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Medicine Science

Acupuncture May Trigger a Natural Painkiller 215

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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  • An apt reminder... (Score:5, Informative)

    by TuringTest ( 533084 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @08:34AM (#32406040) Journal

    ...for those trying to defend the scientific method saying that a pseudoscience "cannot possibly work" because "there aren't any known methods through which it could operate".

    The way to disprove a non-effect is by showing it indistinguishable from chance. Not by declaring that we can't think of any possible explanations.

  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @08:53AM (#32406156) Homepage Journal

    Exactly. There are many things that like acupuncture that have been used medicinally for centuries. Just because we may not, at the time, understand any underlying mechanisms doesn't mean that they don't work; it just means that we don't understand the underlying mechanisms and therefore, have no proof that it works or does anything. But saying that is very different from saying that same thing doesn't work at all.

    For example, we didn't understand the underlying mechanism for aspirin until 1971, but before that salicylates had been used for centuries.

  • by Takichi ( 1053302 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @08:55AM (#32406168)
    Except that you can not only get benefits, but also nasty side-effects from placebos.
  • by Thanshin ( 1188877 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @09:02AM (#32406204)

    after wondering how they measure

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

    By facial expression. []

  • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @09:07AM (#32406240)

    Except that most of the best evidence shows that the "chi energy", the use of needles rather than pressure, and the use of it for treatment of body parts that are nowhere near the needle are complete nonsense. So scienctific testing shows that even the stopped clock of the magical thinking surrounding acupuncture can be right twice a day, and can even predict now what that twice a day will be.

    I once spent a long, sad hour with an MD who tried to tell me that acupuncture worked because the nerves it stimulates are faster than pain nerves. I tried to explain to her the concepts of phase delays: if the pain came first by more than a matter of milliseconds, the pain signal was already present in the upstream nerve junctions or in the brain, and it doesn't matter how "swift" the signal is from the acupuncture needle, so the explanation is nonsensical.

  • by JamesP ( 688957 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @09:33AM (#32406390)

    Did you even read the rest of the summary, particularly the part about existing studies that conflict with this one?

    So, what you're saying is that studies that contradict this one are more important?? That they should be taken more seriously, because everybody knows "acupunture is BS" right?!

    As it is, there's not a whole lot of research on acupuncture, and much of it appears to conflict each other.

    They usually don't, but it looks like that due to people exaggerating the scope of the conclusions.

    If you're suddenly rushing to mock skeptics either don't understand how this "science" thing works at all,

    No, it's the "skeptics" that don't understand how this 'science' thing works. And worse, don't know squat about the history of science.

    As the example I gave in my post, most of the initial development of electromagnetism/electricity was called BS for a long time

    The discovery of Helicobacter pylori and appropriate treatment also was hampered by those 'skeptics'. But it's ok I'm sure only a few people died because of that.

    Also I'm sure not a lot of people died or got maimed because that thing called X-Ray is no good as a diagnosis help.

    Also, it's easier to come up with results that match previous WRONG results (search Millikan)

    So yeah, I'm in no position to question that, sir because obviously I don't know anything about science or history of science...

  • by The Leather Duke ( 258767 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @09:39AM (#32406434) Journal

    Only, this is not acupuncture. This is just piercing the skin with needles and then twisting them to see if you get a response. There are plenty of known methods through which that could operate.

    Acupuncture on the other hand supposes that the body has "meridians" and "acupuncture points" which you put needles into to manipulate the health of the body or parts of the body.

    To this notion I will still say that "there aren't any known methods through which it could operate."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 31, 2010 @09:49AM (#32406510)

    But then it's not placebo, it's nocebo.

  • by nido ( 102070 ) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .65odin.> on Monday May 31, 2010 @10:00AM (#32406588) Homepage

    Similar pains in different people are triggered by different energetic imbalances. Oriental medicine has five elements, five rhythms that run through a person: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal (Air). Each meridian has characteristics of one of the elements.

    But westerners who study acupuncture try to use the same points in their trials, when the study should be designed to address the individual's specific imbalances.

    I've met a few mystics in the last few years, and my experience says that people who "scoff" at the notion that acupuncture is quackery are idiots. YMMV.

  • Re:Acupuncture (Score:2, Informative)

    by rawtatoor ( 560209 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @10:10AM (#32406658) Journal
    To make it clear what acupuncture is: It was believed that directly massaging another person with your hands drains your energy over the long term, leading to a shorter life. The needles were introduced to eliminate the need for this contact. Also the acupuncture/qigong meridians along with the 5 phase theory are the practical result of several thousands of years of Chinese culture. P-R-A-C-T-I-C-A-L. Yes, you can call it psuedo science, but you would be ignoring the many many many instances of real people affected in real ways.
  • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @11:07AM (#32407164) Homepage

    Chiropractic care for asthma when your asthma is caused by pressure and irritation to the lungs based on your crooked ass posture: Fact.

    No, it's not. It's bullshit. Show me a single study that proves chiropractic care treats asthma, and I'll show you a flawed study.

    And as an aside, anyone who believes "asthma is caused by pressure and irritation to the lungs based on your crooked ass posture" has no fucking clue what asthma actually is.

    Not that I ever had asthma officially

    Ah. I see. So you feel you can make concrete statements about asthma treatment when you've never actually been diagnosed with it. Well, I'll definitely take your opinions seriously...

  • Re:Water Divining (Score:4, Informative)

    by nullchar ( 446050 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @11:22AM (#32407366)

    Uh, that's because most water tables are large, so if you are above one, you can pretty much poke a well anywhere and find water. Of course the depth of each well may vary depending on substrate and which water table you actually hit. Also, the rate of available water (to pump or even if naturally pressurized) depends on the water table you strike.

    Sorry man, you fell for the scam. (He may have "witched" past wells in the larger area and has studied the underlying aquifers. Every well drilled to depth and through various substrate will inform him. Shit, he may be a Geology drop-out.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 31, 2010 @12:01PM (#32407742)

    Personally, i use acetaminophen (Tylenol)almost exclusively as a fever reducer, rather than as a general pain reliever.

    For that purpose, it is demonstrably effective. I can survive having protracted muscle aches. I can't survive a protracted 103F fever.

    For that reason I consider it (tylenol) a life saving drug.

    (granted, many different NSAIDs reduce fever; but the same methodologies through which you denounce tylenol as being only marginally effective (at pain relief) is also true with pretty much all NSAIDs. The real power of NSAIDs is not in relieving pain, but in reducing general inflammatory responses, and in treating fevers.)

  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @12:52PM (#32408262) Homepage

    Water divining has been debunked many, many times. In randomized tests nobody can do it. [] []

    Fast: You can dig almost anywhere on Earth and find water, it's just a question of depth (keep on digging there until it appears).

Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982