by Rosa Raponi Newton, Based on the article by Tima Vlasto, Holistic Science & Spirit Examiner, October 12, 2009.
Ever thought of trying acupuncture for pain relief? Perhaps you have tried it and found it to be of some benefit. This is the experience that many pain sufferers report, though there is very little understanding, from a scientific perspective, as to how acupuncture actually works. Without this scientific understanding, western medicine has been reluctant to accept acupuncture as a valid form of treatment for pain and other ailments.
A review of the scientific literature shows that the research base for the effectiveness of acupuncture is slowly growing. With regards to pain, researchers are beginning to show how acupuncture may be responsible for interrupting pain signals. New research shows that nerve tissue called “C fibres” form branches exactly at the location of acupuncture points. Dr. Silverstein, of the Curtin University of Technology, believes that the insertion of the acupuncture needle at that exact point interrupts the nerve circuit and makes us less sensitive to pain.
The connection between acupuncture and pain has also caught the attention of the American military. Dr. Richard Niemtzow, editor of Medical Acupuncture, is training Air Force physicians to use “Battlefield Acupuncture” to treat the pain of troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. By inserting tiny semi-permanent needles in the skin of the ear where acupoints are located, pain signals are blocked from reaching the brain. Dr. Niemtzow reports that pain can be gone within five minutes, and that this effect can last for several days.
Acupuncture is being held under the microscope – so to speak. Decades of scientific data based on the use of electron microscopes and stereomicroscope photographs is now being presented which gives us a visual picture of acupuncture meridians and points. With the use of this highly sensitive technology, scientists can now see meridians as tube-like structures which carry a fluid high in hyaluronic acid – a substance which is known to lubricate joints, eyes, skin and heart valves. Also visible are points of tiny cells which house chromosomal material thought to be the source of adult stem cells which could potentially develop into any type of cell in the body.
Scientific research such as that mentioned here can improve our understanding of why acupuncture works and how it works. As the wider medical community begins to accept the use of acupuncture as an effective method of pain treatment, it will become more accessible to those with chronic pain who seek alternatives and adjuncts to the offerings of traditional western medicine.
[Note from the Editor: University of Toronto 4th year medical students spent the afternoon of December 10, 2012 listening to speakers on complementary medicine, including Naturopathic and Homeopathic medicine, Chiropractic management, Acupuncture, and Dr, Jackie gave them 25 minutes on Mindfulness. ]