Study seeks to show how acupuncture really works

Courtesy of Nature Publishing Group 
and World Science staff

Sci­en­tists are pre­sent­ing a new the­o­ry on the mech­an­ism of acupunc­ture—a tra­di­tion­al Chin­ese heal­ing tech­nique that seems to work for some ail­ments, though West­ern re­search­ers don’t un­der­stand why.
East­ern prac­ti­tion­ers say ac­u­punc­ture works by chang­ing en­er­gy flows in the body. West­ern sci­en­tists tend not to buy this ac­count, ar­gu­ing that the pro­posed en­er­gy fields have nev­er been seen or meas­ured.

An ac­u­punc­ture nee­dle com­mon­ly used to­day. (Cred­it: Takumi Fu­jita )

Ac­u­punc­ture in­volves in­sert­ing thin nee­dles in­to the skin at se­lected points to treat a range of cond­itions. Sev­er­al stud­ies have shown that it works for cer­tain kinds of pain; a study last year found that ac­u­punc­ture beats con­ven­tion­al treat­ment for chron­ic low­er back pain.
The new stu­dy, pub­lished in the May 30 on­line is­sue of the jour­nal Na­ture Neu­ro­sci­ence, sug­gests that ac­u­punc­ture works by ac­ti­vat­ing pain-sup­press­ing re­cep­tors, or mol­e­cules, in the ar­ea of the body where the nee­dle is in­sert­ed.

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