(NaturalNews) New research adds more evidence proving that acupuncture is effective at reducing and eliminating pain. Presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), the new findings include functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans that clearly show a positive change in the metabolic activity of patients' brains receiving acupuncture treatment.
"Functional MRI gives us the opportunity to directly observe areas of the brain that are activated during pain perception and see the variances that occur with acupuncture," explained lead researcher Nina Theysohn, MD, from the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology and Neuroradiology at University Hospital in Essen, Germany. "Activation of brain areas involved in pain perception was significantly reduced or modulated under acupuncture."
Eighteen volunteers agreed to participate in the study, and all were observed using fMRI technology. Researchers applied electrical pain stimuli to the participants' left ankles and observed their brain activity both with and without acupuncture treatment. The team found that the pain activation centers in the participants' brains became less active and even deactivated in the presence of acupuncture treatment.
The findings also challenge some notions that acupuncture works primarily as a placebo. While certain brain responses to acupuncture indicate facets of a placebo response, others clearly highlight specific mechanical activities in the brain that demonstrably reduce pain symptoms.
"Acupuncture is supposed to act through at least two mechanisms -- nonspecific expectancy-based effects and specific modulation of the incoming pain signal," said Theysohn. "Our findings support that both these nonspecific and specific mechanisms exist, suggesting that acupuncture can help relieve pain."
Acupuncture has also been found to help improve fertility, increase heart function, and assist in helping people sleep.