(NaturalNews) The July 2008 issue of Pain, a prestigious peer-reviewed medical journal published by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), featured a German study conducted by eight pediatric doctors and clinicians. The researchers attempted to determine whether or not laser acupuncture would prove effective in relieving the symptoms of chronic headaches in 43 children.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
The treatment for each child was individualized and completely based on the traditional Chinese medical theory. The theory contends that bioelectricity, or the electrical current that is produced by living organisms, has a tendency to follow paths of higher conductivity within the human body. These paths, called meridians, have been shown to be composed of points that have a higher electrical conductivity (lower electrical impedance) than other parts of the body. The ancient Chinese somehow discovered that stimulating these points, or "acupoints," produced changes in the body's flow of current, and by doing so, influenced the health of an individual. Stimulation of these points include many different methods, the most well-known being acupuncture. Acupuncture is when very thin, electrical-conducting needles are inserted into these "acupoints" with the intention of manipulating the current.
Laser acupuncture, a relatively new method of stimulation, uses low-energy lasers to influence the flow of current at the acupoints. The German study, which is titled "Laser acupuncture in children with headache: A double-blind, randomized, bicenter, placebo-controlled trial," specifically focuses on the effect of laser stimulation compared to placebo-stimulation.
The German Study
The study was carried out using the double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled method so that the accuracy of the results would be as conclusive as the modern scientific method could allow. The German doctors wanted to know once and for all if active laser treatment is superior to placebo laser treatment; in other words, does it really work?
The conductors of the study took 43 children suffering from either chronic migraine headaches (22 patients) or chronic tension headaches (21 patients) and gave them four randomized treatments over four weeks. Each random treatment was double-blind, which means they were conducted so that both the researcher and the participant were unaware whether the laser had been set at the appropriate strength, or not set at all. Double-blind trials are believed to produce objective results, since the expectations of the researcher and the participant are believed to not affect the outcome.
The results of the study were analyzed in three ways. The first method examined and compared the number of "headache days," or days that the children suffered from headaches. The researchers took the average number of headache days before the treatments and compared them with the average number of headache days after the treatment in both the placebo and the true treatment patients.
The second method compared the severity of the pain using a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS). The VAS is a medical tool that helps a person rate the intensity of certain sensations and feelings, such as pain. The VAS is obviously highly subjective; however, researchers commonly use this tool in order to examine changes in individuals over periods of time. In the scientific community, using the VAS to catalogue changes in perception over extended periods of time is seen as more reliable than using it at a single point of time.
The final method for analyzing the results was to compare the amount of time each child experienced headaches before and after the treatments. The changes in the amount of "headache time" were then examined for the true treatment cases and the placebo treatments.
The results were as follows: the mean number of "headache days" decreased by 1.0 day in the placebo group and 6.4 days in the treated group. The VAS, in contrast to the placebo group, showed a significant decrease in the children's perception of the severity of the headaches. Finally, the children's total amount of time with headaches was found to be much lower than the placebo group.
In other words, the children who received true laser acupuncture had less days where headaches occurred, felt less pain when headaches did occur and experienced much less time with headaches than the children who thought they were getting treatment but in fact were not.
The German researchers concluded, "that laser acupuncture can provide a significant benefit for children with headache, with active laser treatment being clearly more effective than placebo laser treatment."
The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), founded in 1973, is the leading professional forum for science, practice, and education in the field of pain. Membership in IASP is open to professionals involved in research, diagnosis or treatment of pain. IASP has more than 7,000 members in 114 countries. Pain, the official journal of IASP, publishes original research on the nature, mechanisms, and treatment of pain. IASP Press produces timely, high-quality books for scientists and clinicians interested in pain research and management.
Dave Gabriele, D.Ac, BA, is a registered acupuncturist, a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine and a health researcher helping people in and around the Greater Toronto Area. He is the founder of Life Balance Family Health Care (www.balanceyourlife.ca), an organization committed to providing people with the information and guidance they need to make positive lifestyle changes. Dave has been a teacher of Chinese martial arts since 1997, including the arts of Taiji and Qigong.
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