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The therapeutic effects of acupuncture can be explained scientifically for the first time, according to the researchers behind a ‘breakthrough’ Hong Kong-based study.

Study leader Professor Edward Yang, from Columbia University’s electrical engineering department, said acupuncture stimulated the production of endorphins, which mitigated pain, migraines, hot flushes, nausea and other illnesses.

Acupuncture

The study was published in the European Journal of Physiology in June after eight years of research, and the researchers were in the city yesterday to discuss their results.

Yang collaborated with two University of Hong Kong professors: acupuncture specialist Dr Li Geng and former medicine faculty dean Professor Lam Shiu-kum.

The researchers said doctors of Western medicine often saw acupuncture as an alternative treatment that only worked because of the placebo effect, as it seemed effective even if the needle was not inserted on acupoints – locations on the body that produce different reactions when stimulated.

The team said they proved scientifically that acupuncture worked most effectively when the needle was on the acupoint, but was still effective to a slighter degree if it was off the acupoint.

They said that when a needle, oscillating mildly, pierced tissue, it sent slow-moving acoustic waves into the muscles that triggered calcium flow. When the calcium interacted with white blood cells, it produced endorphins.

Yang and his team tested the waves on rats and rabbits, before gaining permission to conduct the acupuncture experiment on around 30 University of Hong Kong student volunteers. The acupoint chosen was on the calf muscle.

The students each had a needle inserted at different points on or around the acupoint to test how far the acoustic wave travelled.

The study found that when the needle was on the acupoint, the wave went 6 to 8cm along the grain of the muscle. When it was 1cm off the acupoint, the waves travelled along the muscle for 3 to 4cm.

The study did not uncover why acupuncture is most effective on acupoints.

‘The sound waves also have a memory effect, so when you look at the muscles again an hour later, the muscles will still be recreating the pulses,’ Yang said.

Lam said: ‘This breakthrough is eye-opening, and now a thousand eyes will be opened.’

On bringing engineering and medicine together in the study, Lam said: ‘I have always believed that cross-disciplinary collaboration can ignite sparks.’

 



Source : South China Morning Post

Hong Kong Study Pins Down Effects of Acupoints
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