The C.A.M. Report
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fair, Balanced, and to the Point
  • About this web log

    This blog is intended as an objective and dispassionate source of information on the latest CAM research. Since my background is in pharmacy and allopathic medicine, I view all CAM as advancing through the development pipeline to eventually become integrated into mainstream medical practice. Some will succeed while others fail. But all are treated fairly here.

  • About the author

    John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.

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    The material on this weblog is for informational purposes. It is not medical advice or counsel. Be smart, consult your health professional before using CAM.

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For pain control, must the acupuncture needle penetrate the skin?

acupuncture circleNot in this study, according to researchers in Japan.

First, the details.

  • 56 healthy volunteers were assigned to receive acupuncture using a penetrating and non-penetrating needle.
    • The needle remained in place for 20 minutes.
  • A no treatment (control) was used for comparison.
  • Each person received painful 1-minute electrical stimulation in the forearm.
  • The response to the needling was measured before treatment and at various times after needle insertion and removal.
  • Neither the volunteers nor acupuncturist knew the type of needle used — double blind.
  • A numeric rating scale (0-150) was used to compare the response to acupuncture, with the baseline pain intensity (100) before the needle was applied.
  • Each volunteer received all treatments separated by 24 hours — crossover design

And, the results.

  • There was no significant difference in analgesia between the penetrating and non-penetrating needles.
  • There was no significant correlation between analgesic effect and de qi — dull pain associated with needle application, which is considered essential for achieving successful acupuncture analgesia.
  • Significant analgesia was observed during needle application and immediately after needle removal for both the penetrating and non-penetrating needle trials vs the no-acupuncture control.

The bottom line?

Simply stated, the authors concluded, “Needle penetration did not confer a specific analgesic advantage over non-penetrating (placebo) needle application.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this story.

12/20/09 20:28 JR

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