Acupuncture could help COVID-19 patients, according to new study

The Mayo Clinic defines acupuncture as the practice of inserting very thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. A key component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain. However, it is becoming more popular for overall wellness, including stress management.

According to traditional Chinese medicine principles, it is regarded as a method to balance the energy flow or life force (qi) that is supposed to flow through channels or meridians throughout your body. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners say that by putting needles into specific locations along these points, your energy flow will recalibrate.

Given the ongoing pandemic, all sort of treatments and medications have been suggested to prevent or treat the disease, including Acupuncture, which may help post-Covid-19 recovery.

A study conducted by Harvard Medical School found that acupuncture can help relieve inflammation in mice, according to the case study highlighted in the journal Neuron.

The traditional Chinese medical treatment influenced rodents’ ability to cope with a cytokine storm — an overly aggressive immune response which could cause lung inflammation, pneumonia and death in some COVID-19cases. Western medicine has been used to try to suppress the reaction but this Chinese medical treatment might just work.

According to an interview done by the New York Post with acupuncturist Sara Reznikoff, she noted that it was exciting news and it was reassuring when Western studies back up the ancient healing medical system of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine.

“Acupuncture is fantastic at triggering the body’s innate healing abilities, helping with inflammation and calming the nervous system. I have seen great results at my practice, treating patients with post-COVID-19 symptoms,” said Reznikoff, who runs her own practice in Brooklyn. “I’m glad that acupuncture is being considered in the fight against COVID19 — anything that helps.”

Researchers noted that the findings from the research could prove useful post-pandemic as shared in a press release highlighting the study.

Cytokine storms have “gained mainstream attention as a complication of severe COVID-19, but this aberrant immune reaction can occur in the setting of any infection and has been long known to physicians as a hallmark of sepsis, an organ-damaging, often-fatal inflammatory response to infection”.

The scientists caution, however, that before any therapeutic use, the observations have to be confirmed in further research via approved clinical trials and the optimal parameters for acupuncture stimulation must be carefully defined.

“Our findings represent an important step in ongoing efforts not only to understand the neuroanatomy of acupuncture but to identify ways to incorporate it into the treatment arsenal of inflammatory diseases, including sepsis,” said study principal investigator Qiufu Ma, professor of neurobiology in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School and a researcher at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

He also added that the results of the study show how the same stimulus could produce dramatically different results depending on location, timing and intensity. This matters because if practiced inappropriately, acupuncture could have detrimental results.

If studied further, the findings also highlight the possibility that electroacupuncture could be used as a versatile treatment modality in the future —from adjunct therapy for sepsis in the intensive care unit to more targeted treatment of site-specific inflammation, such as in inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.

Another possible use highlighted by the team would be to help modulate inflammation resulting from cancer immune therapy, which while lifesaving can sometimes trigger cytokine storm due to overstimulation of the immune system.

At present, Acupuncture has already been used as part of integrative cancer treatment to help patients cope with the side effects of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.

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