Tag Archives: sham acupuncture

Is Acupuncture Useful for Labor Induction?

Woman Giving Birth
Image by Travis S. via Flickr

A recent study purports to show that acupuncture does not induce labor.  What it actually showed was that mild stimulation of a specific set of points did not  affect the onset of labor in 125 women who were characterized as “past due,”  at 41 weeks.  The points chosen were the same for all women, half of which got acupuncture with needles and the other half had stimulation of the same points with a blunt needle, described as “fake acupuncture.”  There was little appreciable difference between the two groups, although the acupuncture group which was slightly older ended up with slightly earlier labor and slightly lower birthweights. The headlines proclaimed, “Study: Acupuncture Doesn’t Help Induce Labor.” Continue reading Is Acupuncture Useful for Labor Induction?

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What is Wrong With Toothpick Acupuncture?

A recent study indicating that stimulating skin with toothpicks was nearly as effective as puncturing the skin with acupuncture needles is being touted in the medical skeptics circles as proof that acupuncture is  some kind of placebo.

There was no sham acupuncture involved.  Acupuncture is a technique of stimulating, not puncturing, points on the body for physiological effect.  Any kind of acupuncture that touches the skin, including so-called sham acupuncture needles, is acupuncture.  The Japanese have developed entire systems of noninvasive acupuncture.

While I am more likely to use a stainless steel probe when I use noninvasive acupuncture techniques, the toothpicks touched the skin at the acupoints. The skin contains threetoothpicks afferent sensory nerves that signal the central nervous system as well as modulating the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, specifically the vagus nerve.

The toothpicks stimulated the cutaneous nerves to send a signal to the spinal cord activating the spinal neurons that secrete enkephalin and dynorphin that inhibit pain messages. Then the signal continued up to the midbrain and pituitary to activate the raphe descending pain-inhibitions system which secretes monoamines, serotonin and norepinephrine.  Those further inhibit pain.

Once the sensations from the toothpicks reached the spinal cord several nerve pathways were excited, reaching the cerebral cortex which released neurochemicals that not only inhibit pain but also promotes homeostasis. When the body is in distress, homeostasis does help balance the mind.

The study showed that three techniques of acupuncture beat out western medicine for back pain.

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