Medical Acupuncture and the Science behind It

Even as medical acupuncture is increasingly being validated as an effective treatment for a broad range of medical conditions, what is still missing from the picture is an understanding of mechanisms and basic science behind this centuries-old therapy. A special issue of Medical Acupuncture has recently presented a series of articles from authors around the world who provide diverse and insightful perspectives on the science and physiologic responses underlying medical acupuncture.

Guest Editor Richard Hobbs, III, MD, states, "Understanding acupuncture in the same manner that we understand the mechanism of action and pharmacokinetics of a particular drug will, similarly, enable us to match treatments better with conditions. net effect will be improved outcomes.”
In the editorial “Basic Science: Mysteries and Mechanisms of Acupuncture, Richard Niemtzow, MD, PhD suggests that natural events have scientific explanations and that "the two explanations - one scientific, the other environmental - might both elucidate how acupuncture works."
 
The issue of Medical Acupuncture also includes a Review by John Longhurst, MD, PhD, entitled "Acupuncture's Cardiovascular Actions: A Mechanistic Perspective." The article explains how acupuncture’s effects on cardiovascular function can decrease blood pressure, improve blood flow, and relieve pain.

In addition, Steven Harte, PhD and his colleagues from the University of Michigan and Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School report the results of a study whose purpose is to understand the differences in patient responses to traditional vs. sham acupuncture. They employed pressure-pain testing to identify patients who may be less likely to respond to sham acupuncture based on levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. The study is described in the article, "Pressure Pain Sensitivity and Insular Combined Glutamate and Glutamine (Glx) Are Associated with Subsequent Clinical Response to Sham But Not Traditional Acupuncture in Patients Who Have Chronic Pain."


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