ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
Quit Smoking the Holistic Way
Green Tea May Help Brain Cope With Sleep Disorders
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Sea Worm Inspires Novel Bone Glue
Active Young Women Need Calcium, Vitamin D
Occupational Therapy Plus Exercise Benefits Osteoarthritis
CANCER
To Quit Smoking, Try Logging On
Women Smokers Lose 14.5 Years Off Life Span
Immune Therapy May Aid Kids With Neuroblastoma
CAREGIVING
Transition From Home to Hospital Rarely Seamless
Depression, PTSD Common Among Lung Transplant Patient Caregivers
Many Alzheimer's Caregivers Admit to Abusive Behavior
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
COSMETIC
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
DENTAL, ORAL
Study Links Osteoporosis Drugs to Jaw Trouble
Periodontal Disease Impacts Whole Health
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
DIABETES
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Coffee, Tea Might Stave Off Diabetes
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
DIET, NUTRITION
Vinegar Might Help Keep Off Pounds
Decline of Underweight Children in U.S. Continue to Fall
Antioxidants Abound in Cereals, Popcorn, Whole-Grain Snacks
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Rainy Areas in U.S. Show Higher Autism Rates
Pilots May Face Greater Cancer Risk
Air Pollution May Cause Appendicitis: Study Reveals
EYE CARE, VISION
'Blind' Man Navigates Obstacle Course Without Error
Nearly 18 Million Will Have Macular Degeneration by 2050
Guard Kids' Eyes Against Long-Term Sun Damage
FITNESS
Football Can Shrink Players
Research Confirms How Valuable A Healthy Lifestyle Can Be
Fliers Can Keep Blood Clots at Bay
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
GENERAL HEALTH
Autumn Chores Often Hazardous
When Clocks Change, Body May Need Time to Adjust
Uncover Why Turmeric Helps You Heal
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Omega-3, Some Omega-6 Fatty Acids Boost Cardiovascular Health
Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good
Western Diet Linked To Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
Mom and Baby Alike May Benefit From Exercise
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
MEN'S HEALTH
Soy Linked to Low Sperm Count
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
MENTAL HEALTH
How to Attack Holiday Stress Head-On
Psychotherapy Can Boost Happiness More Than Money
Mind Exercise Might Help Stroke Patients
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
For Baby and Mom Alike, Breast-Feeding May Be Best
SENIORS
Vitamin D May Help Keep Aging at Bay
Older People at Greater Risk of Swine Flu Death
Seniors Who Volunteer May Live Longer
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Exercise, Weight Control May Keep Fibromyalgia at Bay
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
How Much Fish to Eat While Pregnant?
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Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 12 (HealthDay News) -- Any kind of acupuncture, whether it pierced the skin or not, eased chronic lower back pain in a group of adult patients.

"All were superior to usual care," said Daniel Cherkin, lead author of a report published in the May 11 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. "Acupuncture is an effective treatment for chronic back pain. People receiving acupuncture are more likely to get better."

But the unusual finding that non-penetrating acupuncture did as well as acupuncture that used standard needles will raise questions about how this works, added Cherkin, who is a senior investigator with the Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle.

Chronic back pain is a chronic health issue in the United States, and is the top reason why patients go to acupuncturists, often when traditional therapies disappoint.

Although there have been previous studies on whether acupuncture represents a viable treatment option, "the evidence of the value of acupuncture in general is very murky because the quality of the research is not very good," Cherkin said.

This trial, the largest randomized one of its kind, was funded by the National Center for complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

More than 600 adults with chronic lower back pain were randomized to one of four study arms: individualized acupuncture, standardized acupuncture, simulated acupuncture (non-penetrating) or "usual care."

In the simulated acupuncture group, practitioners mimicked needle acupuncture by using a toothpick in a needle guide tube -- poking at traditional pressure points without breaking the skin.

Participants received 10 treatments over seven weeks, at the end of which dysfunction and symptom scores improved equally among the three treatment arms.

Also, medication use in all the acupuncture groups decreased immediately and over the next year. About two-thirds of patients were taking medication, mostly painkillers such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). By eight weeks, that had declined to 47 percent in the acupuncture groups and 59 percent in the usual-care group.

There were no cost savings for the health plan (treatments were estimated to cost from $600 to $1,200).

But the real surprise was that acupuncture was effective even when the treatment didn't break the skin. "It's not necessary to penetrate the skin. There's no advantage to tailoring and no advantage to using a needle. Why?" Cherkin said. "It throws open the question of how does this work."

There are no answers to that question yet, but some theories persist. It's possible that the "superficial" acupuncture still kicks off a cascade of physiological processes that result in relief, the authors wrote. Or the benefit may come from "nonspecific effects such as therapist conviction [or] patient enthusiasm."

Some previous studies have found similar physiological responses from both types of acupuncture.

Janet Konefal, a licensed acupuncturist and assistant dean for complementary and integrative medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said she was not surprised that non-puncture stimulation had equal effects.

"You can stimulate a point with pressure, needle, electricity, even now with laser light and different frequencies of laser light," she said. "'Pecking' on a point is a Japanese technique for stimulation. You might use that with someone who is older or weak in their constitution. That could explain why two different methods of stimulation work equally well."

Acupuncture of all types is "well on its way to the mainstream," Konefal said. "When we understand that different stimulations may be effective rather than doing deep-needle stimulation which, for some people when in pain can be painful, we can now use laser or light needling or even just electric stimulation on the points; I think that part is great."

And, Cherkin pointed out, "just because you don't understand how it works doesn't mean it doesn't work. It could be worthwhile to pursue it."

More information

The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has more on acupuncture.

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