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Author: admin, 13.11.2013
Acupuncture has long baffled medical experts and no wonder: It holds that an invisible life force called qi (pronounced chee) travels up and down the body in 14 meridians. While scientists say further research is essential, some studies have provided evidence of acupuncture’s effects. After decades of cynicism, Western medical experts are using high-tech tools to unravel the ancient mysteries of how acupuncture works. As fanciful as that seems, acupuncture does have real effects on the human body, which scientists are documenting using high-tech tools.
Many medical experts remain deeply skeptical about acupuncture, of course, and studies of its effectiveness have been mixed.
Most states require that acupuncturists be licensed, and the Food and Drug Administration requires that needles be new and sterile.
Studies in the early 1980s found that acupuncture works in part by stimulating the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, much like vigorous exercise does.
Meanwhile, neuroimaging studies at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have shown that acupuncture affects a network of systems in the brain, including decreasing activity in the limbic system, the emotional part of the brain, and activating it in the parts of the brain that typically light up when the brain is at rest.


Other studies at the Martinos Center have shown that patients with carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful compression of nerves in the wrist, have heightened activity in parts of the brain that regulate sensation and fear, but after acupuncture, their brain patterns more closely resemble those of healthy subjects.
The fact that many patients get some relief and register some brain changes from fake acupuncture has caused controversy in designing clinical trials. An acupuncturist will examine a patient’s tongue and take three different pulses on each wrist, as well as asking questions about digestion, sleep and other habits, before determining which meridians may be blocked and where to place the needles. Helene Langevin, research associate professor of neurology, says this action stretches cells in the connective tissue much like massage and yoga do, and may act like acupuncture meridians to send signals throughout the body. Brain scans of patients with fibromyalgia show that both acupuncture and sham acupuncture (using real needles on random points in the body) cause the release of endorphins. Some critics say that proves that what patients think of as benefit from acupuncture is mainly the placebo effect. YourHealth disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information. Navy, Air Force and Army doctors are using acupuncture to treat musculoskeletal problems, pain and stress in stateside hospitals and combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Those include stimulating blood flow and tissue repair at the needle sites and sending nerve signals to the brain that regulate the perception of pain and reboot the autonomic nervous system, which governs unconscious functions such as heart beat, respiration and digestion, according to Alejandro Elorriaga, director of the medical acupuncture program at McMaster University in Ontario, which teaches a contemporary version to physicians. But real acupuncture also increased the number of receptors for pain-reducing neurotransmitters, bringing patients even more relief.
Acupuncture proponents counter that placebos that too closely mimic the treatment experience may have a real benefit. Delegations from Acupuncturists Without Borders are holding communal ear-needling sessions to reduce stress among earthquake victims in Haiti.
The bottom images show the calming effect (indicated by blue) in the brain after acupuncture.




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