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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Acupuncture Not Just a Placebo

There are numerous studies being conducted to determine whether acupuncture is truly effective as a pain reducer, or whether the age-old tradition of relieving pain is simply producing a placebo effect.

One such study, conducted by the University College in London and Southampton University, took it a step further by employing a brain scan on its study participants to see which parts of the brain are being affected during acupuncture.

The study used positron emission tomography (PET) scans and involved 14 volunteers who went under scrutiny three times each.

One scan was done while the participants were given treatment with ‘fake’ needles – blunt needles that touched the acupuncture points, but did not break the skin. During this session they were told that the needles would not break the skin.

The next treatment was conducted with ‘trick’ needles that appeared to break the skin, though they only disappeared into the body of the needle to give the illusion of piercing the skin.

The third treatment was regular acupuncture. The results were published in the journal NeuroImage.

What they found was that the ‘fake’ treatment made patients brains light up in the areas that signified touch, but not pain. The second round with ‘trick’ needles did, in fact, light up areas of the brain associated with pain and also produced natural opiates to relieve it. The third round of actual acupuncture activated the same pain areas and natural opiates as the trick needles, but also activated the insular, an area involved in pain modulation.

The results were very positive and pointed toward the fact that acupuncture really does produce pain relieving results and not just a placebo effect.

While this is encouraging, there will surely be many more studies and trials to test the effectiveness of acupuncture on pain relief.

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At March 11, 2008 10:25 PM , Blogger rosema said...

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