A new study recently published in Brain, A Journal of Neurology, has found new evidence showing that acupuncture not only works at a local anatomical level, but that it also influences the brain to rewrite a mental map of the body. This is an incredibly important finding, especially during a time where people are seeking alternative treatments that are minimally invasive and cost efficient.
Researchers in the study explored the efficacy of acupuncture in helping to reduce pain in patients suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, the most common entrapment neuropathy. The study was a single-blind, placebo controlled, randomized neuroimaging study where subjects received sixteen acupuncture treatments over eight weeks. They were divided into three groups by treatment type: electroacupuncture performed close to the affected hand, electroacupuncture performed at distant locations on the opposite side of affected hand, and sham electroacupuncture using non-penetrating needles.
The researchers assessed pain and paraesthesia symptoms at baseline, following therapy, and at a 3-month follow-up in all groups. What the team found was incredible. Not only did both electroacupuncture and sham acupuncture reduce carpal tunnel symptoms, but electroacupuncture showed to be more effective than sham acupuncture in influencing neurophysiological improvement in the wrist and in the central brain. Not only did acupuncture help reduce carpal tunnel symptoms immediately after treatment, symptoms remained reduced at the 3-month post study follow-up.
This study surpasses the original hypothesis of supporting acupuncture as an effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms by also uncovering a mechanism for brain-based plasticity with the continued use of acupuncture. This study also looked at how the brain experiences pain using an MRI. A course of acupuncture treatments showed to help reduce the pain by promoting circulation and reducing inflammation through feedback systems between the brain and the body.
There are plenty of other studies exploring the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating other health issues. If you would like to learn more about evidence-based acupuncture and the supporting studies or if you would like to explore acupuncture treatment for your own health concerns, please contact us!