More MS news articles for Jan 2002

Large study shows many find acupuncture effective

FRANKFURT, Jan 30 (Reuters Health) - Nearly 9 out of 10 people who had acupuncture for physical ailments say the treatment relieved their pain, according to preliminary results of a large German study.

The study, involving some 40,000 patients, is the largest acupuncture study ever undertaken, according to the researchers. The aim is to study the therapy scientifically and reach a conclusion that can be accepted by the medical community.

Study coordinator Dr. Hans-Joachim Trampisch from the Ruhr-University of Bochum said that in his opinion, previous studies on acupuncture did not involve enough patients or were not conducted scientifically.

"I am a medical statistician," he said. "I am not an advocate of acupuncture."

Of the patients in the study, almost 90% claimed that acupuncture treatments had resulted in relief from pain, according to a press release. Of those patients, around half suffered from back pain, some 26% from headaches, and 10% from knee or hip arthrosis, which is a degenerative disease of the joint.

Of the patients who experienced relief from the treatments, some 51% did so within 2 weeks, usually after four treatments. Some 2% of patients needed more than 10 treatments before feeling relief.

Severe side effects, such as local infection, occurred "very seldom," at a rate of "much less than 1%." The average age of study participants was around 58 years.

Trampisch stressed that the results from the study, dubbed gerac--for German acupuncture--were preliminary, and would not reach a conclusion concerning acupuncture versus traditional medical treatments until the full study is completed. The study did not include a comparison group--such as those given "sham" acupuncture--to rule out the "placebo" effect in terms of pain relief. In sham acupuncture, needles are inserted in parts of the body not believed to have any effect on pain.

The next phase of the research will be a randomized study, which will begin in July this year and last into the middle of 2003. Some 400 doctors will participate, with patients suffering from chronic pain receiving either acupuncture treatments or standard medical treatments. That data will be processed with a final report expected in 2004. The full study is being funded with 7.7 million euros from some of Germany's largest public health insurance companies.

According to gerac, about 40,000 physicians in Germany use acupuncture for treatment. Of those, 15,000 have had basic training in acupuncture techniques, while 1,500 have undergone full training programs.

Acupuncture was first practiced in China more than 2,000 years ago. According to traditional theory, the human body has thousands of acupuncture points along pathways called meridians, and these pathways conduct energy throughout the body. Acupuncture is believed to keep this energy flow moving smoothly.

Alternatively, some Western scientists speculate that the needle therapy helps release certain pain-killing chemicals from the central nervous system.

Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited