I don’t often write about acupuncture. But it’s not because I don’t believe in it.
In fact, have several acupuncturists who work in my office — and I’ve been known to have treatments myself on occasion. So while I don’t personally perform the service, I can absolutely vouch for its value.
That’s why, when I do come across a study on acupuncture, I’m always eager to share it. Especially when it deals with an issue that means a lot to my patients and readers, like preserving memory. And recent research shows that acupuncture may help reverse mild cognitive impairment.
This new meta-analysis looked at five different trials, featuring more than 550 patients with memory loss and cognitive decline. Of the group, roughly half received acupuncture. Researchers compared their results with patients who received the drug nimodipine — a calcium-channel blocker prescribed off-label for memory problems.
The studies featured half-hour sessions of acupuncture, three to five times a week, for two to three months.
Ultimately, the acupuncture patients fared significantly better than patients who took nimodipene alone.
In other words, acupuncture — either as a complementary therapy or on its own — appears to improve cognitive function in patients suffering mental declines. Not too shabby for a bunch of needles stuck into random body parts. (Of course, they’re not random at all…but unless you’re trained in Chinese medicine, the needle placement may not seem to make much sense at times.)
This is important information. Because with the sharp rise in the elderly population — not to mention conventional medicine’s lackluster success when it comes to mitigating cognitive decline — more and more people are going to be living with dementia.
Suffice it to say, we need to know how to handle this looming brain crisis way better than we are now. The question is, how long will it take mainstream medicine to catch up with studies like this one?
Sadly, I fear the answer — as usual — is “too long.”
As I’ve said before, it really doesn’t matter what works. If research shows that standing on your head will help you feel and function better, then I’m going to recommend that you do it every single day.
Granted, we all have to face up to the fact that aging is inevitable. You can slow the turning wheels of time, but you can’t stop them — and that simply isn’t going to change.
But what can change is how we age. We can live longer and better. It IS possible. And leaving no stone unturned — and no treatment unexamined or untried — is a way for us to do just that.
So as far as I’m concerned, the powers-that-be can spare me their skepticism. I care about clinical research as much as the next doctor — and I’m always pleased to be able to back up my points with hard evidence when studies like this one come along.
But as you have read here many times, I’ve often been right long before any “proof” came along. I’ve got a practice full of healthy, vibrant patients to show for it… and frankly, that’s proof enough for me.