In the competitive marketplace of medicine, the question arises for the consumer and the Doctor when to use acupuncture? With this study there is a bit more justification for it. The lesson here is that acupuncture can help control cravings, depression or pain when done properly. Now we know a bit more about the "how".
Rosen's team used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRIs, on about 20 healthy volunteers before, during and after acupuncture. This type of brain scan shows changes in blood flow and the amount of oxygen in blood.
Researchers applied acupuncture needles to points on the hand linked to pain relief in traditional Chinese medicine. Blood flow decreased in certain areas of the brain within seconds of volunteers reporting a heaviness in their hands, a sign the acupuncture is working correctly, Rosen says. The needle technique is not supposed to hurt if done correctly. When a few subjects reported pain, their scans showed an increase of blood to the same brain areas.
''When there's less blood, the brain isn't working as hard, '' Rosen says. ''In effect, acupuncture is quieting down key regions of the brain.''
The specific brain areas affected are involved in mood, pain and cravings, Rosen says. This could help explain why some studies have found acupuncture helpful in treating depression, eating problems, addictions and pain.