Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical treatment that promotes whole-body responses that are believed to heal a very large array of medical conditions. As a tinnitus treatment, many sufferers have found acupuncture to be a reliable source of relief and others have found it to have little or no effect on their symptom. Acupuncture is part of a broad, comprehensive approach to Eastern medicine; it is important for the recipient to seek a thorough program of treatment that compliments acupuncture.
Eastern and Western doctors may disagree on how to medically treat something as mysterious as tinnitus, but they do agree on the basis of the symptom. Though they describe the problem differently and from different perspective of medicine, the common thread is that tinnitus is a symptom of another problem. Western doctors will call this an “underlying condition” and Eastern doctors call it “yang rising, yin deficiency” and both mean the same thing: some type of imbalance in the body is resulting in the symptom. The imbalance might be metabolic, circulatory, neurological, or fluid based but it is nearly always an imbalance. This is only untrue when the root problem (Eastern) or underlying condition (Western) is related to cell damage.
Chinese medicine techniques date back 4,000 years and are the most widely studied and documented practice in the world. Acupuncture has been used for the treatment of tinnitus at comprehensive tinnitus clinics the world over as part of a more complete approach to treatment. Western medical doctors tend to rely on pharmacological solutions (medications) while Eastern medical doctors focus on the subtle energies in the body (yin and yang) and the “life force” or qi (chi) that represents the entire body system.
Scientific Studies of Acupuncture and Tinnitus Relief
Asian practitioners have employed acupuncture to treat tinnitus for hundreds of years now, a condition they recognize to cause sleep disturbance, loss of focus, extreme amounts of stress, and in severe cases, suicidal tendencies. Eastern medicine is practiced on the basic notion that the body’s chi must flow and balance throughout life or the result will be illness and disease. With this mode of thinking, acupuncture is employed in the treatment of tinnitus to improve and re-balance metabolic discrepancies, the blood circulation through the body, and the flow of neurological impulses to and from the brain.
In scientific studies, acupuncture research shows mixed results for its effectiveness on tinnitus and Western science has failed to provide conclusive evidence of acupuncture’s effectiveness on tinnitus. However, that doesn’t mean it does not work at all. Those sufferers who believe in life energy of qi and are open to a comprehensive program stand by the method of acupuncture for all sorts of medical conditions. Although the evidence is often considered inconclusive, studies have reported that up to 55% of tinnitus sufferers in the research group said that their tinnitus was immediately and significantly reduced in volume and severity immediately following acupuncture treatments.
These studies point out that more than 80% of tinnitus patients report improvement after traditional, physiological treatment of the symptom. Therefore medical scientists state that these treatments are more effective and consider them “better”. They also point out that some of the studies that show improvement in tinnitus following acupuncture treatments should not qualify as “scientific research” because the control methods were not sufficient to produce the same environment for each patient being studied. (They also noted that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of research on the topic, in general.)
As with any medical treatment, acupuncture is subject to what is known about it from a scientific point of view. Many medical conditions are much understudied as are many medical treatments. Considering that medical science cannot prove the absolute causes of tinnitus are a very large number of individual cases, it shouldn’t be surprising that acupuncture’s effectiveness on the symptom is also a mystery. It is commonly accepted, however, that an individual’s belief in a treatment’s ability to help is a big indicator in their ability to improve with treatment. Since tinnitus is so subjective and because part of the process of tinnitus therapy involves one’s ability to “ignore” the sounds of tinnitus when a root problem cannot be cured, it may be plausible that some people can benefit from acupuncture.
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