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  • Writer's picturePhilip Niño Tan-Gatue

Real Acupuncture versus Sham – Again

The Skeptics’ Claim

We will always hear skeptics harp on and on how there is supposedly no evidence for acupuncture’s effectivity.  When we give them evidence, they’ll always find a way to undermine that evidence.  The most common method I’ve seen would be for hard headed denialist to cite meta analyses to show that acupuncture on real points is seemingly no better than needling just anywhere.  Utterly ignoring the fact that Chinese medicine theory provides for the fact that needling anywhere CAN have an effect, by the way.

Physiologic Evidence

I have long blogged about studies showing that needling in predefined acupuncture points has different physiologic effects as needling just anywhere.  That fact alone should convince any open minded thinker that there is something to these acupuncture points.  Of course the obstinate denialist will deny these to death because to admit this would be to admit that there is actually something to acupuncture theory.  Here we present yet another study that should hammer another nail in the denial coffin.


Real Acupuncture versus Sham

A study in the journal “Brain Imaging and Behavior”  is what I’m citing today.  Here is their stated goal:

The aim was to compare the cerebral responses of needling applied to an acupuncture point to the needling of a sham point, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

In plain language, the scientists (yes, denialists, SCIENTISTS) want to compare how the brain reacts to a needle put into a real acupuncture point as opposed to a putting a needle in a non acupuncture point.  Here are the details:

Twenty-one healthy male volunteers were enrolled. Manual stimulation of the acupuncture (ST44) and sham points on the dorsum of the left foot was applied during fMRI in a crossover manner. fMRI data analysis was performed contrasting the ST44 and the sham conditions.

And what did they see was the difference?

Stimulation of ST44 acupoint, in comparison to the sham procedure, was associated with an increased fMRI-activation in the primary somatosensory, the inferior parietal and the prefrontal cortex and the posterior insula. Sham needling was associated with increased activation in the anterior cingulate cortex and the anterior insula.

Wait, so what did this mean?

Verum acupuncture increased the activity of discriminative somatosensory and cognitive pain processing areas of the brain, whereas sham needling activated the areas responsible for affective processing of pain.

Quite frankly, this shows how needling ST 44 Neiting, can work for pain.  And the fun part is that it clearly shows with fMRI that needling ST 44 affects different parts of the brain as needling elsewhere.

Bottom line: it works.

Usichenko T, et al. “Verum and sham acupuncture exert distinct cerebral activation in pain processing areas: a crossover fMRI investigation in healthy volunteers.” Brain Imaging and Behavior  2014 Apr 12. [Epub ahead of print]

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