Effects of acupuncture are not just psychological

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  • New research suggests acupuncture is more than a placebo for pain relief

    According to MRI scans, acupuncture works directly on the brain to reduce the amount of pain we feel, proving its affects are more than psychological.

    Researchers claim that the technique limits activity in parts of the brain involved in gauging pain, reducing the mind’s ability to process pain.

    Dr Nina Theysohn, who will present the research in Chicago at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, said, ‘Activation of brain areas involved in pain perception was significantly or modulated under acupuncture.’

    The experiment, conducted at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, assessed the brain scans of volunteers given mild electric shocks without acupuncture, then again while acupuncture needles were placed between the toes, below the knee and near the thumb.

    Dr Theysohn said: ‘Acupuncture is supposed to act through at least two mechanisms; non-specific expectancy based effects and specific modulation of the incoming pain signal.

    ‘Our findings support that both these mechanisms exist, suggesting that acupuncture can help relieve pain.’

    Last year the National Institute for Clinical Excellence appeared to endorse the traditional Chinese medicine by suggesting doctors should consider offering acupuncture as a treatment for cases of non-specific lower back pain.

    Edzard Ernst, from the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, concluded: ‘We should remember that we are currently not sure whether acupuncture does in fact reduce clinical pain.’


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