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Both real and "fake" acupuncture appear to help with pain

acupuncture for knee.jpg

A new study from MD Anderson Cancer Center shows that acupuncture may help patients with knee arthritis manage their pain. Perhaps the more interesting finding, though, is that study participants who received "fake" acupuncture (which involves the insertion of needles, but not in the proper, therapeutic spots) also appeared to benefit.

In the September issue of Arthritis Care & Research, the researchers report that "no statistically significant differences were observed between [traditional] or sham acupuncture, but both groups had significant reductions" in pain.

As Tara Parker-Pope discusses today on her Well blog, the findings are the latest to "suggest that a powerful but little understood placebo effect may be at work when patients report benefits from acupuncture treatment." She elaborates:

The results don’t mean acupuncture doesn’t work, but they do suggest that the benefits of both real and fake acupuncture may have something to do with the way the body transmits or processes pain signals. Other studies have suggested that the prick of a needle around the area of injury or pain could create a “super-placebo” effect that alters the way the brain perceives and responds to pain.

Photo by iwona_kellie

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