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by Hannah Devlin
Acupuncture stimulates the release of natural painkillers in the body, new research suggests, providing a possible physiological explanation for how the treatment works.
The findings add credibility to the view that the alternative therapy has a medicinal effect beyond the placebo.
The ancient Chinese technique, in which fine needles are inserted into the skin at
certain points on the body, is most commonly used to treat pain conditions such as
headache, lower back pain and toothache, but some practitioners also claim to treat
However, the lack of a plausible mechanism and inconclusive clinical trials have led many to conclude that it only works because people expect it to make them feel better.
In the study, carried out in mice, performing acupuncture appeared to increase levels
of a natural compound called adenosine, known to have anti-
Maiken Nedergaard, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester in New York, who led the study, said: “Acupuncture has been a mainstay of medical treatment in certain parts of the world for 4,000 years, but because it has not been understood completely, many people have remained sceptical.”
However, others maintained that random-
In the study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the team performed acupuncture
treatments on mice that had discomfort in one paw. The mice each received a 30-
In mice with normal levels of adenosine, acupuncture reduced discomfort by two-
However, in special “adenosine receptor knock-
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