This Won't Hurt a Bit
Acupuncture Shown to Help Relieve Pain
Some people swear by it, but acupuncture still has its cynics. We get it: sticking giant needles into your head to relieve pain does sound a bit like something from the "snake oil" generation. New research on acupuncture's pain-relieving effects, however, suggests that some credit may be due.
To study acupuncture's effects, researchers measured brain activity of participants as they received an external stimulus (electrical pain on the left ankle). Researchers then repeated the pain stimulus, but this time measured participants' brain activity as acupuncture needles were simultaneously placed on their right sides (including between the toes, below the knee and near the thumb). To be fair to the cynics, no duh are you going to notice electrical stimuli a bit less when needles are simultaneously inserted into the other half of your body.
The researchers compared the participants' brain activity with no acupuncture to those with acupuncture. According to the study's lead author, Nina Theyson, M.D., "Activation of brain areas involved in pain perception was significantly reduced or modulated under acupuncture." And aside from reducing perception of pain, there was also a placebo effect, in that patients expected to feel less pain when they had acupuncture.
So acupuncture can trick your brain into feeling less pain. Too bad it can't trick your brain into thinking that getting work done is actually a better use of time than checking in on twitter updates from your ex. Or...can it?
Radiological Society of North America (2010, Nov 30). Acupuncture changes brain's perception and processing of pain. EurekAlert! Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-11/rson-acb112410.php