Needles can stick it to pain | Science News

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Needles can stick it to pain

Acupuncture lessens various kinds of pain, but so does a sham version

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3:39pm, February 3, 2009

Acupuncture, the ancient Chinese practice of sticking needles into a patient at specific points to relieve pain and treat other conditions, seems to alleviate pain just barely better than sticking needles into nonspecified parts of the body, a new analysis shows.

Researchers in Denmark came to this conclusion, which they report in the Feb. 7 British Medical Journal, after analyzing 13 studies in which people received real acupuncture, sham acupuncture or standard pain treatments such as drugs.

The studies enrolled 3,025 people in all. In each, the participants were randomly assigned to get one of the three therapies. Decreases in pain, if any, were recorded using standard pain scales.

On average, people getting acupuncture or sham acupuncture — in which needles are stuck into body areas not targeted by acupuncturists — sensed a clear decrease in pain, whereas those getting standard care sensed considerably less improvement. People gett

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