disorder, or more general qi tonifying acupuncture. The acupuncture specific group showed a decrease in mean monthly hot flush severity whilst the comparison acupuncture treatment group showed no significant changes. Sleep disturbances in the point specific acupuncture treatment group also declined over the study, whilst mood changes in both groups showed a significant difference between the baseline and the third month of the study. (Holist Nurs Pract. 2003 Nov-Dec;17(6):295-9).


Jewel, a Bactrian camel in Brookfield zoo, had become so lame that she had not been able to run for two years. Then the zoo called in an acupuncturist and a few days after the first treatment Jewel ran over to greet her keeper. The keeper was so moved she cried, though we do not know if the camel also wept. (Associated Press, Sept. 8, 2004).


Yet another study has confirmed the importance of obtaining deqi when needling, or at least manipulating the needle. 15 healthy subjects were needled at Taichong LIV-3, Qiuxu GB-40 or a sham point (a non point), using both rotating and non-rotating needling methods. Functional MRI was used to determine cortical activation during needling. At the real acupuncture points, an increase in cortical activation (in both secondary somatosensory cortical areas, frontal areas, the right side of the thalamus and the left side of the cerebellum) was observed when the needle was rotated but not when the needle was simply inserted without rotation. No cortical stimulation was observed when the sham point was needled. The authors conclude that rotating the needle strengthened the effects of acupuncture only at real points. This suggests that, as claimed in Chinese traditional medicine, stimulation of these points has a specific effect on cortical activity which is not found with sham points. (Neuroradiology. 2004 May;46(5):359-62).


A 20-year study has found that preterm infants who were fed breast milk for just four weeks after birth, had lower levels of C-reactive protein (a measure of the inflammatory process associated with atherosclerosis) and 14% lower levels of cholesterol at ages 13-16 compared to infants who were fed formulas for the same period of time. This would be expected to translate into a roughly 14% reduced risk of adult heart disease. The findings suggest that infant nutrition permanently affects the cholesterol profile later in life and challenge the idea that rapid infant growth (more likely to be achieved through formula feeding) is the ideal. (Lancet 2004; 363: 1571-78).


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