A panel of scientists at the National Institutes of Health confirmed Wednesday something the Chinese have known for thousands of years and many Americans are discovering: Acupuncture can work.
The panel, which included doctors who practice acupuncture and some skeptical scientists, agreed that acupuncture clearly works in treating a number of conditions, including nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy and surgery, the nausea of pregnancy and postoperative dental pain.
The NIH panel also found “intriguing” but incomplete scientific data that acupuncture also may help stroke rehabilitation and relieve addictions, headaches, menstrual cramps, muscle pains, carpal tunnel syndrome and asthma.
“This is a pretty dramatic finding,” said Dr. David Ramsey, president of the University of Maryland Medical Center and an initial acupuncture skeptic who chaired the NIH panel. “Acupuncture has fewer side effects and is less invasive than many of the other things we do in conventional Western medicine. It’s time to take it seriously.”
The decision, reached at 4 a.m. Wednesday by the group of 12 independent scientists and researchers convened by the NIH for a “consensus conference,” undoubtedly will bring the ancient Chinese art of sticking needles into specific points on the body into mainstream Western medicine, Ramsey said.
The panel’s “consensus statement” recommends integrating acupuncture into standard medical practice, calls for further study of how acupuncture works and urges Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies to begin paying for acupuncture treatments. Though not legally binding, the recommendations carry great influence in the medical community.