Mysteries in Acupuncture - Future Research?
President of the International Society for Medical Laser Applications (ISLA transcontinental; since 2012), German Vice President of the German-Chinese Research Foundation (DCFG) for TCM (since 2014), Honorary President of the European Federation of Acupuncture and Moxibustion Societies (2023), Graz, Austria
Received: July 19, 2023 | Accepted: July 19, 2023 | Published: July 21, 2023
OBM Integrative and Complementary Medicine 2023, Volume 8, Issue 3, doi:10.21926/obm.icm.2303031
Recommended citation: Litscher G. Mysteries in Acupuncture - Future Research?. OBM Integrative and Complementary Medicine 2023; 8(3): 031; doi:10.21926/obm.icm.2303031.
© 2023 by the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the conditions of the Creative Commons by Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium or format, provided the original work is correctly cited.
While acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years, several mysteries still warrant further research. By combining traditional knowledge with modern scientific methods, we can continue exploring acupuncture's mysteries and harness its potential for promoting health and well-being [1,2]. Here are some of the greatest mysteries in acupuncture (Figure 1):
Figure 1 Topics that still need to be explored further in acupuncture.
1. Mechanisms of Action
Despite the wealth of clinical evidence supporting acupuncture's effectiveness, the precise mechanisms by which it works remain elusive. Research should aim to uncover the specific physiological and biochemical pathways through which acupuncture exerts its therapeutic effects.
2. Individual Variability
Acupuncture treatments can produce different responses in different individuals, even when treating the same condition. Understanding the reasons behind this individual variability, such as genetic factors, epigenetics, and patient characteristics, can help tailor treatments and optimize outcomes.
3. Optimal Treatment Parameters
There is ongoing debate regarding the optimal acupuncture treatment parameters, including needle insertion depth, duration of treatment, and frequency of sessions. Further research is needed to establish evidence-based guidelines for different conditions and patient populations.
4. Placebo and Contextual Effects
The placebo effect and contextual factors significantly influence acupuncture's perceived efficacy. It is essential to investigate the specific contributions of placebo and context in acupuncture outcomes and explore the psychosocial and neurobiological mechanisms underlying these effects.
5. Standardization of Acupuncture Protocols
Acupuncture encompasses various techniques, styles, and approaches, making it challenging to standardize treatment protocols. Research should aim to establish standardized protocols for various conditions, ensuring consistency in acupuncture research and clinical practice.
6. Acupuncture's Long-Term Effects
Many acupuncture studies focus on short-term outcomes, but understanding the long-term effects of acupuncture is crucial for assessing its overall effectiveness and safety. Research should explore the durability of acupuncture's effects and investigate whether its benefits extend beyond the treatment period.
7. Acupuncture's Impact on Health Systems
As acupuncture becomes more integrated into healthcare systems, it is necessary to investigate its impact on healthcare delivery, cost-effectiveness, and patient outcomes. Research should examine how acupuncture can be effectively integrated into conventional medical models and explore its potential as a preventive and population health strategy.
8. Acupuncture's Role in Complex Conditions
Acupuncture has been studied extensively for certain conditions, such as pain management and nausea. However, its potential role in complex and multifactorial conditions, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or complex regional pain syndrome, remains relatively unexplored. Further research should investigate the efficacy and mechanisms of acupuncture in these challenging conditions.
9. Acupuncture and Neuroplasticity
Acupuncture has been shown to modulate brain activity and induce neuroplastic changes. Investigating the effects of acupuncture on neural networks, neuroplasticity, and brain connectivity can provide valuable insights into its mechanisms of action and help optimize treatment approaches.
10. Comparative Effectiveness
While acupuncture is often compared to sham acupuncture or other non-pharmacological interventions, there is a need for more comparative effectiveness studies that directly compare acupuncture to conventional treatments or medications for various conditions. This research can inform evidence-based decision-making and help determine patients' most appropriate treatment options.
In conclusion, the mysteries surrounding acupuncture persist, and its efficacy and mechanisms of action continue to be a subject of scientific inquiry. Future research endeavors employing rigorous methodologies and innovative approaches, hold the promise of unraveling these mysteries, shedding light on the underlying principles of acupuncture, and expanding its potential as a safe and effective therapeutic option for a wide range of health conditions.
The author did all the research work for this study.
The author now declares that no conflict of interest exists in connection with the publication of this editorial.