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Acupuncture Delivers Some Pain Relief

Modest benefits seen in healthy volunteers, researchers say

TUESDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- Acupuncture does help treat pain, a new study shows.

German researchers tested pain responses in 24 healthy volunteers and found that acupuncture, which originated in China more than 2,000 years ago, increased pain thresholds by up to 50 percent. The effects occurred in both the treated leg and untreated (contralateral) leg.

The study also found that two types of nerve fibers -- "A delta" pain fibers and "C" pain fibers -- were altered by acupuncture.

The pain reduction effect of acupuncture in the healthy volunteers was modest, but the results provide the basis for future studies in people with chronic pain, where the beneficial effects of acupuncture may be more dramatic, the researchers said.

The findings, published in the May issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia, support the scientific validity of acupuncture for pain treatment, according to study author Dr. Dominik Irnich, head of the multidisciplinary pain center in the department of anesthesiology at the Acupuncture University of Munich.

The study also shows "that contralateral stimulation leads to a remarkable pain relief. This suggests that acupuncturists should needle contralaterally if the affected side is too painful or not accessible -- for example, if the skin is injured or there is a dressing in place," Irnich said in a news release.

More information

The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has more about acupuncture.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: International Anesthesia Research Society, news release, April 2010

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