Medical Acupuncture (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Since the 1970s, much scientific information has been gathered about the physiologic mechanism by which acupuncture works. Most of this research has been focused on acupuncture's ability to relieve pain.
Early on, the placebo effect was dismissed as the main mechanism of action (a placebo means no active procedure or medication is actually given). Animals are not capable of demonstrating the placebo effect, yet, veterinary medicine uses acupuncture as an effective means of pain relief in the treatment of animals. Also, acupuncture pain relief is able to be blocked by certain drugs and reversed by administering the opiate-receptor antagonist naloxone. Both of these facts argue that a physiologic mechanism is involved in producing acupuncture pain relief.
The net result of these three areas being stimulated is an inhibition of the incoming pain sensation locally, a general, morphinelike, pain-relieving effect throughout the body, an anti-inflammatory effect, and a general sense of improved well-being.
The precise choice of acupuncture points, regarding whether they are near the painful site or farther away, determines which of the three pathways mentioned are primarily activated. Placing needles near the painful site brings about a more intense pain relief, because it activates all three centers (spinal cord, midbrain, and pituitary gland). Local needling also maximizes inhibition of the incoming pain signal at the segmental region of the spinal cord. Needling acupuncture points distant to the painful area predominantly affects the mid-brain and pituitary gland. In general, a combination of local and distant acupuncture points are used together during a treatment, in order to maximize the effects at all three centers.
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