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Acupuncture Effective for Migraine Relief

Posted on July 24, 2012 at 5:00 PM Comments comments ()
By Editorial Staff
As any chronic sufferer will tell you, migraine headaches can be debilitating, affecting concentration and the ability to perform daily tasks. In fact, the odds are high that a patient will come to see you with a complaint of migraines. The latest epidemiologic data estimates 28 million Americans (approximately one in 10) suffer from migraines. Furthermore, almost half of those migraine cases are undiagnosed.
Fortunately, as research suggests, Chinese medicine may help stop migraines in their tracks. In the March 2008 issue of the journal Headache, Italian researchers published the results of a study that involved 160 migraine patients. Researchers divided study participants into different groups, each of which received one of the following treatment protocols: real acupuncture plus migraine medication, two different methods of mock acupuncture with migraine medication, and medication alone. Patients were evaluated three and six months after starting treatment. Migraines were classified according to the following TCM symptoms:
  • exogenous wind-cold attack;
  • exogenous wind-heat attack;
  • exogenous wind-dampness attack;
  • excess of liver yang;
  • obstruction of the middle jiao due to damp phlegm;
  • deficiency of kidney essence; or
  • stagnation of qi and blood.
For patients receiving true acupuncture, each syndrome was treated with a specific acupoint selection according to TCM. Twice a week, patients submitted to two courses of 10 acupuncture applications each, with a one-week rest period between the treatment courses. The sessions lasted 30 minutes.
In patients receiving ritualized mock acupuncture, the protocol was the same as in the actual acupuncture group, but the needles were not inserted. A small cylinder of foam was applied to the skin by a double-adhesive plaster on each acupoint. Needles with blunted tips were then inserted into the cylinder, touching but not penetrating the skin. This allowed the patient to feel a superficial, light pricking-like sensation, thus simulating needle insertion. A slight pressure was applied on the needle to simulate the arrival of qi. This procedure was used in order to check possible placebo effects related to the use of the TCM approach.
In patients who received standard mock acupuncture, only the Western approach was used for diagnosis and the following standard acupoint selection was used: tou wei (ST 8), xuan lu (GB 5), feng chi (GB 20), da zhui (GV 14), lie que (LU 7). The same method of needle insertion as for ritualized mock acupuncture was used.
All patients were allowed to take rizatriptan to treat migraine attacks, The rizatriptan wafer was administered at a dose of 10 mg, and a second dose was allowed after two hours if the pain persisted.
The researchers found that of all the groups studied, only the group that received real acupuncture showed a significant improvement both in terms of migraine disability and reduced medication use, both at the three- and six-month follow-up. Mock acupuncture showed a slight placebo effect, but only at the three-month follow-up.

Study: Acupuncture Key in Pain Processing

Posted on June 15, 2012 at 7:34 PM Comments comments ()
By Editorial Staff
Activation of brain areas involved in pain perception are significantly reduced under acupuncture, a study recently found.
The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) presented the results of a pain processing study at an annual meeting held Nov. 30 for radiologists, radiation oncologists, medical physicists and related scientists.
The study was led by researcher Nina Theysohn, M.D., from the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology and Neuroradiology at the University Hospital in Essen, Germany. In a written statement, Theyson said that until now the role of acupuncture in the perception and processing of pain has been controversial but this study was able to bring forth a lot of answers with the help of functional magnetic resonance MRI (fMRI).
"Functional MRI gives us the opportunity to directly observe areas of the brain that are activated during pain perception and see the variances that occur with acupuncture," Theyson said.
The effectiveness of acupuncture was tested using fMRI by capturing pictures of the brain while patients experienced a pain stimulus with and without acupuncture, according to researchers. fMRI is known to measure the tiny metabolic changes that take place in an active part of the brain, while a patient performs a task or is exposed to a specific external stimulus.
The RSNA noted the study was conducted in close collaboration with the Department of Complementary and Integrative Medicine at the University of Duisburg-Essen. A total of 18 healthy volunteers underwent fMRI while an electrical pain stimulus was attached to the left ankle. Acupuncture needles were then placed at three places on the right side, including between the toes, below the knee, and near the thumb. With the needles in place, fMRI was repeated while electrical currents were again directed at the left ankle.
The researchers then compared the images and data obtained from the fMRI sessions with no acupuncture to those of the fMRI sessions with acupuncture. According to researchers, activation of brain areas involved in pain perception was significantly reduced under acupuncture and also affected brain activation in areas governing the patients' expectations of pain, similar to a placebo analgesic response.
"Acupuncture is supposed to act through at least two mechanisms - nonspecific expectancy-based effects and specific modulation of the incoming pain signal," Theyson said in a written statement. "Our findings support that both these nonspecific and specific mechanisms exist, suggesting that acupuncture can help relieve pain."
For more information on the study, visit

Army To Include AOM for Pain Treatment

Posted on June 15, 2012 at 7:30 PM Comments comments ()
The statistics are sobering, to say the least. According to leading pain specialists in the Veterans Administration, nine in 10 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans return home with some form of pain, and 60 percent have significant pain. Now, a recent announcement by top Army officials may help address this situation and provide our modern military forces with ancient forms of healing to help with pain relief.
On June 25, the Army Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, announced the release of a report by the Pain Management Task Force, which has 109 recommendations for changes in the way Army personnel are treated for pain. Among those recommendations are the inclusion of complementary and alternative treatments such as acupuncture, meditation, biofeedback and yoga.
At a press conference, Schoomaker stated that his goal is to form a pain-management strategy for Army personnel that is holistic, multidisciplinary and puts soldiers' quality of life first. He added, "Programs such as biofeedback and yoga have been subjected to scientific randomized trials and have been proven to be effective."
As Acupuncture Today has reported previously, the Army has used acupuncture and other alternative therapies to aid returning soldiers in dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The most notable example of this is at the Restoration and Resilience program, located at Ft. Bliss, near El Paso, Texas.
Unfortunately, pain management is woefully far behind PTSD treatment. Part of the problem is that wounded soldiers are often prescribed multiple medications by multiple doctors, so there is no consistency of care. Furthermore, according to the recent Army report, pain treatment has changed very little overall since the discovery of morphine in 1805. According to Brig. Gen. Richard W. Thomas, assistant Army surgeon general, "This is a nation-wide problem ... we've got a culture of 'a pill for every ill.'"
In preparing the report, the task force visited 28 military, Veterans Affairs and civilian medical centers to observe treatment capabilities and best practices. Schoomaker said his goal is to form a pain-management strategy that is holistic, multidisciplinary and puts soldiers' quality of life first.
The 109 recommendations are divided into four areas: to provide tools and infrastructure that support pain management, build a full spectrum of best practices, focus on soldiers and families, and build pain awareness, education and intervention. Schoomaker said the recommendations that he is able to authorize will be implemented in the coming months, and Section 711 of the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act calls for the integration of a pain-management policy into the military health care system no later than March 2011. Thomas added, "This is an opportunity to change medical care and the way we take care of patients."
Acupuncture Today will continue to follow this story and provide you with the latest information on efforts to use our medicine to aid those who serve our country.