Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Relevance of accupuncture to relieve pain gets some scientific backing

Acupuncture is a technique were therapists stick a bunch of needles in a patient's skin. Long has it been confined to a place in the field of alternative medicine, but a recent study has shown that here is scientific proof for its use to relief pain. That is welcome news for acupuncturists, and an interesting result for medicine in general.

The study
The use of acupuncture was investigated in patients suffering from pain caused by damaged neurons. This can be caused as a side-effect from chemotherapy. People that were both suffering from cancer and had developed nerve pain, dubbed neuropathy, on the side were included in the study. They were given a typical acupuncture treatment by a skilled doctor for a total of 10 sessions over the course of three months.
After the sessions, the scientists found that those who had received acupuncture treatment showed a higher rate of recovery compared to the control group. The functionality of nerves can be measured by the speed and intensity at which they signal to others, and results showed that those receiving acupuncture treatment had both a higher signalling speed and intensity in damaged nerves. Correspondingly, these people said their condition had improved after the therapy. This indicates that the needle therapy is effective in decreasing nerve pain caused by damage to the nervous system, in this case due to cancer.

Alternative medicine
Acupuncture is classified as alternative medicine, mostly because for all its claims there is a lack of scientific evidence. This seems to be changing. The present study has resulted in a medically and scientifically relevant effect of acupuncture, and previous studies have indicated that it can also improve blood flow. In fact, this may be the underlying cause of increased nerve functionality. More research is needed to fully uncover the potential of acupuncture, but I believe we are slowly accepting it as a medically relevant treatment. 

Naturally, the question remains in which cases the needle therapy is useful. After the aforementioned study, the scientists feel experiments in a larger group need to be conducted to further examine the health claims. The plans for a larger study are probably already in the works.

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