Friday, May 14, 2010

Study Supports Acupuncture for Pain Control

Briefly Noted Researchers testing three types of acupuncture found that pain-tolerance thresholds were increased and, of some importance, positive effects were noted in both the treated and untreated sides of the body.

Philip Lang, PhD, and colleagues from the University of Munich, writing in the May 2010 edition of Anesthesia & Analgesia, describe using quantitative sensory testing to identify changes in pain sensitivity with acupuncture in 24 healthy volunteers (12 men, 12 women). The 3 forms of acupuncture tested were (a) manual acupuncture, (b) acupuncture with low-frequency electrical stimulation, and (c) acupuncture with high-frequency electrical stimulation. In a cross-over design, all treatments were performed by an experienced acupuncturist and applied to only one leg at standard acupuncture points commonly used in pain management. The heat pain threshold was increased after manual acupuncture on both the treated and untreated side compared with baseline. Low- and high-frequency electrostimulation led to a higher mechanical pain threshold on only the treated side compared with baseline and manual acupuncture. The pressure pain threshold was increased by all forms of acupuncture on both sides, with individual changes from baseline ranging up to 52%.

According to news reports (Newswise 4/30/10), the researchers believe their study provides scientific support for the ancient practice of acupuncture. Some of the results demonstrated that stimulation on one side of the body may also incur significant pain relief on the other side (contralateral), which suggests that acupuncturists can beneficially needle the unaffected side of the body if the affected side is too painful or not accessible — for example, if the skin is injured or there is a dressing in place on the affected side. However, this was a small study and some of the outcomes were modest, so it will be important that the results are replicated by further research.

REFERENCE: Lang PM, Stoer J, Schober GM, et al. Bilateral acupuncture analgesia observed by quantitative sensory testing in healthy volunteers. Anesth Analg. May 2010(May);110(5):1448-1456 [full article here].