In preparing for a talk on acupuncture, I was pleased and somewhat surprised by a tremendous increase of recent research on acupuncture. This research includes positive studies showing significant help in such widely varied conditions as foot and heel pain, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy and radiation therapy side effects, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and weight loss, among others.
In addition to these and other clinical studies, I found 176 new studies on acupuncture through the use of fMRI alone! Functional MRI (fMRI) lets us look at what parts of the brain are active when people are performing various task, thinking about things, or getting treated, in this case, by acupuncture.
The acupuncture studies are remarkable in that they show the widespread but at the same time specific areas of the pain activated by acupuncture – especially in the areas of the brain that modulate or control pain, stress, hormonal, and emotional balance.
While certain seldom-used acupoints only “light up” one or two small areas in the brain, the major points that we frequently use activate 20-30 areas in the brain, which I believe explains why people often feel like we get a “reboot” after acupuncture, feeling relaxed but alert and much less stressed.
This kind of concrete, physiologic evidence, along with an increasing volume of clinical research showing benefit in a wide range of conditions is going to help acupuncture take its proper place in mainstream medicine.