Pain and acupuncture

Pain and acupuncture

At World Congress of Pain held in Montréal, Canada, Acupuncture was featured in numerous presentations. Acupuncture was also spotlighted in the plenary session.

Neuroscientist Ji-sheng Han, director of the Neuroscience Research Institute at Peking University and founder of the Chinese Association for the Study of Pain talked about his new studies and perspective on evaluating acupuncture vs placebo:

Just inserting needles under the skin does not work, at least not in rats which are impervious to sham treatments that can nonetheless get results (placebo) in humans. Read more

People exhausted by chemotherapy felt better and had the energy to walk to the shops and to socialise, so their quality of life improved significantly after six sessions of acupuncture in a study conducted by Alex Molassiotis, professor of cancer and supportive care at the University of Manchester.

In this randomised placebo-controlled trial, the chemotherapy patients were randomly assigned to one of three groups to receive either (1) acupuncture or (2) acupressure or (3) sham acupressure.

The acupuncture group (1) received six 20 minute sessions spread over three weeks.

Patients in the acupressure group (2) were taught to massage the same acupuncture points.

The sham acupressure (3) patients were taught the same massage technique but were told to massage points on not associated with energy and fatigue.

Patients receiving acupuncture (1) reported a 36% improvement in fatigue, whilst those in the acupressure group (2) improved by 19%. The sham acupressure group (3) reported a mere 0.6% improvement.

Reference: Complementary Therapies in Medicine (DOI: 10.1016/j.ctim.2006.09.009)

September issue of a reputable journal Fertility and Sterility confirmed acupuncture to be effective in reducing hot flushes associated with menopause.

In a well designed placebo controlled study, acupuncture was almost five times more effective than placebo. Seven weeks of acupuncture reduced the severity of hot flushes by 28% among menopausal women.

The research was conducted by Mary Huang, M.S. of Stanford University, California.

My comment: Chinese herbal medicine is extremely effective in reducing menopausal hot flushes. I often combine acupuncture and one of the herbal formulae like Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan consisting of rhemannia (shu di huang), cornus (shan zhu yu), Chinese yam (shan yao), alisma (ze xie), moutan (mu dan pi), poria (fu ling), anemarrhena (zhi mu), and phellodendron (huang bai). Most of the time, you will see the results after one or two weeks, no need to wait for seven weeks like suggested in the study.

According to a new study published in British Medical Journal, Acupuncture helps to relieve the chronic headaches, migraine in particular. Such are the conclusions of a clinical study, carried out in England and in Wales.

The study aimed at evaluating if acupuncture could be effective, in the case of the headaches, to be integrated into the free care of the system of public health in England.

The researchers followed 401 patients suffering from chronic headaches, mainly of migraines for 12 months.
These patients had been divided in two groups: one received up to 12 treatments of acupuncture for three months, while the others were treated by a usual medication and were used as a reference group.

Researches measured the gravity of the headaches among patients after 3 and 12 months. They also evaluated, the need to take drugs or to consult a doctor.

After 12 months, the results showed that the headaches had decreased twice more in the group treated by acupuncture that in the group which received a medication (reduction of 34% against 16%).

The patients, who belonged to the group treated by acupuncture, counted on average 22 days fewer headaches per year. Acupuncture group had used less drugs, made less medical visits and taken less sick leave.

The researchers concluded that acupuncture produces beneficial and persistent effects among patients suffering from chronic headaches, especially from migraines.

My comment:

In my experience acupuncture combined with gentle mobilisation of neck muscles is the most effective way to treat migraines. Sometimes the researchers are so busy determining what exactly worked and how, that they stop seeing the bigger picture. And in the case of migraine, a combination of therapies is significantly more effective than either therapy on its own. It is important to relax the neck muscles and acupuncture alone is not as effective. There was another study on migraines, where they injected botox into acupuncture points to relax the neck muscles and to stimulate the acupuncture points. The result was a long term relief. However, there are risks involved in using botox, not to mention it is very expensive.

More about acupuncture, neck pain and headache here

In a recent study on tension headache, researchers did ten sessions of laser acupuncture three times per week on one group and a similar placebo (dummy laser) treatment on another. The results revealed laser acupuncture to significantly relieve the symptoms of the real laser acupuncture group, while the placebo group did not improve as much.

Ebneshahidi NS, et al. Physical Therapy Dept, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran.

Sceptics have long said acupuncture is all in the mind. But a study has found that the ancient Chinese practice is as effective as popular painkillers for treating disabling conditions such as arthritis.

A team of scientists from two British universities carried out brain scans on patients while they underwent the 2500-year-old treatment.

The scans showed differences in the brain’s response to acupuncture needles compared with tests using “dummy needles” that did not puncture the skin.

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DURHAM, N.C. – In the first such clinical trial of its kind, researchers at Duke University Medical Center have found that acupuncture is more effective at reducing nausea and vomiting after major breast surgery than the leading medication

The researchers also found that patients who underwent the 5,000-year-old Chinese practice reported decreased postoperative pain and increased satisfaction with their postoperative recovery. In conducting the trial, the researchers also demonstrated that the pressure point they stimulated possesses previously unknown pain-killing properties.

Results of the Duke study were published Sept. 22, 2004, in the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia.

Treating postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) is an important medical issue…