Epigastric pain is a common symptom in diseases of the stomach, including peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastric spasm.
A wide range of diseases and conditions can be effectively treated with acupuncture. Among the various conditions in which acupuncture has been found to be very effective are digestive disorders, blood disorders, urogenital disorders, gynaecological and obstetric disorders, etc.
Digestive disorders: Epigastric pain is a common symptom in diseases of the stomach, including peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastric spasm. Acupuncture provides satisfactory relief of epigastric pain — significantly better than injections, as shown in randomised controlled trials. For gastrointestinal spasm, acupuncture is also superior to injections of atropine; and for gastrokinetic disturbances, the effectiveness of acupuncture is comparable with that of conventional medicine (domperidone).
Another common symptom of digestive disorders is nausea and vomiting. This can be due to a disordered function of the stomach, but it is more often a symptom or sign of generalised disorders. Morning sickness, post-operative vomiting, and nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy are frequently encountered clinically. In all these conditions, acupuncture at point Neiguan ( PC.6) seems to have a specific antiemetic effect. A recent systematic review of trials, using acupuncture for antiemesis, showed that 11 to 12 randomised placebo controlled trials, involving nearly 2,000 patients, supported this effect.
Irritable colon syndrome and chronic ulcerative colitis are often difficult to treat with conventional medication.
Blood disorders: Among various blood disorders, leucopenia is most suitable for acupuncture treatment. In controlled studies, acupuncture has been shown to be more effective.
Urogenital disorders: Urinary retention due to functional disorders and organic obstruction is often treated with acupuncture. For postpartum or post-operative urinary retention, successful micturition usually occurs immediately after one session of needling. There has been a report of a randomised controlled trial on traumatic retention of urine, a condition more complicated than postpartum or post-operative retention. In this trial, the efficacy of acupuncture was remarkably superior to that of intramuscular injection.
Gynaecological and obstetric disorders: Primary dysmenorrhoea, a painful condition, is one of the major indications for acupuncture in the field of gynaecological disorders. The beneficial effect of acupuncture on this condition has been repeatedly reported in controlled trials. Acupuncture relieves pain, and also regulates the motility of the uterus to facilitate menstrual discharge and further alleviate the pain.
Premenstrual syndrome is characterised by cyclical mood changes, and is a common condition in women of fertile age. Acupuncture seems to be helpful to patients with this syndrome. In a controlled study, majority of the patients receiving acupuncture gained relief from symptoms, and there was no recurrence in the six-month follow–up.
Acupuncture was reported to be effective in the treatment of female anovular infertility. However, the mechanism of acupuncture in regulating abnormal function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis has been demonstrated in experimental studies. The data suggest that electric acupuncture with relative specificity of acupuncture points could influence some genetic expression in the brain, thereby normalising the secretion of certain hormones, such as gonadotropin-releasing hormone, luteinising hormone and estradiol. Acupuncture is also worth trying in the treatment of female infertility due to inflammatory obstruction of the fallopian tubes, where it seems to be superior to conventional therapy.
In early pregnancy, acupuncture at the upper limb points can prevent and treat morning sickness. Various methods of acupuncture, such as pressure at ear points and moxibustion have been used to correct abnormal foetal position during the last three months of pregnancy.
Acupuncture stimulates milk secretion after childbirth and can be used to treat deficient lactation due to mental lability or depression. Acupuncture elevates the blood prolactin level in women with deficient milk secretion after childbirth, in the majority of cases, lactation starts as the blood prolactin level increases. The clinical use of acupuncture to promote lactation has also been demonstrated in a randomised controlled study.