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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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  • by sugapablo ( 600023 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @08:37AM (#32406062) Homepage
    I'd much rather have a positive effect from a placebo than from a drug that usually has nasty side-effects.
  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @08:46AM (#32406110) Homepage

    Anybody who follows the scientific method knows at least one mechanism for acupuncture, ie. placebo, and I don't think many would shake their heads in abject disbelief if you say "irritating some part the body will produce natural pain killers". The skepticism will appear if you start saying "it matters where you stick the needles" and stuff like that.

    Real "pseudoscience" is stuff like astrology, water divining, channeling the dead, perpetual motion, expensive HiFi tweaks, etc.

  • by arb phd slp ( 1144717 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @08:56AM (#32406172) Homepage Journal

    I'd much rather have a positive effect from a placebo than from a drug that usually has nasty side-effects.

    I've wondered about this. If there is an actual placebo effect, we're drastically underutilizing it in the practice of medicine. As a result, there's a whole snake-oil industry overcharging for it and misleading people about it.

  • by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @09:22AM (#32406338)

    The skepticism will appear if you start saying "it matters where you stick the needles" and stuff like that.

    Apparently, there is at least one study [] that showed sticking them at random was actually better, or at least statistically the same, as the whole qi line thing. It is sad that this thing will be twisted and misrepresented by the alternative medicine quacks and used as a 'Nya nya we told ya so,' to skeptics who already suspected that the body does release pain killers when poked full of multiple small holes.

    When it comes to alternative medicine, pretty much any skeptic knows that there are three main ones which may have some merit (even if not enough to justify mainstream usage): chiropractic, because it actively affects the spine, naturopathy/herbal, because plants contain active ingredients, and acupuncture, because it actively affects the skin. What skeptics want is robust evidence indicating that these things work better that other traditional techniques, and those have simply not materialized, and until they do, color me skeptical about acupuncture as a whole, even if there is some method to the madness.

  • Re:Impressive (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @09:53AM (#32406536)
    They're not bunk, I'm not sure how else one would explain my tendency to jump when somebody behind me is about to put their hand palm down on my shoulder. Strikes me as just as reasonable an explanation as any of the other possible ones.
  • by stein.dagostini ( 1676452 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @10:11AM (#32406664)
    I was too a very skeptical person, until I got a hormonal production disorder (I really don know its name in english, maybe later i can find a translation) that Western medicine said was impossible to cure and had to be countered with massive doses of neutralization of hormone medicines that would basically cripple me completely forever. I gave a shot and tried acupuncture since even death was better than those side effects. In 2 months the disorder was completely under control without any changes in my life but acupunture. The exams shown a reduction on the hormone production of more than 70%. I tough, ok that must be coincidence... stoped the treatment. Few months later the issue was back. Restarted the treatment and 1 month later was all under control again.... Even the doctors said to me, forget western medicie and stick to what is working. Since then I tried acupuncture for a lot of things, including issues that western medicine never was able to cure me like allergic reactions etc. I am still quite skeptical about almost everything, but I was faced with undeniable evidence that it has some VERY interesting results. 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! And I pity the poor should that had the same diagnostics as me and went for the western "fully scientific" treatment. Medicine should be about saving people and making them feel better! Not about having reason about anything! Fool is the one that speaks without having real experience about it. Fool is the one that condems others to suffering just because the better path doe snot match his own beliefs. That is basically the same thing as religious fundamentalist.
  • by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @10:58AM (#32407078)

    the thing is I have seen water divining work. The guy used a dowsing rod and found 4 wells for my neighbors, and 2 for my family. He even tracked the water from our neighbors well to our own. later geologists came through and mapped the entire area too. That old man was off by maybe 5%

    How it works i can't answer, but I did witness it working. He was wrong once, and with that, he as off by 10 feet in depth. (he said 20' and in reality it was 30')

  • Re:Impressive (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ffreeloader ( 1105115 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @11:08AM (#32407178) Journal

    Yeah, and the therapies based on capsaicin actually work, and without serious side effects. I use capsaicin regularly, both internally and externally.

    I suffer from a lot of headaches and over-the-counter medications do nothing for them. The only prescription meds that work have narcotics so they aren't really an option because of the frequency of my headaches, and I don't like the side effects as enough narcotics to kill the pain also make me high enough that everyday life--driving, working, etc... aren't really possible.

    I take 2 to 4 cayenne capsules with food, depending on the heat rating of the cayenne, or eat a spicy meal with the heat coming from habenero peppers in home-made meals(say a bean burrito with 1/4 - 1/2 of a diced habenero in it), or the spices used in traditional Thai cooking in a restaurant meal(4 out of 5 stars on the heat level)--we have a very good local Thai restaurant run by a Thai immigrant who's one of the best cooks I've ever seen--and a headache severe enough to make my eyes very sensitive to light will disappear in a matter of minutes.

    At those levels of heat there is no pain associated with the cure either as I eat spicy food on a regular basis, although what I think is bland most people say burns their mouth.

  • Re:Impressive (Score:4, Interesting)

    by riT-k0MA ( 1653217 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @11:30AM (#32407434)
    I hate to break it to you, but it sounds like the headaches are caused by Capsicum/endorphin withdrawl...

    >Headache starts
    >Eat chilli
    >Headache stops
    >Body goes into withdrawl
    >Headache starts

One good suit is worth a thousand resumes.