Acupuncture affects pain processing in migraineurs

Chinese researchers have found traditional acupuncture to be more effective for pain reduction in migraine sufferers than a control acupuncture treatment and have correlated this effect to differences in activity in pain-related brain regions. Thirty patients with migraine were randomised into three groups: a traditional acupuncture group (TAG), a control acupuncture group (CAG) and a migraine group (MG). The TAG was treated with acupuncture at Waiguan SJ-5, Yanglingquan GB-34 and Fengchi GB-20. The CAG was treated at Touwei ST-8, Pianli L.I.-6 and Zusanli ST-36. The MG received no treatment. Positron emission tomography with computed tomography (PET-CT) was used to test for differences in brain activation between the groups. The clinical results showed that, while visual analogue scores for pain intensity were significantly reduced in the both TAG and CAG after treatment, compared with before, traditional acupuncture treatment was significantly more effective for pain reduction than control acupuncture treatment. There was no significant reduction in pain intensity in the MG. Both acupuncture groups showed cerebral patterns of metabolism that were distinct both from eachother and from the no-treatment group. Greater changes were seen in the TAG compared with the CAG in brain regions associated with pain processing, particularly the limbic system. The authors speculate that stimulation of acupoints that are traditionally used for migraine treatment may deactivate brain regions associated with the processing of pain and its emotional consequences. (A PET-CT study on the specificity of acupoints through acupuncture treatment in migraine patients. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 Aug 15;12(1):123).

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  1. Korea is believed to be the second country that acupuncture spread to outside of China. Within Korea there is a legend that acupuncture was developed by the legendary emperor Dangun though it is more likely to have been brought into Korea from a Chinese colonial prefecture.

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