According to the American College of Gastroenterology, about 20 million Americans will develop an ulcer during their life. Acupuncture for ulcers can help relieve suffering for those enduring this painful condition.
Peptic ulcers are open sores that form on the inside lining of the stomach, esophagus, or duodenum (the first part of the intestine). Contrary to popular belief, spicy foods and stress do not lead to ulcers. Instead, peptic ulcers are usually caused by bacterial infections or frequent use of medications like ibuprofen, potassium supplements, or certain prescription medications used to treat osteoporosis.
The most common symptom of each kind of peptic ulcer is abdominal pain, which can be intensified by stomach acid coming into contact with the ulcerated area. This pain is known to:
- Feel worse when your stomach is empty
- Be felt from your navel to your breastbone
- Be temporarily eased by acid-reducing medication or foods that protect against stomach acid
- Feel worse at night
- Disappear and then return for a few days or weeks
It’s possible for acupuncture to significantly reduce the pain associated with ulcers; for many people, one or two treatment sessions a week can make the pain tolerable and thus ease anxiety about when the next flare up will occur. Acupuncture can also be used to treat a variety of gastrointestinal diseases that relate to ulcers. Among other things, it can reduce inflammation of the GI tract, improve delayed gastric emptying, and improve acid secretion. And the benefits of using acupuncture as an ulcer treatment even extend beyond pain and symptom relief. One study of acupuncture treatment for duodenal ulcers found that three weeks of acupuncture therapy led to complete recovery in 76 percent of the patients.
Based on the philosophies of Chinese medicine, acupuncture treatment for ulcers focuses on re-establishing the body’s Qi, or energy. This can mean addressing certain organs or areas of the body that are most impacted by ulcers—something that would be determined by a skilled acupuncturist after a detailed conversation with the patient about his/her specific situation.
As with all acupuncture, the treatment of ulcers is done on a case by case basis, determined by a patient’s age, symptoms, background, and ulcer location. Your acupuncturist may also advise lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, choosing a healthy diet, and switching pain relievers. Additionally, though stress does not cause an ulcer, it can worsen the symptoms—so patients may find that stress-relieving habits like meditation can greatly improve both their symptoms and the effectiveness of acupuncture treatments.
Western treatment of ulcers generally includes medication based on the cause of the ulcer: antibiotics that combat bacterial infections, medications that block or reduce acid production, antacids, and medications that protect the lining of the stomach and small intestine. Though these options can produce positive results, they require patience, may only target some symptoms, and can be accompanied by unwanted side effects. If you’re interested in complementary or alternative acupuncture treatment, Acupuncture Associates can provide an assessment of your problems and discuss how acupuncture can help. Contact us to schedule your appointment.