Acupunc­ture ex­plained

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

LONDON: If you’re an acupunc­ture fan, you might just have a point, sci­en­tists say.

Scans show that stick­ing nee­dles into a body calms brain cells used to process and per­ceive pain.

This sug­gests that the pop­u­lar tech­nique re­lieves pain, the re­searchers said.

The find­ing will pro­vide a sense of vin­di­ca­tion for those who have spent thou­sands of rands on acupunc­ture for bad backs, sprained an­kles and other aches and pains.

And it will pro­vide food for thought for de­trac­tors of the an­cient Chi­nese art, in­clud­ing many sci­en­tists. They claim the ben­e­fits of the prac­tice are all in the mind and that pa­tients ben­e­fit from the placebo ef­fect in which care and the sim­ple be­lief that the treat­ment works lead to im­prove­ments in health. The re­search team from the Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal in Essen, Ger­many, stud­ied whether giv­ing acupunc­ture af­fected how the brain re­acted to elec­tric shocks.

Eigh­teen vol­un­teers had brain scans at the same time as an elec­tric shock was ap­plied to their left an­kle.

Acupunc­ture nee­dles were then placed at three places on the right side – be­tween the toes, be­low the knee and near the thumb – and the elec­tric­ity was switched back on.

A sec­ond set of brain scans showed no­tice­ably less ac­tiv­ity in the brain’s pain re­gions. Re­searcher Dr Nina Theysohn said: “Ac­ti­va­tion of brain ar­eas in­volved in pain per­cep­tion was sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced or mod­u­lated un­der acupunc­ture.”

Re­search ear­lier this year re­vealed that the act of stick­ing acupunc­ture nee­dles in and twist­ing them re­leases a flood of nat­u­ral painkillers.

The re­search, how­ever, doesn’t sup­port the tra­di­tional ex­pla­na­tion for acupunc­ture – that the nee­dles re­bal­ance the body’s vi­tal forces .

The stud­ies also don’t ex­plain the ra­tio­nale be­hind other, non-painre­lated uses of the tech­nique, such as us­ing acupunc­ture to help quit smok­ing or to boost odds of be­com­ing preg­nant through IVF.

Some scep­tics are un­con­vinced. David Colquhoun, pro­fes­sor of phar­ma­col­ogy at Uni­ver­sity Col­lege London, said those tak­ing part in the study may sim­ply have ex­pected the tech­nique to work. – Daily Mail

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