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Last Updated: Monday, 19 January, 2004, 00:57 GMT
Acupuncture put under spotlight
Acupuncture seems to have many benefits
Scientists are to investigate whether psychological factors may boost the effectiveness of acupuncture.

A team from the University of Southampton has already shown that acupuncture treatment can reduce chronic neck pain by 60%.

Now they plan to recruit almost 300 patients suffering from hip or knee pain to see if it works for them too.

They also plan to examine whether the relationship the practitioner strikes up with the patient plays any effect.

Some patients will be given a sympathetic, caring consultation, others will be treated rather less empathetically.

The researchers will also investigate whether simply administering needles is enough to trigger an improvement in patients who think they are undergoing acupuncture.

Lead researcher Dr Peter White said his team were particularly interested in the whether the effects of acupuncture could be enhanced if the patient developed a good relationship with the practitioner.

He said: "To some extent, modern based medicine has failed to value this individual and very personal interaction between patient and therapist.

"Perhaps complementary and alternative medicine treatments can present a valuable model design through which we may understand this process."

Ancient theory

According to ancient Chinese medicine, acupuncture works by diverting energy channels that flow through the body.

Dr White said there was no evidence to support this theory, but there was evidence that acupuncture triggered the release of chemicals in the body.

These include serotonin, which plays a role in regulating mood, and endorphins, which are the body's natural painkillers.

Dr White suspects that acupuncture also triggers other, as yet unknown, responses in the body, which may have a physiological or psychological basis.

The three-year project is sponsored by the Department of Health.

Acupuncture helps heart patients
18 Nov 01  |  Health

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