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Seasonal Affective Not a Disorder

By Sara Calabro

Holidays, whether fun or stressful, are nothing if not distracting. With them now past, people may notice the return of emotional symptoms that surfaced just before the holiday season began. The biomedical community calls this SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, a condition that describes mood shifts associated with changing seasons.

Acupuncturists call it normal. Keep reading

Defining Research

By Sara Calabro

On Thursday, the FDA recommended to reverse the approval of Avastin for breast cancer, a decision that The Washington Post says, “intensifies a politically charged debate over costly cancer drugs that appear to produce modest benefits—if any.” It also raises questions about the research processes by which therapies, including acupuncture, are deemed effective.

In a case of crystal-ball reporting, The New Yorker, three days before the Avastin news broke, covered the “decline effect” in research. This refers to the increasingly common phenomenon of follow-up studies failing to confirm original research findings. Avastin gained approval for breast cancer in 2008, based on one study that showed it slowed the growth of breast tumors. The FDA signed off with the understanding that the drug’s maker would conduct follow-up studies to confirm the results. Those studies proved unimpressive. Keep reading

Documentary Grows Awareness

By Sara Calabro

9000 Needles is bringing acupuncture to the masses.

The documentary—it follows Devin Dearth, a 40-year-old former bodybuilder, to China, where he is treated with acupuncture after suffering a massive stroke—made a splash at several of this year’s film festivals, including the Gotham Independent Film Awards, where it was a finalist alongside media darling and eventual winner Waiting for Superman.

The film was directed by Devin’s brother, Doug Dearth, whose frustrations with the U.S. health insurance industry during his brother’s recovery inspired him to research international options. He spent three-and-a-half months filming in Tianjian, China, where Devin participated in an affordable, comprehensive stroke rehabilitation program that included frequent acupuncture treatments.

9000 Needles tells a unifying story of how Devin’s family and local community put aside preconceived notions about medicine to embrace the solution that offered their loved one the most benefit.

Doug Dearth recently spoke with AcuTake about filming his brother’s journey—and how he hopes it’ll improve perceptions and accessibility of acupuncture in the U.S. Keep reading

The Deal with Acupuncture for Weight Loss

By Sara Calabro

From diets and support groups to surgically implanted devices, weight-loss solutions abound—and yet consistently leave something to be desired.

For every Weight Watchers success story there’s a case of backfire, in which Points counting becomes so tedious and joyless that it only increases cravings for off-the-charts foods. The same Lap-Band that improves portion control in one person may be nothing but an ineffective and unnecessary surgical procedure for another.

Different weight-loss methods produce unpredictable outcomes because we all gain weight, and struggle to lose it, for different reasons.

Acupuncture by nature is multi-pronged in its approach—it simultaneously addresses physiological and emotional imbalances—making it an especially suitable therapy for complex conditions that are difficult to isolate.

And so, The $64,000 Question: Can acupuncture really help with weight loss? Keep reading

Be Thankful for Acupuncture

By Sara Calabro

What do Thanksgiving and acupuncture have in common? A lot, it turns out.

At Thanksgiving, people take the time to thoughtfully prepare a complete meal. Wired recently suggested that the effort involved in Thanksgiving makes it a more pleasurable dining experience than if the turkey came from a frozen dinner and was cooked in the microwave. Likewise, acupuncture, because it requires consciousness and commitment, is ultimately more rewarding than quick-fix medicines that temporarily satiate but never fully satisfy.

The Wired article discusses new research in which mice demonstrated a preference for food that they worked hard to obtain. “Actions can create preferences,” say the authors of the study, “increasing the value ascribed to commodities acquired at greater cost.”

In other words, we get more satisfaction from the things we work for. Keep reading

Community Model Improves Access

By Sara Calabro

Back in 2006, John Weeks, editor of The Integrator Blog, called the community acupuncture model “one of the most exciting recent developments in the business of integrated care.” His conclusion was based on discussions with Lisa Rohleder, founder of Working Class Acupuncture in Portland, OR, and author of The Remedy and Acupuncture Is Like Noodles.

Rohleder has become the public voice of the community acupuncture movement, which she believes has the power to create major change in healthcare. In the four years since Weeks endorsed the model, Rohleder has evolved her thinking on some issues—namely, the ease with which Working Class Acupuncture‘s success can be replicated—while steadfastly continuing to champion the clinical and social benefits of community acupuncture.

AcuTake recently spoke with her. Keep reading

Help for Veterans with PTSD

By Sara Calabro

Acupuncture is an ideal remedy for what a recent CNN article calls a “cookie-cutter” approach to addressing the hidden wounds experienced by many veterans and active military personnel.

The military, in light of the prevalence of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) among soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been criticized for its handling of non-physical war injuries.

Reportedly, physically wounded soldiers are offered expedient medical care that includes thorough rehabilitation, while those with less visible symptoms—depression, memory loss, panic attacks, and poor concentration, among others—are often left in the lurch.

Acupuncture, because it excels at addressing these more ambiguous, multi-faceted conditions, has a rightful place in the treatment of PTSD in veterans. Keep reading

Achilles Tendinitis Plagues Runners

By Sara Calabro

One of the most common running injuries is Achilles tendinitis, an irritation of the Achilles tendon that causes pain or tenderness between the heel and lower calf.

Runners who are longtime sufferers of heel pain sometimes resort to cortisone shots. The New York Times last week, reporting on a new review of trials on cortisone for tennis elbow and other tendon injuries, suggested that the shots fail to address the underlying problem and, worse, may actually inhibit structural healing.

Acupuncture offers runners a more effective and safer bet for treating Achilles tendinitis. Keep reading

‘Better’ Healthcare

By Sara Calabro

New York magazine’s latest cover story, on the impending financial doom of many New York City hospitals, is just one more reason to read Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande.

Insurance red tape and the high costs associated with caring for underserved populations have put many inner city hospitals in a dire position. Better does not provide the answers, but rather, the inspiration for improvement that’s too easily lost in today’s challenging healthcare environment.

Gawande’s book will appeal to readers beyond just those who work in hospitals. It’s about what it means to be a good doctor, but also about the universal human drive to rise to the occasion and exceed expectations. Keep reading

Before Botox for Migraines

By Sara Calabro

Migraine sufferers began their weekends on a hopeful note. On Friday, the FDA announced that it has approved Botox for the prevention of chronic migraines.

However, the jury is still out on whether Botox actually helps migraines. One study published this summer uncovered no significant reduction in headache episodes between people who got Botox and those who received placebo injections.

Future studies may confirm Botox as a significant advancement in the treatment of chronic migraines, but until evidence is more conclusive, people should consider acupuncture. Keep reading