The Advantages of Treating Thyroid Disorders with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

Common thyroid disorders include hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroiditis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, subacute thyroiditis, chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, and goiter.

Hypothyroidism is a very common chronic health problem for women in the United States. Thyroid disorders often cause a cluster of health problems simultaneously, and often interfere with the autoimmune, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, and musculoskeletal systems. The effects on these systems can be accompanied by stress, anxiety, depression, and other emotional problems.

Thyroid disorders come from not only an overproduction (hyperthyroidism) but also underproduction (hypothyroidism) of thyroid hormones as indicated by clinical symptoms, lab tests, and pathology. Hyperthyroidism is commonly treated with anti-thyroid medication, and hypothyroidism is commonly treated with hormone replacement therapy, though surgery is a possibility for both conditions in some cases.

Anti-thyroid therapy for hyperthyroidism can potentially be a long-term therapy, lasting at least 2 to 3 years, and in some patients symptoms can return even after conditions seem to have improved, and therapeutic interventions have stopped. Anti-thyroid medications can easily cause digestive problems such as nausea at the onset of using the medicine. Other potential side effects include allergies, severe injuries to the liver, lowered white blood cell counts, and overall diminished immune function after long term use. Additionally, anti-thyroid or surgical therapy for hyperthyroidism can easily cause hypothyroidism in some patients, especially for patients with thyroiditis and subacute thyroiditis.

Hormone replacement therapy for hypothyroidism can prove to be a long-term, even life-long, therapy, which can easily cause side effects. Most patients who undergo this therapy may go years without notable relief from their symptoms, with lab tests showing only partial, even minuscule, improvement in their condition.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine have been traditionally and successfully employed in China to treat thyroid disorders, with substantial evidence of their effectiveness. These modalities have been used to treat goiter for over 1,500 years, hyperthyroidism since the 1930’s, and hypothyroidism since the 1960’s. The combination of acupuncture and Chinese medicine with Western medicine has been used for thyroid disorders since 1970’s. The research taken from a number of clinical studies suggests that acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be a part of very effective treatments for both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.

Clinical research conducted in China on the combination of acupuncture and Chinese medicine with Western medicine for hyperthyroidism concluded that treatments of hyperthyroidism with acupuncture and Chinese medicine have been successful, though the course of treatment provides for a relatively slower process when compared to Western treatment. However, the results gained by the utilization of acupuncture and Chinese medicine do not lose their effectiveness, and have no recurring symptoms, after stopping treatment. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine have few, if any, side effects, and can even reduce the occurrence of side effects of Western medicines. These therapies have been shown to be effective and successful for patients who have thyroiditis, subacute thyroiditis and hypothyroidism caused by over use of anti-thyroid medicines.

Similar clinical research in China on hypothyroidism reported that treatments of hypothyroidism with acupuncture and Chinese medicine compare favorably with Western treatments, showing more long-term positive outcomes, and usually showing benefits within a matter of months for most patients. In our clinical experience, the patient generally experiences symptom relief first, followed by improvements on lab results after four to six months. As with all acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments, there are few, if any, side effects, and these therapies can help to reduce the occurrence of the side effects from Western medicines. After successfully undergoing acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments for hypothyroidism, there does not tend to be any recurrence of symptoms once the treatments are stopped. Finally, after successful treatment with acupuncture and Chinese medicine and a subsequent change in their condition, most patients who have taken hypothyroid medications long-term can stop taking them, without seeing a return of symptoms or signs of problems in lab test results.