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Acupuncture for Stroke Victims Promoted While Acupuncture Treatment Risks Are Queried

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Acupuncture for stroke victimsJunghoon Lim reports for the LA Times (24 February 2011) on the huge impact that strokes have upon the lives of many with between half and three quarters of a million stroke attacks taking place annually in the US alone, and acupuncture can often, in her experience, provide benefits for such patients.

The South Florida “Doctor of Oriental medicine” is realistic about the degree of reservation held by the medical establishment in the west, which so far has not accepted that acupuncture is a clinically proven method of treatment, but clearly has many positive outcomes from her experience of the use of acupuncture in stroke cases.

To clinically prove the use of acupuncture in strokes would be particularly onerous, given the wide range of different types of stroke and effects which vary so much. However, she makes a good case for her view that acupuncture, by its nature of aiding the person to heal from within, may be able to provide a better life experience for the patient than the accepted treatment methods, and of course (although she does not state this) can still be applied in combination with other Oriental methods.

However, a problem exists for many medical practitioners including the UK’s Dr. Edzard Ernst, Chair in Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter, who has been emphasizing the risks of acupuncture. He is not saying that the risks of acupuncture are high, quite the contrary studies have been done which show them to be very low, but he still has a problem with acupuncture risk.

His point is that until a treatment is shown by clinical trials to be worthwhile, and accepted as such by peer review, no risk is strictly justifiable. Even one injury is not justifiable. This seems to be reasonable as a point of principle, but unlikely to be accepted by practitioners who, like Junghoon Lim will need no further convincing of the efficacy of the technique in her areas of specialism.

Studies have shown that serious adverse effects of acupuncture are rare. Reported accidents and infections appear to be in the most part related to violations of sterile procedure, negligence of the practitioner, or both. Also, medication acceptable to the medical profession won’t come without their own risks. Drugs for pain relief including paracetamol, non-opioid (aspirin-like medications and others) and the opioid drugs (codeine and morphine) have been implicated at low risk levels as well.

Acupuncture needling risks have in the most cases, assuming only well retained practitioners are considered, a lot to do with applying sterile procedure and the potential for infection from needling. However, such incidents are very rare.

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