Our Teutonic friends have been busy lately in collecting research covering a wide range of acupuncture effects and techniques. From one side of the pond to the other, a lot of great investigation is being done and I have included links to some of my favorites.
Measurement of acupuncture needle grasp at acupuncture points and control points
One of the most controversial aspects of acupuncture is whether the location of acupuncture needling sites is important, ie: does the needling of classically defined acupuncture points have an enhanced therapeutic effect as compared with the needling of any other set of points on the body. Resolving this issue is of fundamental importance, since the specificity of acupuncture points is implied in some of the most basic principles underlying the traditional practice of acupuncture.
These results provide objective evidence that acupuncture points have different biomechanical behavior than control points. Whether this is due to anatomical and/or physiological differences between acupuncture points and surrounding tissues, and what these differences are, remains unknown. Our results also show that needle manipulation strongly influences needle grasp, and does so at control points as well as at acupuncture points. We are planning to use the results of this study as a first step to understand the mechanisms underlying needle grasp, and the therapeutic significance of both de qi and acupuncture points.
As someone trained in TCM, I have always believed if there is no Qi, there is no treatment. Perhaps it is Western programming to believe “no pain, no gain,” but I see better results with patients who report feeling sensation over ones that feel nothing. In my experience, I find the patient will have the Qi sensation a moment after I feel the needle “grab.” For those patients that I know are sensitive, I try to keep the needle positioned at that threshold between the grab and the sensation so that they can reap the maximum benefit with the minimum discomfort. Of course, there are those others that can’t get enough Qi either, or as one of my patients says, “Give me the ju-ju!”
DESCRIPTION AND VALIDATION OF A NON-INVASIVE PLACEBO ACUPUNCTURE PROCEDURE
Objective: To evaluate a simulated acupuncture technique for use in randomized controlled trials assessing the efficacy of acupuncture for low back pain.
Experimental Design: In the first experiment, subjects received six insertions of real needles and six pokes with a toothpick in a guidetube in a two-period crossover design. In the second experiment, subjects were randomized to receive either a complete treatment with real acupuncture needles or a simulated treatment using a toothpick in a guidetube.
Conclusions: The simulated acupuncture procedure evaluated in this study represents a reasonable control treatment for acupuncture-naïve individuals in randomized controlled trials assessing the efficacy of acupuncture for low back pain.
Having sat in on some design planning for a few different research projects, I know the use of sham acupuncture is a controversy. A placebo pill in a drug trial is not analogous to random needling. This sounds like a promising (an somewhat humerous) alternative for those who have research aspirations.
CLINICAL STUDY OF HERPES ZOSTER TREATMENT USING ACUPUNCTURE OF THUMB-JOINT ACUPOINT AND FIRE-TWINKLING METHOD
This paper is the summary of clinical results of using Acupuncture of Thumb-Joint Acupoint and Fire-Twinkling for 27 cases of Herpes Zoster, a virulent skin disease called "Yao Chan Huo Dan" and "She Du Cang" in traditional Chinese medicine. The condition usually results from decreased immune function, emotional depression, dietary disorder, malfunctional spleen and liver, or virus infection. The course of the illness lasts from two to fifteen days. The purpose of using Acupuncture of Thumb-joint Acupoint locally is to stimulate the infected region, improve the overall body immune system, and thus kill the virus using the body’s own immune functionality. Additionally, the Fire-Twinkling method utilizes the flame’s radiating and heating effect to enlarge local blood vessels, accelerate blood circulation and energize body cells.
The outcome of the treatment and observation study showed that Acupuncture of Thumb-Joint Acupoint and Fire-Twinkling was a very effective treatment method for Herpes Zoster: among the 27 cases studied, 24 (88.8%) were completely cured, 2 cases (7.4%) showed evident improvement, and only one case (3.8%) showed no sign of improvement. The overall efficiency of the treatment was 96.8%.
“Fire-Twinkling” - I have always been a sucker for TCM technique descriptions!