Treating Hypothyroidism with Acupuncture
You may have heard that acupuncture is a possible treatment option for people with hypothyroidism. While some experts agree that acupuncture may be of benefit, the verdict is still out on its level of effectiveness in improving thyroid disorders.
The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that acupuncture may be helpful in correcting hormonal imbalances, including thyroid disorders. And a study by the Global Advances in Health and Medicine suggests that acupuncture is a viable treatment option for hypothyroidism, though it says more rigorous larger-scale research studies need to be conducted to validate and further these findings.
What is it?
Acupuncture is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine. It involves the insertion of extremely thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body, and is most commonly used to treat pain. While the Chinese explanation is that this balances the flow of energy or life force—known as qi or chi (CHEE) throughout the body, many Western practitioners believe the acupuncture points help stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue, which may increase blood flow and the body's natural painkillers.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) regards both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism as Yin/Yang imbalances, and often uses acupuncture, herbal medicine and dietary therapy to rebalance Yin and Yang (the concept of duality forming a whole).
According to the World Health Organization, acupuncture can be used to treat thyroid diseases, and several studies suggest that acupuncture and TCM can be beneficial in treating hypothyroidism. A study at the Shanghai Medical University in China found that symptoms of hypothyroidism improved significantly when treated with a Chinese herbal preparation to stimulate the kidney energy channel, confirming the tie between hypothyroidism and a deficiency in kidney energy.
A Complementary Approach
Since acupuncture is often considered a complementary medicine, it may be a treatment option alongside traditional therapy, such as medication. The British Acupuncture Council says that acupuncture may be of benefit for people with hypothyroidism, but advises that some form of maintenance medication is often essential.
Ask your doctor if there is a possibility that acupuncture may help with your symptoms, and/or reduce the medications you are taking. If you plan to discontinue medication, it's important to have your blood checked on a regular basis to ensure that your thyroid continues to function properly.