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Medicine Science

Acupuncture May Trigger a Natural Painkiller 215

Posted by kdawson
from the just-pull-the-thorn dept.
Pickens writes "USNWR is reporting that the needle pricks involved in acupuncture may help relieve pain by triggering the natural painkilling chemical adenosine. There are also indications that acupuncture's effectiveness can be enhanced by coupling the process with a well-known cancer drug — deoxycoformycin — that maintains adenosine levels longer than usual. Dr. Maiken Nedergaard of the University of Rochester Medical Center and her colleagues administered half-hour acupuncture treatments to a group of mice with paw discomfort. The investigators found adenosine levels in tissue near the needle insertion points was 24 times greater after treatment, and those mice with normal adenosine function experienced a two-thirds drop in paw pain. By contrast, mice that were genetically engineered to have no adenosine function gained no benefit from the treatment." Read below for some acupuncture skepticism engendered by other recent studies.

However, many remain skeptical of acupuncture claims. Ed Tong writes in Discover Magazine that previous clinical trials have used sophisticated methods to measure the benefits of acupuncture, including 'sham needles' (where the needle's point retracts back into the shaft like the blade of a movie knife) to determine if the benefits of acupuncture are really only due to the placebo effect. 'Last year, one such trial (which was widely misreported) found that acupuncture does help to relieve chronic back pain and outperformed "usual care". However, it didn't matter whether the needles actually pierce the skin [paper here with annoying interstitial], because sham needles were just as effective,' writes Tong. 'Nor did it matter where the needles were placed, contrary to what acupuncturists would have us believe.'"
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Acupuncture May Trigger a Natural Painkiller

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  • by foobsr (693224) on Monday May 31, 2010 @08:49AM (#32406136) Homepage Journal
    after wondering how they measure

    mice with normal adenosine function experienced a two-thirds drop in paw pain

    CC.

  • by Xenna (37238) on Monday May 31, 2010 @09:05AM (#32406232)

    Hah, but that's the paradox!

    You can't have a placebo-effect unless you claim that the therapy actually works in itself.
    You can't claim that a non-working therapy works unless you a a liar.
    The placebo effect works better if the treatment is costly (in terms of money or discomfort - pain from needles)

    So the placebo industry can only exist if they mislead and overcharge.
    It's not a bug it's a feature!

    X.

  • by ascari (1400977) on Monday May 31, 2010 @09:07AM (#32406244)

    And it's one thing to say "adenosine is released locally by needle pricks". And another to say that there are mysterious "meridians" that run through the body and connects your pinky toe to your heart, and your left butt cheek to your kidney or whatever, and that you can cure all kinds of diseases in those "connected" organs by poking the exactly right spots with needles.

    Yep, that's what at the root of accupuncture theory in TCM, not random pin poking. And this experiments doesn't even attempt to explain what's going on there. So while I'm absolutely not saying that TCM is wrong, I am saying that this experiment says very little if anything about traditional accupuncture the way it's been practiced for 4000 years. It's just a feeble attempt at quickly saying "this is NOT BS".

    So we still don't know how this works or indeed if it works, we only knows some mice produce adenosine locally under certain conditions. Accupuncture if it works as claimed would have to be much deeper, this hardly penetrates the surface. (Pardon the pun.)

  • by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Monday May 31, 2010 @09:08AM (#32406248)

    There are skeptics and there are "skeptics". "skeptics" make their first reaction to everything "this is BS"

    That's a load of crap. Skeptics make their first reaction to anything for which there is not sufficient evidence present "this is BS." That's a critical difference. As far as I know, acupuncture has not been exceptionally good at proving itself. It is based on the flow of some qi or whatever and claims to have all sorts of healing properties, neither of which have been proven in the least, and that is something to be rightfully skeptical about. If you make an extraordinary claim, I require extraordinary evidence. Plenty of new theories and ideas are accepted by skeptical types (for example, this was new [sciencemag.org], but there was no skeptic backlash, because it was a reasonable claim with reasonable evidence); just because some old time quackery is rejected doesn't mean skeptics are closed minded, that's just a way to distract form a lack of evidence. Medical skeptics have long admitted that minor injuries like sticking needles into yourself may trigger some pain-killer response, and this new thing, if indeed true, confirms that, not the validity of acupuncture. In fact, another study once showed that fake acupuncture [scienceblogs.com] outperformed 'real' acupuncture. It's not about simply denying everything, it is about denying everything until a reasonable amount of evidence exists to support it.

    You know, homeopathy used to 'work' too, back when mercury was a medicine, because it didn't do anything whereas medicine killed you, which may be why it is still around. Chiropractic, originally claimed to cure all sorts of things, has the same affects as a good massage. Do they get vindicated too now? Sometimes things get lucky, or traditions are held for some reason, and maybe acupuncture is one of them due to this effect, but there is still no reason to not be skeptical about redirecting your qi or whatnot, or its ability to outperform any modern science based pain killing methods (I'd go with a good hit o' weed myself, but that's a different debate). It's good to have an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.

  • by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Monday May 31, 2010 @09:09AM (#32406262) Homepage

    There are many things that like acupuncture that have been used medicinally for centuries.

    Just because something is old, doesn't mean it works. There are plenty of old treatments that are either useless or even harmful. Which is why testing is the important part, you can't trust anecdotes, even if they have a long tradition.

    Just because we may not, at the time, understand any underlying mechanisms doesn't mean that they don't work;

    The issue isn't so much that we don't understand the underlying mechanism, but that we don't even have a clear indication that it works in the first place and you don't need to understand the workings of something to do the testing for its effectiveness.

  • by xlation (228159) * on Monday May 31, 2010 @09:17AM (#32406310)

    It's bad when Jenny McCarthy and Oprah use "success" from the placebo effect to cast doubt on science-based medicine. This doubt helps other scam artists sell expensive water to a patient who could be cured by real medicine.

  • by Virak (897071) on Monday May 31, 2010 @09:17AM (#32406312) Homepage

    This isn't even a problem of not understanding the mechanisms, it's a problem of not having solid evidence that it even works. Again, see the latter part of the summary which is about existing studies that have come to the conclusion that it doesn't work at all (is reading even the summary too much to ask for on Slashdot? I guess it is). "People have been using it since a very long time ago" is not proper evidence as to its efficacy. Bloodletting was in use for centuries too, by many different peoples; today, anyone with a basic education can point out many problems with it.

  • by BiggerIsBetter (682164) on Monday May 31, 2010 @10:16AM (#32406710)

    I tried to explain to her the concepts of phase delays

    Note to the younger Slashdotters: Don't do this. The ladies really don't care.

  • by Ellie K (1804464) on Monday May 31, 2010 @10:35AM (#32406836) Homepage Journal

    Hmm, you mean even ones like Tylenol that do basically nothing and run the risk of damaging the liver?

    Uhh sorry, but NO, Tylenol is effective for fever and mild analgesia. It will wreak havoc on your liver if taken in excess, granted. But aspirin, ibuprofen (motrin and advil) will tear up your stomach lining if taken in excess. And analgesics like opiates have their own set of obvious drawbacks. Tradeoffs to all of them. Don't knock Tylenol. It's a bit wimpy, but with occasional usage tempered by common sense, it is effective. And it is NOT a placebo drug. WRONG.

  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Monday May 31, 2010 @10:39AM (#32406884) Homepage

    Ah! You think Yoga has no basis in fact? There's some very toned and flexible hotties out there proving you wrong.

    Well, ridiculous health claims (eg, treating autoimmune disorders, etc) associated with yoga are pseudo-science.

    Similarly:

    Chiropractic care for the treatment of back issues? Fact. Chiropractic care for the treatment of asthma? Pseudo-science.
    Homeopathic treatment of dehydration? Fact. Homeopathic treatment of basically anything else? Pseudo-science.

  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Monday May 31, 2010 @11:20AM (#32407306) Homepage Journal

    Again, you are leaping to the conclusion that skepticism against acupuncture was unwarranted

    I don't think that's what he's doing. I think he's being ironic and you're missing out on it: He's saying 'skeptics' and '"skeptics"', and he's pointing out that the ones in double-quotes aren't really skeptical, they're really obtuse; they have decided that something is bullshit and nothing will ever make them stray from that position.

    His mistake was using subtle irony; On the net, that's sure to get you burned.

    His point is that skepticism is about having doubt, not certainty.

  • by JamesP (688957) on Monday May 31, 2010 @11:59AM (#32407722)

    Oh, ok. But as I said, the way to solve this conflicts is to look at the scope of the conclusion. Either that, or someone messed up.

    The results of this paper are "acupuncture has a real mechanism and a real and measurable effect".

    No, the results of this paper are: "Inserting needles in rats triggers adenosine production in the area of needle insertion" (and you don't need to use a needle to stimulate adenosine)

    Do the other papers say "We inserted needles in rats and we measured adenosine and the nominal levels were found"??

    Well?

  • Re:Induced Pain (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sir_Lewk (967686) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (kwelris)> on Monday May 31, 2010 @12:09PM (#32407834)

    We should have let nature go it's way, since the beginning. Maybe we would be extinct by now.

    If that is really your goal, feel free to lead by example.

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday May 31, 2010 @12:39PM (#32408142) Journal

    In 2 months the disorder was completely under control without any changes in my life but acupunture.

    Your anecdotal evidence is fantastic.
    Now lets find 100 other people with the same positive outcome and figure out why acupuncture is working for all of you.

    People should spend less time trying to proof its or its not BS and more time trying to understand how to make people life better!

    ::facepalm::
    I'm glad your life is better, but many of us are not happy having gaps in our knowledge and filling in the blank with "magic" or "it works".
    If acupuncture works so well, understanding why/how is critical for having it turned into a mainstream treatment.

  • Re:Impressive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Bean (23214) on Monday May 31, 2010 @01:21PM (#32408454) Homepage

    Sure, maybe he is wrong, but you're a bit of a douche for calling him an idiot for merely suggesting the possibility.

    Re-read your first post, based on that it's a perfectly legitimate suggestion.

    I think you should apologize and thank him for caring enough to reply to your post.

    Hug it out you guys.

  • Re:Impressive (Score:1, Insightful)

    by osu-neko (2604) on Monday May 31, 2010 @01:57PM (#32408796)

    Ummm so how old is this revelation that "Acupuncture May Trigger a Natural Painkiller"?

    If that's all you got out of the story... that part isn't news. However, if you had better reading comprehension, you'd be able to pick out the parts that are news. I'm pretty sure when Nixon went to China, the journalist in question (a) failed to identify the source of the painkilling effect as adenosine, (b) failed to determine that the effect is enhanced by the use of deoxycoformycin, (c) failed to quantify either of these effects in clinical and scientifically reproducible ways. If I'm wrong on this, please let me know. Otherwise, your comment seems kinda idiotic, like you didn't even manage to read the summary here successfully...

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