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Acupuncture popular in Germany, but health insurers remain sceptical

Provided by Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) on 10/22/2003

by Dietmar Telser, dpa

Hamburg (dpa) - Using needles against pain. This apparent contradiction is finding ever more adherents in Germany. About 40,000 doctors in Germany are now offering acupuncture and many patients prefer it to traditional medicine.

But doctors and the health insurance companies continue to dispute acupuncture's therapeutic qualities.

Acupuncture's origins are in traditional Chinese medicine. The needles excite certain points of the body. Through this, disorders and blockages are said to be removed by so-called energy flows ("Qi").

Most acupuncture therapies in western countries are backed up by western medical practice.

Between six and sixteen needles are used over the entire body, says Friedrich Fischer, a Cologne-based doctor. "The points where the needles are set are determined through pulse and tongue diagnostic techniques."

Acupuncture treatment is not suitable for all ailments. Helmut Ruediger, deputy chairman of the German Medical Society for Acupuncture, said: "Success prospects are especially good in treating spinal problems, migraine, allergies, and bronchial asthma."

Acupuncture does have side effects. Ruediger said that some patients afterwards complain of circulation problems.

He said that when the needles are placed, they cause - depending on the condition being treated and the therapy - either a light pain or a dull aching and tingling. The width of the needle depends on the constitution of the patient and the nature of the therapy. The needles are removed after about 20 minutes.

Doctors say that success can be reached after a few sessions. The price in Germany of from 50 euros per consultation generally has to be paid by the patient.

Ruediger said that up until about two years ago, the bulk of the costs were met by the health-insurance companies. But now the companies meet those costs only in certain circumstances.

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