Friday, January 10, 2014

Sticking in the needle

Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners explain acupuncture as a way to rebalance the energy, or "qi," that flows through specific pathways in the body by applying needles to designated points along these pathways. But that doesn't mean it actually works.

Researchers followed a group of 47 women being treated with aromatase inhibitors, a breast cancer medication that can cause menopause-like side effects (hot flashes, night sweats) as well as joint and muscle pain. Twenty-three of the women received eight weeks of acupuncture; the rest received eight weeks of something called "sham acupuncture," where needles are placed on the skin somewhat randomly — not at traditional acupuncture points — and then not actually inserted.

There was no significant difference between the group that had received real acupuncture and the group that had received "sham acupuncture." So why the improvement in both?
"You could conclude that it's a placebo effect." said study author Ting Bao of the University of Maryland, Baltimore. 

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