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Acupuncture Analgesia — Basic Research

  • B. Pomeranz

Abstract

In recent years, acupuncture analgesia (AA) in the west has been restricted mainly to the treatment of chronic pain and not used for surgical procedures, except for demonstration purposes. In some Western countries, however, AA is used in combination with nitrous oxide, sufficient N2O being given to render the patient unconscious but not for analgesia [80], or with fentanyl [89]. How could a needle inserted in the hand possibly relieve a toothache? Because such phenomena do not conform to accepted physiological concepts, scientists were puzzled and skeptical. Many explained it by the well-known placebo effect, which works through suggestion, distraction, or even hypnosis [201, 202]. In 1945, Beecher [9] showed that morphine relieved pain in 70% of patients, while sugar injections (placebo) reduced pain in 35% of patients who believed they were receiving morphine. Thus, many medical scientists in the early 1970s assumed that AA worked by this placebo (psychological) effect. However, there were several problems with this idea. How does one explain the use of AA in veterinary medicine over the past 1000 years in China and approximately 100 years in Europe and its growing use on animals in America? Animals are not suggestible and only a very few species are capable of the still reaction (so-called animal hypnosis). Similarly, small children also respond to AA. Moreover, several studies in which patients were given psychological tests for suggestibility did not show a good correlation between AA and suggestibility [101]. Hypnosis has also been ruled out as an explanation, as two studies [6, 58] have shown that hypnosis and AA respond to naloxone differently, AA being blocked and hypnosis being unaffected by this endorphin antagonist.

Keywords

Trigger Point Acupuncture Point Sham Acupuncture Skin Resistance Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Control 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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