Toothpicks match needles for acupuncture | Science News

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Toothpicks match needles for acupuncture

Non-piercing pokes yield the same back pain relief as the skin-penetrating approach

5:55pm, May 11, 2009

A sham form of acupuncture using toothpicks that don’t penetrate the skin works as well as traditional needle acupuncture for relieving back pain, researchers report in the May 11 Archives of Internal Medicine. Both procedures outperformed non-acupuncture alternatives, such as medication alone.

Acupuncture is the ancient Chinese practice of inserting needles into meridians, channels along which practitioners believe vital energy flows. Western medicine has struggled to verify whether these meridians exist, much less understand the biological mechanism by which the penetrations apparently relieve pain and deliver other benefits.

The scientists randomly assigned 638 people with chronic low back pain to one of four treatment groups. Two of the groups received acupuncture treatment:  one group received individualized treatment by a practitioner, while the other received the standardized acupuncture regimen. A third group got the sham acupuncture, in

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