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  • Acupuncture

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    Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine in which thin needles are inserted into the body. It is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Acupuncture is a pseudoscience as the theories and practices of TCM are not based upon scientific knowledge. There are a diverse range of acupuncture theories based on different philosophies, and techniques vary depending on the country in which it is performed. The method used in TCM is probably the most widespread in the United States. It is most often used for pain relief, though it is also used for a wide range of other conditions. Acupuncture is generally used only in combination with other forms of treatment. The conclusions of many trials and numerous systematic reviews of acupuncture are largely inconsistent, which suggests that it is not effective. An overview of Cochrane reviews found that acupuncture is not effective for a wide range of conditions. A systematic review found little evidence of acupuncture's effectiveness in treating pain. The evidence suggests that short-term treatment with acupuncture does not produce long-term benefits. Some research results suggest acupuncture can alleviate pain, though the majority of research suggests that acupuncture's effects are mainly due to the placebo effect. A systematic review concluded that the analgesic effect of acupuncture seemed to lack clinical relevance and could not be clearly distinguished from bias. A meta-analysis found that acupuncture for chronic low back pain was cost-effective as an adjunct to standard care, while a systematic review found insufficient evidence for the cost-effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of chronic low back pain. Acupuncture is generally safe when done by an appropriately trained practitioner using clean needle technique and single-use needles. When properly delivered, it has a low rate of mostly minor adverse effects. Accidents and infections are associated with infractions of sterile technique or neglect on the part of the practitioner. A review stated that the reports of infection transmission increased significantly in the previous decade. The most frequently reported adverse events were pneumothorax and infections. Since serious adverse events continue to be reported, it is recommended that acupuncturists be trained sufficiently to reduce the risk. Scientific investigation has not found any histological or physiological evidence for traditional Chinese concepts such as qi, meridians, and acupuncture points, and many modern practitioners no longer support the existence of life force energy (qi) flowing through meridians, which was a major part of early belief systems. Acupuncture is believed to have originated around 100 BC in China, around the time The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine (Huangdi Neijing) was published, though some experts suggest it could have been practiced earlier. Over time, conflicting claims and belief systems emerged about the effect of lunar, celestial and earthly cycles, yin and yang energies, and a body's "rhythm" on the effectiveness of treatment. Acupuncture fluctuated in popularity in China during changes in the country's political leadership and the preferential use of rationalism or Western medicine. Acupuncture spread first to Korea in the 6th century AD, then to Japan through medical missionaries, and then to Europe, beginning with France. In the 20th century, as it spread to the United States and Western countries, spiritual elements of acupuncture that conflict with Western beliefs were sometimes abandoned in favor of simply tapping needles into acupuncture points.

  • Mustard plaster

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    A mustard plaster is a poultice of mustard seed powder spread inside a protective dressing and applied to the body to stimulate healing. It can be used to warm muscle tissues and for chronic aches and pains. It was once part of conventional medical treatment, and available in prepared versions in pharmacies. It fell from favor in the 20th century and is now only used as a home remedy.

  • Shingles

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    Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral disease characterized by a painful skin rash with blisters in a localized area. Typically the rash occurs in a single, wide stripe either on the left or right side of the body or face. Two to four days before the rash occurs there may be tingling or local pain in the area. Otherwise there are typically few symptoms though some may have fever, headache, or feel tired. The rash usually heals within two to four weeks; however, some people develop ongoing nerve pain which can last for months or years, a condition called postherpetic neuralgia. In those with poor immune function the rash may occur widely. If the rash involves the eye, vision loss may occur. Shingles is due to a reactivation of varicella zoster virus (VZV) within a person's body. The disease chickenpox is caused by the initial infection with VZV. Once chickenpox has resolved, the virus may remain inactive in nerve cells. When it reactivates, it travels from the nerve body to the endings in the skin, producing blisters. Risk factors for reactivation include old age, poor immune function, and having had chickenpox before 18 months of age. How the virus remains in the body or subsequently re-activates is not well understood. Exposure to the virus in the blisters can cause chickenpox in someone who has not had it, but will not trigger shingles. Diagnosis is typically based on a person's signs and symptoms. Varicella zoster virus is not the same as herpes simplex virus; however, they belong to the same family of viruses. The shingles vaccine reduces the risk of shingles by 50 to 90%, depending on the vaccine used. It also decreases rates of postherpetic neuralgia, and if shingles occurs, its severity. If shingles develops, antiviral medications such as aciclovir can reduce the severity and duration of disease if started within 72 hours of the appearance of the rash. Evidence does not show a significant effect of antivirals or steroids on rates of postherpetic neuralgia. Paracetamol, NSAIDs, or opioids may be used to help with the acute pain. It is estimated that about a third of people develop shingles at some point in their life. While more common among older people, children may also get the disease. The number of new cases per year ranges from 1.2–3.4 per 1,000 person-years among healthy individuals to 3.9–11.8 per 1,000 person-years among those older than 65 years of age. About half of those living to age 85 will have at least one attack, and less than 5% will have more than one attack. The disease has been recognized since ancient times.

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