Although acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years, it is not without its share of skeptics.
Researcher Richard Harris, neuroscientist from University of Michigan, has tried to answer the question of whether acupuncture is just a result of placebo effect.
To preface this research, we first must go over some facts about how our bodies regulate pain.
Everyone has receptors in their brain called, “opioid receptors.” These receptors are naturally occurring in our brains, and attach with endorphins in order to decrease pain.
People with chronic pain conditions usually have less opioid receptors than healthy people, which makes regulating pain difficult because they are less receptive to endorphins in their body.
Pain medication such as opioids provides endorphin-like chemicals to attach to these receptors to stop the message of pain.
Now in the research there were 20 females with fibromyalgia, a condition that causes pain all over the body. Half of the group were given fake acupuncture with retractable needles at random points. The other half of the group were given real acupuncture with the real needles inserted in the correct points. PET scans of their brain were made before and after the month period of time they received acupuncture treatments.
The group given fake or sham acupuncture experience saw changes in endorphins that helped to increase the feeling of pain being gone temporarily.
Skeptics were expecting the same results for real acupuncture, but instead the scans found that not only did real acupuncture increase endorphins for short term effects of pain management, they saw a major change in the number of opioid receptors with binding availability in the brain-a change that was not seen with the fake acupuncture.
This means that real acupuncture wasn’t just something that made you feel good for a little while, it actually re-activated vital parts of your brain to ensure long term improvement. It was truly healing the parts that needed to be healed so that your body can go back to self regulating pain in a healthy way without a heavy reliance on medication.
Now this is only one facet of the many of how acupuncture works in terms of healing your body. Acupuncture also helps to increase blood flow, relax surrounding muscles, release blocked qi (energy), and acupuncturists will try to see which organ system imbalances are causing most of your troubles.
Here at Livonia Acupuncture a good number of our patients have seen positive results in pain management.
Please share the good news about acupuncture and its effect with pain relief with friends you know and leave us a comment on what you think!