Neurological impact of acupuncture studied

Acupunture benefits - Terry A. Rondberg, DCIn recent years, chiropractors have once more turned their attention to the neurological component of the subluxation. After decades of concentrating on musculoskeletal aspects, it’s a move that is as timely as it is important. In the years to come, our understanding of how we impact the brain will be the key to becoming the leader in the wellness revolution.

It’s a trend we’re seeing in other non-medical fields as well. In fact, a British research study published earlier this year in the journal Brain Research revealed that acupuncture has a significant effect on specific neural structures.

The researchers explained that when a patient receives acupuncture, it triggers a sensation called deqi (literally, the arrival of chi, pronounced duh-chi). Scientific analysis shows that this energy impulse deactivates areas within the brain that are associated with the processing of pain.

Dr. Hugh MacPherson, of the Complementary Medicine Research Group in the University of York’s Department of Health Sciences, noted: “These results provide objective scientific evidence that acupuncture has specific effects within the brain which hopefully will lead to a better understanding of how acupuncture works.”

Neuroscientist Dr. Aziz Asghar, of the York Neuroimaging Centre and the Hull York Medical School, added: “The results are fascinating. Whether such brain deactivations constitute a mechanism which underlies or contributes to the therapeutic effect of acupuncture is an intriguing possibility which requires further research.”

Last summer, following research conducted in York, acupuncture was recommended for the first time by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as a treatment option for NHS patients with lower back pain. NICE guidelines now state that GPs should “consider offering a course of acupuncture comprising a maximum of 10 sessions over a period of up to 12 weeks” for patients with this common condition.

Current clinical trials at the University of York are investigating the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of acupuncture for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and for depression. Recent studies in the US have also shown that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for migraines and osteoarthritis of the knee.

The York team believes that the new research could help to clear the way for acupuncture to be more broadly accepted as a treatment option on the NHS for a number of medical conditions. “Our results show the importance of collecting and accounting for needle sensation data in neuroimaging studies of acupuncture,” researchers concluded.

There’s an equally important need to collect information on the neurological impact of chiropractic adjustments, such as that being collected by doctors who use the NeuroInfiniti equipment.

ABSTRACT:  “Acupuncture needling sensation: The neural correlates of deqi using fMRI.” Brain Research, Vol. 1315, 22 February 2010, Pages 111-118.

AUDIO: Dr. Hugh Macpherson, from the University of York, discusses new research into the effects of acupuncture on the brain published in Brain Research.

3 thoughts on “Neurological impact of acupuncture studied”

  1. It’s interesting that medical research is finally getting around to proving what patients have known for years. I have my own personal experience to “prove” its effectiveness but I suppose it’ll be good to have a Western medicine explanation for why acupuncture works. Nice to see that a chiropractor like you feels free to promote and talk about other approaches. Too many professionals today think they have to down the other guy in order to get ahead. You obviously put the patient’s wellbeing first.

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