Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Acupuncture May Be More Effective Than Conventional Therapy In Treating Lower Back Pain

low back pain
Science Daily — Six months of acupuncture treatment appears to be more effective than conventional therapy in treating low back pain, according to a study in the Sept. 24 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals, although the study suggests that both sham acupuncture and traditional Chinese verum acupuncture appear to be effective in treating low back pain.

"Low back pain is a common, impairing and disabling condition, often long-term, with an estimated lifetime prevalence of 70 percent to 85 percent," the authors write as background information in the article. "It is the second most common pain for which physician treatment is sought and a major reason for absenteeism and disability." Acupuncture is increasingly used as an alternative therapy, but its value as a treatment for low back pain is still controversial.

Michael Haake, Ph.D., M.D., of the University of Regensburg, Bad Abbach, Germany, and colleagues conducted a randomized clinical trial involving 1,162 patients (average age 50) who had experienced chronic low back pain for an average of eight years. Patients underwent ten 30-minute sessions (approximately two sessions per week) of verum acupuncture (387 patients), sham acupuncture (387 patients) or conventional therapy (388 patients). Verum acupunture consisted of needling fixed points and additional points to a depth of 5 millimeters to 40 millimeters based on traditional Chinese medicine, while sham acupuncture consisted of inserting needles superficially (1 millimeter to 3 millimeters) into the lower back avoiding all known verum points or meridians.

Conventional therapy consisted of a combination of medication, physical therapy and exercise. Five additional sessions were offered to those who had a partial response to treatment (10 percent to 50 percent pain reduction). "A total of 13,475 treatment sessions were conducted (verum acupuncture, 4,821; sham acupuncture, 4,590; conventional therapy, 4,064)," the authors write. Patients receiving the additional five sessions were 232 (59.9 percent) in the verum group, 209 (54.3 percent) in the sham group and 192 (52.5 percent) in the conventional group.

Response rate was defined as a 33 percent improvement in pain or a 12 percent improvement in functional ability. "At six months, response rate was 47.6 percent in the verum acupuncture group, 44.2 percent in the sham acupuncture group and 27.4 percent in the conventional therapy group," the authors note. "Differences among groups were as follows: verum vs. sham, 3.4 percent; verum vs. conventional therapy, 20.2 percent; and sham vs. conventional therapy, 16.8 percent." "The superiority of both forms of acupuncture suggests a common underlying mechanism that may act on pain generation, transmission of pain signals or processing of pain signals by the central nervous system and that is stronger than the action mechanism of conventional therapy," the authors conclude. "Acupuncture gives physicians a promising and effective treatment option for chronic low back pain, with few adverse effects or contraindications. The improvements in all primary and secondary outcome measures were significant and lasted long after completion of treatment." Reference: Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(17):1892-1898. This study was supported by the following German public health insurance companies: Allgemeine Ortskrankenkasse, Betriebskrankenkasse, Innungskrankenkasse, Bundesknappschaft, Bundesverband der Landwirtschaftlichen Krankenkassen and Seekasse. Note: This story has been adapted from material provided by JAMA and Archives Journals.

Pain How it Works

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Acupuncture Ups Memory and Protects Brain Cells

New research reveals that acupuncture prevents brain cell loss in memory areas of the brain. The new laboratory findings also show that acupuncture improves cognition. The researchers note that these findings suggest that acupuncture is a potential treatment for cognitive impairment disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.
Acupuncture CEUs OnlineAcupuncture NeedlesThe new laboratory findings show that acupuncture prevents neuron loss in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for memory and spatial navigation. The hippocampus is one of the first regions of the brain that suffers damage in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Using the Morris water maze test, the middle-aged mice used in the study who received acupuncture showed significantly less cognitive deficits. The combination of improved maze test results combined with greater preservation of brain neurons prompted the researchers to suggest that acupuncture may help human subjects suffering from cognitive disorders. The researchers note, “These results suggest that reducing neuron loss in the hippocampus by acupuncture is a potential therapeutic approach for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and cognitive impairment diseases.” This study comes at a time when a recent human MRI imaging study demonstrates that needling acupuncture points Liv3 (Taichong) and LI4 (Hegu) successfully activate regions of the cerebrum responsible for memory and cognition in Alzheimer’s patients and those with mild cognitive impairments.

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Ground Breaking Study - Acupuncture As Good As Drugs For Treating Pain

At Last the Truth About Acupuncture: It’s as Good as Drugs for Treating Pain

Critics of the ancient Chinese therapy say it is no better than a placebo. But a new study using brain-mapping shows it has a similar effect to standard Western medicines.
Skeptics have long claimed that acupuncture is all in the mind. But a ground-breaking new study has found that the ancient Chinese practice is as effective as popular painkillers for treating disabling conditions such as arthritis.
Acupuncture For St. Helens Acupuncture ClinicA team of scientists from two British universities made the findings after they carried out brain scans on patients while they underwent the 2,500-year-old treatment. The scans showed differences in the brain’s response to acupuncture needles when compared with tests using “dummy needles” that did not puncture the skin.
Doctors found that the part of the brain that manages pain and the nervous system responded to acupuncture needles and improved pain relief by as much as 15 per cent.
Dr George Lewith, from the University of Southampton’s Complementary Medicine Research Unit, said the improvement might seem modest, “but it’s exactly the same size of effect you would get from real Prozac versus a placebo or real painkillers forchronic pain. “The evidence we now have is that acupuncture works very well on pain,” he said.
The findings, which will be published today in the scientific journal NeuroImage, have been welcomed by acupuncturists, who have long faced skepticism from scientists that the benefits are derived from the placebo effect. Although some clinical trials have shown an improvement in pain relief, the practice remains controversial. Other trials, for instance, have found little difference between acupuncture treatments and placebos.
Persis Tamboly, of the British Acupuncture Council, said: “We’re really thrilled about this research. There will be critics of this subject until our dying days, but research like this substantiates what we’ve always maintained – that acupuncture works.”
The council hopes the findings will help to make acupuncture become accepted as a National Health Service treatment. Despite its controversial status, more than two million acupuncture treatments are performed each year. Its supporters include Cherie Blair, Kate Winslet and Joan Collins.
The 14 patients who participated in the study were put through three tests in random order, while “brain maps” were created using sophisticated positron emission tomography, or PET, scans at University College London. In one test, researchers used blunt needles that pricked the skin, but which the brain registered as the sensation of touch. Dummy needles, where the tip was pushed back once it touched the skin, were then used, and in the third test the patients underwent acupuncture treatment with real needles.
The acupuncture needles had two measurable effects on the patients’ brains: as with the dummy needles, the brain released natural opiates in response to the expected effect of the needles. But the scans showed that the real needles had an extra effect and stimulated another part of the brain called the ipsilateral insular. This improved pain relief by 10-15 per cent – similar to the effect of taking conventional analgesic drugs.
The study, though, does not explain how acupuncture treats other problems such as stress or disease.
DR Lewith said: “Further research is definitely planned. This is a very interesting area. I have been involved in acupuncture research for 25 years, and I’m now getting a very realistic understanding of the effects of this mechanism,” he said.
At the sharp end
* Developed in China about 2,500 years ago, using stone needles at first and later bronze, gold and silver. The first medical reference was in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, written around 300BC.
* There are about 500 acupuncture points on the body, which can affect the body’s “chi” or energy. A headache can be treated with needles inserted in the hand or foot.
* Fine needles are inserted into “energy channels” in the body called “meridians”. Needles help natural healing processes or relieve pain.
* Other techniques include the use of massage, smoldering herbs, and tapping with a rounded probe, as well as lasers and electro-acupuncture
Source: Carrell, Severin, At Last The Truth About Acupuncture: It’s As Good As Drugs For Treating Pain. © Copyright 2005 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Effects of acupuncture during labor and delivery in a U.S. hospital setting: a case-control pilot studyy



Department of Research, Lutheran Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY 11220, USA.



The objective of this study was to assess clinical effects and logistical feasibility of acupuncture given during labor and delivery in a U.S. hospital setting.


A case-control pilot study was conducted with 45 parturients receiving acupuncture during labor and delivery alongside standard care. Primary outcome endpoints were incidence of cesarean section, amount of parenteral opioids used, use of epidural anesthesia, and duration of labor. Secondary endpoints included patient satisfaction and nursing staff acceptance as assessed by postpartum questionnaire, maximum flow rate of oxytocin, incidence of instrumental delivery, Apgar score, and incidence of adverse event.


Forty-five (45) patients receiving acupuncture were compared to 127 historical controls matched for maternal age, gestational age, parity, and use of oxytocin (augmentation and induction were matched separately). Acupuncture patients underwent significantly fewer cesarean sections (7% versus 20%, p = 0.004). No significant differences were noted in other clinical endpoints. Seventy-eight percent (78%) of nurses reported a subjective perception of improvement in patients’ comfort with acupuncture, while 83% reported that the acupuncturists’ presence never interfered with their work. Eighty-seven percent (87%) of patients reported that acupuncture had helped them.


Acupuncture during labor and delivery is well tolerated by patients and medical staff. It should be further evaluated for its promise in potentially reducing the incidence of cesarean section.