Exercise and Mental Health

Many veterans suffer from PTSD and other mental health problems. It’s no secret that deployments, operations, and even the lifestyle itself comes with a heightened level of stress that the civilian population cannot understand. Transitioning over is tough for many reasons. Underfunded VA services, and civilian practitioners that just don’t fully understand what you’ve been through can be only half the problem. Getting help can take time but rather than simply lamenting on this, using alternative therapies instead can help. 

Exercise

It’s agreed on by many health professionals that exercise helps depression, anxiety, and a variety of other mental health issues. While actually getting off the couch can sometimes seem impossible, any action is better than no action. Programs like EV fitness and companies like CRT are ideal for this because they bring a veteran mindset and the links between exercise and depression together.

Consider the peak fitness level required of those in combat. It’s not uncommon for veterans to gain weight after service simply because they’re not required to stick to that level of training anymore. Not just that but exercise itself has mental health benefits. 

Brain Science

Source: hopkinsmedicine.org

When we exercise, our bodies release certain chemicals, and in fact, these chemicals are similar in many ways to those experienced in combat. The “rush” of adrenaline for example, and the “high” of survival on a chemical level are not much different than those experienced by an athlete. 

Endorphins

The primary chemical released by the brain during exercise is endorphins. These are “feel good” chemicals, which are released when we experience something good and are what give us the most “high” from exercising. Even eating chocolate can give you a rush of endorphins, which is why so many turn to it when they feel down. 

Serotonin/Dopamine

For those with depression issues, serotonin is often deficient. This is the chemical that not only makes you not want to get off the couch it’s the one that is most often medicated. Most antidepressants work to raise serotonin levels and studies have shown that exercise can have just as much of an effect as medications. 

Dopamine is a chemical released when we feel rewarded. It’s a motivation chemical that when deficient often makes you feel less like doing anything. It’s very similar to serotonin in many ways.

Norepinephrine

Source: livestrong.com

This is a hormone released by the adrenal glands but it’s also used in the brain to improve focus and memory. This is ideal for dealing with anxiety and fixing the scattered feeling many depressives experience. After 20 minutes of exercise, studies have shown that you are more in control of your own mind because of higher norepinephrine levels. 

Endocannabinoids

There’s a strong movement towards using cannabis and marijuana for treating depression. Endocannabinoids, much like the name suggests, give you a similar high feeling to those experienced with THC. 

Is it enough?

Exercise can only do so much. While alternative therapies are supportive, they are not a substitute for conventional means, especially in severe cases. When dealing with PTSD or even just the stress of adjusting to civilian life again, a trained professional can give you alternatives far far beyond effective. Exercise should still be considered part of your treatment and your therapist will likely encourage it, but there may be a more complete treatment plan for you. While seeking help can be a big step, there are thousands like you who have successfully done so. Instead of risking being another statistic on veteran suicide, I implore you to seek help rather than just relying on exercise or other alternatives for severe cases.

Emotional Freedom Techniques: A Skeptic’s Review

It sometimes seems like every week there’s a new miracle cure, usually with somebody aiming to make money from it, and occasionally with some Hollywood actor clambering onto the bandwagon. Medical marijuana, ozonated water, multiple mutually exclusive diets, some weird mushroom from the Andes: with all these fads overrunning the media, information about truly helpful alternative therapies, starting with good nutrition and exercise, seems to get lost in the noise.

 

One way to tell the good from the fad is to rely on controlled clinical studies, but this approach has a few drawbacks. The most important of these is that medical research is expensive – the scientists involved somehow have to pay off their study loans, the laboratory tests required are not cheap, and a large pool of volunteers is required to produce any sort of meaningful result. Someone has to fund this research, which usually means someone who stands to make a profit at some point. Patentable drugs that need to be taken for a long time to be effective happen to meet this criterion, while carrot juice and relaxation techniques do not.

 

Another way of tackling the problem is to try to assess anecdotal evidence. This is certainly not amenable to statistical analysis, but may yield valuable information of another kind. For instance, clinical tests of an anti-anxiety drug might tell us that it’s somewhat effective, for most people, some of the time; which is of little practical use when deciding on a treatment option. Reading about the experiences of people who’ve tried biofeedback techniques, on the other hand, might reveal that this course was very effective for some but less so for others, which allows a much more rational choice to be made.

 

With traditional talk therapy often taking years to resolve a psychic problem, and chemical approaches usually implying unwanted or unacceptable side effects, it’s certainly worth looking twice at psychological treatments that promise rapid effects. One of these is called emotional freedom techniques, usually abbreviated to EFT.

 

What Are EFT?

If we oversimplify things somewhat, EFT means combining traditional psychotherapy and acupuncture techniques to overcome what are termed “emotional blocks”, or persistent negative feelings. The typical cynic might have already lost interest at the thought of better health through perforation, but scientific examination has, in fact, shown acupuncture to be an effective therapeutic tool in some cases. In any case, EFT works by prodding or pressing on certain points of the skin while encouraging the patient to think about the source of their distressing emotions, with no sharp objects involved.

 

Calling acupuncture an “ancient art” may be an effective marketing gimmick, but has absolutely no bearing on its effectiveness. For one thing, the way it is practised seems to have undergone significant changes over the past few decades; for another, forecasting the weather by staring at goat entrails also happens to be an ancient art. From the standpoint of empirical science, acupuncture is difficult to study because the mechanism by which it operates is completely unknown, leaving aside concepts like ying, yang and qi. The needles go in; afterwards there’s a measurable change in endorphin levels and nerve activity, but what on Earth happens in between these two events?

How Effective is EFT?

In terms of published, credible research, the answer is: not very. Most licensed psychologists would not even consider recommending it to their patients. However, evaluating the success of psychological treatments using quantified metrics is notoriously difficult. A patient may experience great benefits over the short term, which fail to hold up over longer periods. If someone is asked to rate his state of mind for a questionnaire, his response will probably depend mostly on how he feels at that particular moment, not his average disposition over the past week. Finally, since the whole body of work behind EFT is a little “out there,” there’s no reliable way to distinguish between good and bad practitioners, even if the fundamental principles are valuable.

On the other hand, a number of people who’ve had little success with other forms of treatment claim that emotional freedom techniques “cured” them within a relatively short period of time, even of physical ailments (a core principle of EFT states that emotional and physical health are very closely coupled). 

For those considering this form of treatment, the upshot of the information available on EFT seems to be that you might as well try it. A session is relatively inexpensive, won’t result in side effects, and can easily be combined with more conventional routes to mental health. If the results claimed for EFT are no more than the placebo effect at work, so be it, as long as the effects are in fact real.

Chiropractic For Natural Healing

              Source: rosellecare.com

The spine is the main support for our bodies and it lets us stand up straight, bend, and twist while also defending the spinal cord from damage.  The spinal cord is made of 33 vertebrae, which are stacked in an interlocking pattern. “Thirty-one pairs of spinal nerves branch off of the spinal cord.  The spinal nerves carry messages back and forth between the body and spinal cord to control sensation and movement.” (www.mayfieldclinic.com/PE-AnatSpine) Each spinal nerve is associated with the vertebrae above, which it comes from.  When there is pain or illness in the body, it is associated with specific vertebrae in the spinal cord and, therefore, can mean that there is a problem with the nerves associated with the specific vertebrae. That is where a chiropractor comes in.

 

WHAT IS CHIROPRACTIC?

  Source: sherwoodchiropracticcenter.com             

Chiropractic is a natural type of health treatment that uses spinal manipulations to realign the spine and to re-establish the correct functioning of the nervous system.  This helps the body to heal naturally without the use of drugs or surgery. According to Sherrie Mcgregor, Ph.D., “Chiropractors use their hands or special equipment to make “adjustments” to the spine and related body structures. This is useful for some people with back pain, and sometimes appears to help with other disorders.”

When a chiropractor adjusts your spine, the natural flow of the messages and energy in your nerves is restored and your body can go about its job without interruption.  It’s just like if there were a river and a dam was built across it, the water couldn’t flow properly. When the dam is removed, the water can continue its flow. A simplified example, but it explains the process quite well.

 

WHAT IS A CHIROPRACTOR?

      Source: rosellecare.com           

A chiropractor is a “health care professional who is concerned with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health.” (www.wfc.org) A chiropractor will have attended chiropractic college and earn a professional doctorate, which in most cases means they will have already received a bachelor’s degree from another educational institution.  They need to do a minimum of 1000 hours of supervised clinicals and must pass a board exam to become licensed. Chiropractic is usually categorized as alternative or complementary medicine.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT AT A CHIROPRACTICE APPOINTMENT

“Chiropractic treatment focuses on the relationship between the structure of the body (mainly the spine) and how it functions,” according to Wayne Jonas M.D. Since the chiropractor needs to see how your spine is doing, they will take x-rays.  Most chiropractors will be able to tell from looking at a patient what their issues might be because of the position of the vertebrae (when lying facedown on an exam bench), how a patient is standing and their posture. 

It is uncanny how they see a patient and then will ask, “Are you having issues with __________________?” 9-1/2 out of 10 times, that is the issue that the patient is having. The chiropractor will have a discussion about the issues that the patient is having and will also consult the x-ray.  A treatment plan will then be presented.  

 

In the beginning, a patient may go for treatment several times a week, then once a week, then bi-weekly and then monthly, depending upon the specific issue.  Monthly maintenance appointments are then scheduled to keep the spine aligned. Everyday life (movements, falls, sleep positions, sitting positions, etc) subluxates, or partially dislocates, our spine and it needs to be realigned for proper functioning.

              Source: spineuniverse.com

The manipulations do not hurt. “If manipulation is at least as effective and as safe as conventional care, it may be an appropriate choice for some patients with uncomplicated acute low back pain,” wrote Dr. Richard A. Deyo, M.D., M.P.H. They will often give the patient immediate relief from pain.  If someone has or feels an illness coming on, the realignment can alleviate or speed the healing of the illness.  Sometimes chiropractors will prescribe an icing regimen when they begin their adjustments in case of any soreness.  When manipulations begin, they are a totally new and different movement for the body so soreness can, but doesn’t always, occur.

Another non-pharmaceutical, non-surgery health management technique that can be adopted by anyone who wants a more non-invasive, natural treatment.

 

 

Healing Crystals: Their Role in Natural Healing

Source: healthynatured.com

Many people may think that using crystals is in the realm of magic.  If you want to adopt a more natural healing process, crystals are a great alternative.  If you look at crystals from a strictly scientific standpoint, they make a lot of sense because they are made out of stones that have different vibrations, which have an effect on everything around them. “These acts have a mantra-like effect, like a form of meditation, and that can be relaxing,” said Stuart Vyse, a psychologist. 

 

HOW DO CRYSTALS WORK?

Source: popsugar.com

“Atoms group together to form the essential shapes and qualities of crystals and stones.  The particles of these atoms are basic units of energy that emit subtle vibrations. Because each crystal and stone has its own unique molecular and geometric structure, their vibrations resonate on differing frequencies, which are then felt and/or perceived by us as feelings and qualities” (Mitchell, K, 2016, Change Your Energy:  Healing Crystals for Health, Wealth, Love and Luck). As for Shamanic practitioner Julie Ann Travis, “I place the crystals on the acupuncture points, so it’s the perfect modality for those who are not a fan of needles.” 

 

Since our bodies are made of energy and crystals/stones are also made of energy, they interact when near each other.  “Simple exercises in energy healing can restore normal energy flow in the body and facilitate healing,” says Carolyn C. Ross M.D., M.P.H. Depending on the energy vibration in the crystal and the needs of the body, different crystals are used for healing different ailments.  Just as we need different nutrients to keep our bodies healthy, we can use different crystals to help maintain or improve our bodies’ health.

Source: sagegoddess.com

There are hundreds and thousands of crystals in the world.  What crystals should we obtain at the start of our crystal-healing journey?  Is there a most important crystal or a least important crystal? It all depends on your needs so be sure to think about what ailments need to be addressed first before obtaining any crystals.

 

This is a list of starter crystals and is by no means the end-all and be-all of the crystal lists.  Many of these have multiple uses so they are a good beginning point: selenite, hematite, blue apatite, rose quartz, blue calcite, black tourmaline, malachite, amethyst

 

AILMENTS AND CRYSTAL TREATMENTS

Source: mayanexperience-hotelspa.blogspot.com

HEADACHE:  Place blue calcite or selenite as close to the center of the pain as you can and leave it there until the pain goes away.

NAUSEA:  Hold or rub hematite on the inside of the wrist.

APPETITE CONTROL:  Wear blue apatite.

SHOULDER/NECK TENSION:  Tape a flat piece of selenite between your shoulder blades.

FALLING BACK TO SLEEP AFTER WAKING UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT:  Hold rose quartz and concentrate on breathing pattern.

SORE THROAT:  Wear or place a piece of blue calcite on the throat until the pain goes away.

STRESS: Hold selenite in your receptive hand and black tourmaline in your dominant hand for 20 minutes to negate stress.

HASTEN HEALING:  Malachite is used for general speeding up of the body’s natural healing properties.

ANGER:  Hold rose quartz or amethyst to calm angry feelings.

CALM:  Wear black tourmaline, selenite, hematite, blue calcite

RELAXATION:  Wear blue calcite, rose quartz, black tourmaline

DEPRESSION:  Wear amethyst during the day and sleep with rose quartz and black tourmaline at night.

There are thousands of ailments that crystals can assist with and this is just a shortlist of the most common ailments people may experience.  It is amazing how just holding or wearing some of these crystals can make someone feel better and there are no side effects or damage to your body like many pharmaceuticals. 

It is important to mention that when you obtain new crystals, they should be cleared and charged before use. There are many resources online and in bookstores to help you with this process.  The suggestions in this post were all referenced from “Change Your Energy: Healing Crystals for Health, Wealth, Love and Luck; 2016; by Krista N. Mitchell.

 

 

Acupuncture for Natural Healing

Source: livingprettynaturally.com

How many times have you been watching television and a commercial comes on for some type of pharmaceutical that treats a specific ailment?  The commercial usually has a positive storyline to it with happy, smiling people. Then they get to the side effects of the pharmaceutical and all that happiness comes to a grinding halt.  The side effects are often worse than the ailment they are treating! There has to be a better way to heal the body.

WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?

Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine that has been used for over 3000 years.  If it has been around that long, it has to be working and helping patients. It is safe and effective when treating an extensive list of ailments.  Acupuncture enhances the body’s operations and encourages the natural healing progression by acupuncture points, or acupoints, throughout the body. The most well-known type of acupuncture is the placing of thin, hygienic needles into the skin. According to Teri Goetz MS, LAC, ACC, “Acupuncture is theorized to work by getting rid of the “roadblocks” on this energy superhighway.”

As a Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture is based on an ancient belief that the body and universe have two opposite forces:  yin and yang. When you feel healthy, these forces are said to be balanced. Qi (chee) is an energy that flows along meridians, or trails, in the body and if any of those trails are blocked, you feel unhealthy.  Acupuncture attempts to unblock this flow so that good health is reinstated. Unblocking restores the natural healing process so that the body can heal itself.

WHAT DOES ACUPUNCTURE TREAT?

Source: barerootsnaturalhealth.com

“Acupuncture and acupressure are widely used to treat anxiety in both Asia and Western countries,” according to James Lake, MD. Acupuncture has been effective in the nervous system, endocrine, and immune systems, cardiovascular system, and the digestive system.  That covers the entire body. It can help to reduce or eliminate pain, enhance good sleep, improve digestive operation and enrich one’s sense of happiness, comfort, and security.  

Specific ailments that have shown improvement with acupuncture treatment are:  “back, neck, dental and other types of pain; nausea; migraines; anxiety; depression; insomnia, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, and infertility” (www.cim.ucsd.edu/clinical-care/acupuncture) to name a few.  All these can be treated with none of the awful side effects that pharmaceutical is known for.  

WHAT TO EXPECT AT AN ACUPUNCTURE APPOINTMENT

Source: prtcm.org

The acupuncture practitioner will first speak to you about your health history and what ailments you are seeking relief from.  They may do some additional physical examinations depending on your current health and ailments. They will explain what their plan of action will be for your specific needs.  You will lay on a comfy table, similar to a massage table, and the practitioner will carefully place the thin, hygienic needles in acupoints that correspond to your ailments/energy pathways that may be blocked.  Needles stay in place from 5 to 30 minutes.  

People describe a feeling of relaxation during and after their treatment.  The few side effects that may occur after acupuncture are soreness or bruising at the needle placement site(s).  As with any type of medical or natural treatment, ask questions and do research before the appointment so that you know what to expect and what questions to ask.  Also, make sure that your acupuncture practitioner is licensed in the state where you live.

DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK?

Source: onhealth.com

You can find skeptics of all types of medical and /or natural treatments.  One medical treatment may be glorified for one person and lambasted by another.  The same goes for natural treatments. You can try a medical treatment and the doctors may want you to take one of those pharmaceuticals that have a myriad of awful side effects or they may want to do major surgery.  If you try a natural treatment like acupuncture and you don’t feel like it was effective, you may have a little soreness. If it does work, perfect! Which would you choose?

“We have provided evidence that acupuncture versus usual care and counseling versus usual care are both associated with a significant reduction in symptoms of depression in the short to medium term, and are not associated with serious adverse events,” said the investigators, led by Hugh MacPherson, Ph.D., University of York in the United Kingdom.

 

 

Meditation Techniques for Calming the Mind

Source: chopra.com

Stress plays a major role in each of our lives. We feel it at home when we are pressured to meet our financial obligations. At work, the nagging boss gets to our nerves when he’s looking for the report from two days ago. Our kids, no matter how much we love them, annoy us when they insist on doing what’s not to be done. When we want so much to relax and unwind but the nanny just couldn’t make it tonight, we just raise our hands in desperation because we’re going to be watching the baby instead of the movie. 

Oftentimes, we fail to keep our cool at the biggest and the slightest things, and we want to blow up in anger and shout to release that heavy feeling in our chest. It seems that no matter how many times we’ve dealt with stress and anxiety, we just couldn’t get used to it.  Could there be something we can do to maintain our inner balance consistently? Can we possibly find an effective strategy to keep it together – mind, body, and spirit – harmoniously? 

Meditation Defined
“Relaxation techniques can be an effective way to calm anxious thinking and direct your mind to a more positive place,” says Kathleen Smith, Ph.D., LPC. The practice of meditation has long been proven to provide many benefits, the most popular of which is relaxation and inner peace. The Buddhists meditate to improve their concentration and achieve the feeling of true happiness and ecstasy. Simply stating, meditation is a method of transforming the mind. It is done by practicing the mind to be more aware of what’s happening within yourself, to be able to focus on your goal whether it be relaxation, concentration, induced sleep or literally some peace and quiet. It is also one of the best ways to calm the mind and develop inner peace. Physiologically, the benefits include lowered blood pressure, weight loss, and increased energy and exercise tolerance levels.

Source: fresher.ru

On the other hand, meditation has more psychological benefits than you can imagine. You become less reactive to pressure and more able to set aside minor and unimportant concerns. With a clearer mind, an individual who learns how to meditate is often more creative, more self-confident and more resilient to tough situations. According to Tom Corboy, MFT, “meditation, yoga, or other calming practices can help minimize anxiety in both the short and long term.”

Meditation Techniques that Calm the Mind

Progressive muscle relaxation

This is done by intermittently tensing and relaxing the muscles of your body, usually starting from the feet and upward to the hands. Contracting the muscles for about ten seconds works the muscle groups, tiring them and consequently producing more relaxation. This technique produces awesome calming benefits. 

Guided Visualization

This technique follows the concept of Buddha, that a person becomes what he thinks he can become. If you want to be happy, you only need to think you are, in your mind, and you achieve it. You make it true by believing in it before it has happened. 

 

Qi Gong

A more familiar method, Qi Gong promotes good posture and relaxation. Proper breathing is key here, as it is utilized to carry and provide energy to all parts of the body. Originally, it means ‘being revived.’ 

Mindfulness

“When you practice things like gratitude or mindfulness, your brain creates shortcuts for these skills, making it easier and easier each time you do it (like riding a bike!),” says Tchiki Davis, Ph.D.

Mindfulness meditation is one of the most popular techniques that is used by many Buddhists to gain more wisdom on something. It is also used to get over a traumatic event that happened in the past. It promotes self-awareness and wisdom. Mindfulness meditation is effective in treating depression and anxiety.

Whatever technique you may have chosen, the goal should be relaxation, happiness, acceptance and inner peace. Once you’ve decided which technique to use daily, you may now practice and integrate it into your daily activities – where you are focused, happy, and successful in finding the inner balance needed to thrive in this stressful and chaotic world. If you need help finding that balance in life, try reaching out to a licensed therapist online. 

Source: poetseers.org

 

On Acupuncture

Source: sa1s3.patientpop.com

It’s difficult to understand how a supposedly beneficial technique can be both hotly defended as useful by some people, while others spend a great deal of effort trying to dismiss it. Surely, something that has been in widespread use for a century or more should by now have been either confirmed to be effective, or discarded as useless? Considering the enormous cost of medical care today, such a cheap treatment could easily benefit millions, so why don’t we know one way or the other?

 

Scientific Controversy

One thing to keep in mind when exploring the results of medical trials is that there is likely to be a great deal of money involved, careers at stake and reputations to maintain. This may not be in the purest scientific spirit of impartial inquiry, but it does play a role. It is just one of the possible reasons for scientists disagreeing with each other over the proper interpretation of the same data. 

 

There is rarely a case of actual corruption involved: researchers, like other professionals, tend to see what they want to see, which is often the same thing the organization paying the bills is most interested in proving. In fairness, competition for academic research positions is extremely fierce, so research funding is very much a career lifeline, whatever its source. For an example of how this can work, the connection between tobacco smoke and lung cancer had been suspected since the 1920’s and proved to a high degree of certainty by 1950, yet a decade later only a third of doctors in the United States considered the case clear-cut. By contrast, a medical researcher who tries to deny this link today will at best face a controversy, and quite possibly be accused of falsifying his evidence. 

 

A second thing to keep in mind is that medical research actually tends to be extremely rigorous, and just understanding papers published in the field requires a working knowledge of statistics, diagnostic and treatment procedures, microbiology and several other sciences. This is another, more legitimate reason for disagreements in the scientific community: some things are just not known for certain, and certain issues are too complex to allow simple answers. 

 

When some research study contradicts the results of another, experimental designs can be combed over to find errors, data can be compared to that of prior trials, or new research can be done if someone is sufficiently interested. Through this slightly competitive process of peer review, good science eventually drives out the bad. The problem when it comes to determining the efficacy of acupuncture is that few people are sufficiently interested in funding research on the large scale required. Drug manufacturers are extremely profitable, and they stay that way by funding research on the curative properties of new chemicals, not blue-sky ideas which won’t ever turn a profit.

 

The Detractors’ View

Source: dfranks.com

It would be a very bad idea to first assert that a new course of medicine is safe and effective, then start selling it to see if the claims are true. For this reason, scientific hypotheses are almost invariably framed in a way that assumes that what most informed people believe in is true, and the heavier burden of proof placed on any new theory. Expressed at its most basic, this proof consists of two numbers: a performance metric such as the average decrease in blood pressure measured during a trial, and the level of significanceor statistical certainty that some aspect of a new theory is true. The latter is why it’s not uncommon for important medical studies to be performed on thousands of subjects over a period of years, leading to their high expense.

 

If such a performance metric or significance level is too low to support the new theory, technically speaking the old theory is not proved true, but is not rejected at the present time. While this may seem like a backwards way to go about searching for knowledge, numerous very smart people over the years have found this to be the best approach in terms of guarding against both conceptual and experimental errors. Both are unfortunately prevalent in the existing scientific literature on acupuncture, which means that studies can’t be compared one with another, nor are the data they yield necessarily subject to statistical analysis.

 

So, the most scientific view based on currently available peer reviewed data is that, if acupuncture is indeed effective, its effects are too small to be detected experimentally. Put another way, its curative properties can be compared to giving someone a pill filled with sugar and chalk dust: some patients will indeed get better on their own, but the “treatment” has nothing to do with it.

 

More research may change this view, but this is unlikely to happen any time soon. Although there are formal courses in acupuncture, it’s much more difficult to assess whether a practitioner is well-qualified in the same way as an M.D. is required to be, which makes research more difficult to carry out. In addition, any such study requires a huge amount of skilled labor, volunteers who have faith in the technique as well as an equal number who don’t, and piles of cash.Based on the existing evidence,this will be better spent elsewhere. 

 

The Supporters’ View

Source: smartyhotel.it

Within the scientific community, there are still a large number of doctors and researchers who believe that the evidence for acupuncture being a useful form of treatment is quite strong for particular conditions such as pain management, clinical depression and arthritis. In some cases and countries, it is offered much like nutritional advice: not as a replacement for proven methods of care, but as a supplement to it – this way, if it does not work for a particular patient, there’s no real harm done.

 

Similarly to those who are skeptical about acupuncture, its supporters also point out that it’s very difficult to do research on. There are several different forms of it, which makes comparing their results statistically very difficult. Also, nobody really knows how it works. In conventional medical studies, some intervening variable linked to disease symptoms can often be measured directly and precisely, for example through chemical blood analysis. Without some insight into acupuncture’s working mechanism, these intervening variables can’t even be identified.

 

Unlike scientists, who tend to be more guarded in their opinions in the absence of proof, numerous people ascribe their recovery from a huge range of conditions to traditional Chinese medicine, of which acupuncture forms part. This kind of evidence can’t be processed scientifically (for instance, how would a researcher go about finding a proportional number of people who didn’t notice any benefit?), but it’s also difficult to ignore when there’s a huge amount of it.

***

While the controversy over the effectiveness of acupuncture and other alternative remedies continues, the average man in the street can make little sense of the science regarding such a polarizing issue. For hard facts, the statistics gathered by accepted scientific methods remain the gold standard, but what about the large amount of anecdotal evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture? Perhaps there is some unknown factor that causes it to be effective for some but not for all. Perhaps this is only an example of the placebo effect. In either case, it’s cheap enough and harmless enough to make it possible for all of us to conduct our own experiments and act accordingly. As far as your own health is concerned, you’re really welcome to do whatever makes you happiest.