Obesity: Acupuncture may facilitate weight loss by helping to suppress appetite. An investigation recorded in the Chinese journal Zhongguo Zhen Jiu concluded that acupuncture combined with a low-calorie diet program was nearly three times more effective in helping obese patients lose weight than the diet alone. A similar randomized controlled trial published in Medical Acupuncture found that an acupuncture-diet group lost twice as much weight (about 10 pounds) than a diet-only group after five weeks. For this study, 20-minute treatments were given twice a week along the stomach and pericardium meridian, which address stomach issues and stress, and on the hunger point of the ear. Acupuncture's success has been attributed to improved feelings of wellbeing that suppress the desire for excess food; it's also theorized to stimulate metabolism and help the body process food more efficiently.
Osteoarthritis: A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine discovered that acupuncture significantly reduced pain and improved function for patients with osteoarthritis of the knee who still had moderate to severe pain despite taking medication. The Phase III study examined 570 patients with this most common form of arthritis, the largest group ever for an acupuncture study. Participants were divided into three groups: One received education about treating arthritis, another received acupuncture, and the third had sham acupuncture, where the needles were taped onto the skin but did not penetrate; the latter two groups received 24 treatments over a 26-week period, evolving from twice a week to once a month. The acupuncture group reported a 40 percent improvement in both pain relief and function compared with the sham and education groups. The researchers concluded that acupuncture is an effective adjunct therapy--and even more notable for its lack of side effects.
Find a practitioner About 40 states offer certifications in acupuncture to ensure that a practitioner has met a certain standard of training. Ask your primary physician for a referral, or consult the directories of the American Association of Medical Acupuncture (www.medicolocupuncture.com), the American Academy of Oriental Medicine (www.aaom.org), the National Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance (www .acuall.org), or the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (www.nccaom.org).