Studying the potential of acupuncture as an alternative treatment for osteoporosis

The idea of inserting needles through your skin may not be appealing, but acupuncture is actually an effective therapy for many conditions, including osteoporosis. Many studies have investigated the use of this traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a condition that makes the bones weak and fragile, increasing the risk of fractures. The bones of people suffering from osteoporosis have lost density or mass and contain abnormal tissue structures. While bones in the hip, spine, or wrist are most likely to break due to osteoporosis, other bones can break too. Osteoporosis also causes permanent pain, reduced height, and a stooped or hunched posture. It may also limit mobility, which typically results in feelings of isolation or depression.

In the U.S., about 54 million people have osteoporosis and low bone mass. However, conventional drugs are widely prescribed to treat this condition, such as bisphosphonates, teriparatide, denosumab, and raloxifene, cause serious side effects. (Related: Osteoporosis Drugs Found to Cause Severe Pain in Muscles, Joints and Bones.)

Evidence supporting the effect of acupuncture on osteoporosis

In a systematic review and meta-analysis published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, researchers confirmed that acupuncture can be used as an alternative treatment for osteoporosis. They have found that this traditional Chinese medicine is even more effective than conventional medicine.

For the review, researchers from Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in China assessed the efficacy of acupuncture as a clinical treatment for osteoporosis. They reviewed 35 studies involving a total of 3,014 patients. These studies were randomized controlled trials that compared warm acupuncture, needling, or electroacupuncture with sole Western medicine for the treatment of osteoporosis.

The results showed that warm acupuncture could increase the bone mineral density of the spine and thigh bone compared to sole conventional medicine. It could also increase the levels of calcium and estradiol and decrease pain and alkaline phosphatase levels. Compared to sole Western medicine, electroacupuncture could also relieve pain, reduce alkaline phosphatase, and increase calcium levels, while needling could relieve pain. These results indicate that among the three types of acupuncture, warm acupuncture was the most effective for osteoporosis, followed by electroacupuncture and needling.

With these findings, the researchers concluded that acupuncture could be an effective alternative therapy for treating osteoporosis.

Other benefits of acupuncture

Even people without osteoporosis can experience the benefits of acupuncture. Here are some of them:

  • Mental health: One of the most common benefits of acupuncture is its ability to reduce anxiety and stress. Studies have reported that results may even be experienced after one session, while some suggested that it may be a natural alternative to pharmaceutical drugs. With regular acupuncture sessions, you may be able to ward off the negative effects of chronic stress.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): Many studies have reported that acupuncture can also relieve PMS symptoms. Do not wait until the PMS symptoms actually occur. Instead, take acupuncture sessions before your PMS symptoms actually start to lessen them beforehand.
  • Neck pain and headaches: If you spend too much time on your phone, you may experience neck pain and headaches. With acupuncture, your tight, overworked neck muscles can be loosened and the pain you are feeling may be reduced.
  • Sleep: If you have difficulty in sleeping, you may want to try acupuncture. Research has shown that regular acupuncture can effectively improve sleep and even treat chronic insomnia. This treatment can relax both the mind and body, helping you sleep easily and better at night.
  • Skin health: Acupuncture is also believed to provide skin benefits, such as reducing wrinkles and sagging facial muscles and increasing collagen levels.

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