Acupuncture clinics are increasingly present in public health. In some regions more than in others, it is still an important recognition for traditional Chinese medicine. An opportunity to take stock of the census of public clinics, as well as research and therapeutic applications of acupuncture, is the conference “Acupuncture the state of the art” organized by the Italian Federation of Fisa Acupuncture Societies, which will be held on June 4 in Florence.
“This is a research work launched in 2018 and updated at the end of 2021, integrating the data provided by the regions and the Ministry of Health with those collected by our members”, explains the president of Fisa Carlo Maria Giovanardi. The data available online on the Fisa website speak of almost three hundred structures. “And probably the real numbers are even higher”, continues Giovanardi. “The problem is the distribution on the territory”. More than half of the facilities available, in fact, are located in northern Italy or Tuscany, while in the south, with some exceptions such as Puglia or the city of Trapani, very few public services are activated, and generally live thanks to personal initiative. rather than being included in a therapeutic project. In addition, some services provide paid services, while others require a ticket and still others have free clinics. “There is no homogeneity of treatment”, recalls Giovanardi: “Unfortunately, acupuncture is included in the essential levels of regional assistance only in Tuscany and, limited to some pathologies such as low back pain and migraine, in Emilia-Romagna”.
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What are the most commonly treated pathologies
And, in fact, osteoarticular pathologies and headache are at the first places among the pathologies treated, but acupuncture is confirmed to be effective for much more, such as pain therapy, and in the various phases of the oncological path in support of therapies or to limit the side effects: “There are regions such as Tuscany where acupuncture, together with other complementary therapies, is included in the Diagnostic Therapeutic Assistance Pathways for Oncology -, explains Giovanardi – Those who resort to these treatments are mainly women operated on for breast cancer who cannot undergo hormonal therapies or suffer from chemotherapy-induced neuropathies “.
But needles are also used, more generally, for gynecological pathologies, “from menstruation disorders to fertility problems, to the promotion of physiological childbirth”, he adds. Sonia Baccetti of the Regional Center for Integrated Medicine (Crmi) of Tuscany. In addition to being present in the SerD, where it is used to help stop addiction from alcohol, drugs and tobacco, and to be included among the support therapies for Long Covid.
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The experience of Tuscany
Tuscany is the region where the integration between conventional medicine and acupuncture works best: “Our experience is also studied abroad: the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, with which we have been collaborating for years, considers us a reference model “, Baccetti recalls:” We have clinics spread throughout the region, even in small towns, which work in a “network” with the most experienced local and hospital clinics “.
Alongside the opening of clinical activities, then, the region has given itself a legislative and organizational structure, creating a true integration between official medicine and complementary medicines, among which the most widespread is acupuncture, which entered the regional Lea in 2005. The The result is that today in Tuscany there are 108 clinics, 74 of which are “per ticket”: 45 are dedicated to acupuncture and 19 to oncology (with exemption from paying the ticket).
How effective is it on chronic low back pain and headache
There is still a lot to do: “There are areas to be developed, such as support for cancer patients and the treatment of chronic pain particularly in frail patients”, explains Giovanardi. However, something is also moving on the research front: Fisa has carried out two systematic reviews on the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of headaches and chronic low back pain, comparing its effectiveness with respect to conventional therapies: “It emerged that acupuncture results more effective or, in some cases, as effective as drug therapy, but with a better safety profile in terms of side effects “, underlines Giovanardi. Furthermore, Tuscany participates in Sino-EU PerMed, a collaborative project between Europe and China to understand the genetic basis of personalized treatments that are one of the characteristics of traditional Chinese medicine.
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The Sino-Italian Joint Laboratory on Traditional Chinese Medicine has been active at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità since 2006, born from an agreement with the Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, “to promote scientific evidence through joint research projects and guarantee citizens treatments of proven safety and efficacy “, emphasizes the manager Alice Fauci. An initiative that has already led to the publication of several studies also on pathologies such as stroke, chronic heart failure and some forms of migraine, highlighting the need to improve their quality.