MOL

Beijing

Fans of acupuncture may have a point – as research suggests the treatment really can reduce pain. A new US study of the ancient Chinese art – which involves inserting thin needles in different parts of the body – has been described as the strongest evidence yet that it can have genuine benefits. Study author Ladan Eshkevari claimed the research demonstrates how acupuncture may ‘reduce stress and pain, and potentially depression’.

Dr Eshkevari, of Georgetown University in Washington, DC, said: ‘The benefits of acupuncture are well known by those who use it, but such proof is anecdotal.

‘This research, the culmination of a number of studies, demonstrates how acupuncture might work in the human body to reduce stress and pain, and potentially, depression.’ Her work will provide a sense of vindication for those who have spent hundreds of pounds on acupuncture for bad backs, sprained ankles and other aches and pains.

However, the study is likely to be picked over by those who say the benefits of acupuncture are all in the mind. Critics argue that patients benefit from the ‘placebo effect’, in which care, attention and the simple belief that the treatment will work lead to improvements in health. Dr Eshkevari looked at the effect of giving of giving acupuncture to rats that had regularly been exposed to extreme cold.

This was meant to mimic the sort of biological changes that occur in people who are grieving or experiencing other extreme and ongoing mental pressure. During these times, stress hormones rise, raising the odds of a host of health problems, including high blood pressure and depression. Some of the rats were jabbed in a part of the stomach the Chinese believe to have powerful healing powers.