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Acupuncture Before and During Surgery Reduces the Need for Potent Painkillers
From the Duke University Medical Center. October 16 2007.

DURHAM, N.C. – Using acupuncture before and during surgery significantly reduces the level of pain and the amount of potent painkillers needed by patients after the surgery is over, according to Duke University Medical Center anesthesiologists who combined data from 15 small randomized acupuncture clinical trials.

"While the amount of opioids needed for patients who received acupuncture was much lower than those who did not have acupuncture, the most important outcome for the patient is the reduction of the side effects associated with opioids," said Tong Joo (T.J.) Gan, M.D., a Duke anesthesiologist who presented the results of the analysis at the annual scientific conference of the American Society for Anesthesiology in San Francisco. "These side effects can negatively impact a patient's recovery from surgery and lengthen the time spent in the hospital."

Based on the results of this analysis, Gan recommends that acupuncture should be considered a viable option for pain control in surgery patients.

Patients who received acupuncture had significantly lower risk of developing most common side effects associated with opioid drugs compared with control: 1.5 times lower rates of nausea, 1.3 times fewer incidences of severe itching, 1.6 times fewer reports of dizziness and 3.5 times fewer cases of urinary retention.

Opioids are a class of medications that act on the body much like morphine. While they are effective in controlling pain, the side effects of the drugs often influence a patient's recovery from, and satisfaction with, their surgery, Gan said.

The results of this study add to the growing body of evidence that acupuncture can play an effective role in improving the quality of the surgical experience, Gan added. Numerous studies, some conducted by Gan, have demonstrated that acupuncture can also be more effective than current medications in lessening the occurrence of post operative nausea and vomiting, the most common side effect experienced by patients after surgery.

"Acupuncture is slowly becoming more accepted by American physicians, but it is still underutilized," Gan said. "Studies like this, which show that there is a benefit to using it, should help give physicians sitting on the fence the data they need to integrate acupuncture into their routine care of surgery patients."

Acupuncture has the added benefits of being inexpensive, with virtually no side effects, when done by properly trained personnel, Gan added.

The Chinese have been using acupuncture for more than 5,000 years for the treatment of a variety of ailments, including headaches, gastrointestinal disorders and arthritis. According to Chinese healing practices, there are about 360 specific points along 14 different lines, or meridians, that course throughout the body just under the skin.

"The Chinese believe that our vital energy, known as chi, flows throughout the body along these meridians," Gan explained. "While healthiness is a state where the chi is in balance, unhealthiness or disease state arises from either too much or too little chi, or a blockage in the flow of the chi."

Different bodily locations or organs have their own distinct acupuncture points that are the targets for the acupuncturist. For example, a point just below the wrist is the common target for women undergoing breast procedures to prevent nausea and vomiting, another point at the back of the hand is effective in reducing pain.

While it is not completely known why or how acupuncture works, recent research seems to point to its ability to stimulate the release of hormones or the body's own painkillers, known as endorphins, Gan said. He is now conducting studies to determine the exact mechanism behind acupuncture's effects.

Other members of the research team included Yanxia Sun, John Dubose and Ashraf Habib. The meta-analysis was supported by Duke's Department of Anesthesiology.

Acupuncture Reduces Pain, Need for Opioids after SurgeryGerman Acupuncture Trials (GERAC) for Chronic Low Back Pain
Randomized, Multicenter, Blinded, Parallel-Group Trial With 3 Groups
Michael Haake, PhD, MD; Hans-Helge Mu¨ ller, PhD; Carmen Schade-Brittinger;
Heinz D. Basler, PhD; Helmut Scha¨ fer, PhD; Christoph Maier, PhD, MD;
Heinz G. Endres, MD; Hans J. Trampisch, PhD; Albrecht Molsberger, PhD, MD
Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(17):1892-1898
Conclusion:  Low back pain improved after acupuncture treatment for at least 6 months. Effectiveness of acupuncture, either verum or sham, was almost twice that
of conventional therapy.
From text: Acupuncture constitutes a strong therapy alternative to multimodal conventional therapy. Acupuncture gives physicians a promising and effective treatment option for chronic low back pain, with few adverse effects or contraindications. The improvements in all primary and secondary outcome measures were significant and lasted long after completion of treatment.
For full paper, click here

New trial: Randomized Trial of Acupuncture to Lower Blood Pressure

Frank A. Flachskampf, MD; Junxue Gan, MD; et al
Erlangen, Germany; Nanjing, People’s Republic of China

Background— Arterial hypertension is a prime cause of morbidity and mortality in the general population. Pharmacological treatment has limitations resulting from drug side effects, costs, and patient compliance. Thus, we investigated whether traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture is able to lower blood pressure.

Methods and Results— We randomized 160 outpatients (age, 58±8 years; 78 men) with uncomplicated arterial hypertension in a single-blind fashion to a 6-week course of active acupuncture or sham acupuncture (22 sessions of 30 minutes’ duration). Seventy-eight percent were receiving antihypertensive medication, which remained unchanged. Primary outcome parameters were mean 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure levels after the treatment course and 3 and 6 months later. One hundred forty patients finished the treatment course (72 with active treatment, 68 with sham treatment). There was a significant (P<0.001) difference in posttreatment blood pressures adjusted for baseline values between the active and sham acupuncture groups at the end of treatment. For the primary outcome, the difference between treatment groups amounted to 6.4 mm Hg (95% CI, 3.5 to 9.2) and 3.7 mm Hg (95% CI, 1.6 to 5.8) for 24-hour systolic and diastolic blood pressures, respectively. In the active acupuncture group, mean 24-hour ambulatory systolic and diastolic blood pressures decreased significantly after treatment by 5.4 mm Hg (95% CI, 3.2 to 7.6) and 3.0 mm Hg (95% CI, 1.5 to 4.6), respectively. At 3 and 6 months, mean systolic and diastolic blood pressures returned to pretreatment levels in the active treatment group.

Conclusions— Acupuncture according to traditional Chinese medicine, but not sham acupuncture, after 6 weeks of treatment significantly lowered mean 24-hour ambulatory blood pressures; the effect disappeared after cessation of acupuncture treatment.

Reference:Circulation. 2007;115:3121-3129.

Robin's comment: This trial suggests acupuncture is as effective as medication, but other mindbody approaches are also needed for the effects to last.

Acupuncture after ambulatory knee surgery

A recent German study has investigated the use of auricular (ear) acupuncture versus an invasive needle control procedure for complementary analgesia after ambulatory knee surgery.

In the study, 120 patients who were undergoing ambulatory arthroscopic knee surgery under general anesthesia were randomised to receive auricular acupuncture or a control procedure.
Fixed indwelling acupuncture needles were inserted before surgery and were not removed until the following morning. Postoperative rescue analgesia was used to achieve pain intensity less than 40 mm based upon a 10 mm visual analogue scale.
The primary outcome measure utilised was the amount of postoperative ibuprofen required between surgery and an examination on the following morning.
Intention-to-treat analysis showed that patients from the control group (n = 59) required more ibuprofen than patients from the auricular acupuncture group (n = 61): approximately 600mg versus approximately 200mg of ibuprofen, respectively. Pain intensity on a visual analogue scale was similar in both groups at all time points registered. The majority of patients in both groups believed that they had received true acupuncture and wanted to repeat it in future. 
Researchers concluded that auricular acupuncture may help reduce the amount of pain medication required following ambulatory knee surgery in comparison to a control procedure.
Usichenko TI, Kuchling S, Witstruck T, et al. Auricular acupuncture for pain relief after ambulatory knee surgery: a randomized trial. MAJ. 2007 Jan 16;176(2):179-83. Comment in: CMAJ. 2007 Jan 16;176(2):193-4.

 Acupuncture Successful in Treating Overactive Bladders

Researchers in the US have found that acupuncture, under controlled trial conditions, was successful in reducing down the troubling symptoms associated with an overactive bladder in women aged between 22 and 82.

The overactive bladder syndrome is a very common complaint for women of all ages, characterised by frequent voiding - more than 8 times a day -, a feeling of frequently 'wanting to go' and a tendency to be incontinent of urine at these times.

The trial, reported in the strictly peer reviewed journal Obstetrics and Gynaecology,
showed that the number of incontinent episodes were reduced by 59% in the women receiving acupuncture using the points commonly used in Chinese medicine. There was a 40% reduction when points were used specifically for relaxation only.

Bladder capacity and quality of life measurements also improved, and were equal to results shown by drug therapy - but without the side effects.

Source: Emmons SL, Otto L. Acupuncture for overactive bladder: a randomised controlled trial. Obstetrics and Gynaecology 2005;106(1):138-43

The acupuncture meridians are now thought to be planes of connective tissue, the branches of our cytoskeleton that conduct electrical energy within the body. Acupuncture needles inserted at specific points act as aerials connecting the energy of the outside world to the meridians, asnd in turn to the internal organs of the body. This process is explained in more detail in The Human Antenna

Complementary Therapies in Patients undergoing Open Heart Surgery

A 2006 study at the Minneapolis Heart Institute showed that patients receiving certain complementary therapies before and after open heart surgery suffered less pain and tension than a control group.

The therapies included guided imagery, gentle massage and postoperative healing music . The investigators concluded that these measures were safe, easy to implement in a busy critical care setting, and welcomed by the large majority of patients.

Source: Kshettry VR, Carole LF, Herly SJ, Sendelbach S, Kurnmer B.
Complementary therapies for heart surgery patients: feasibility, safety, and impact.
Annals of Thoracic Surgery. 2006 Jan;81(1):201-5.

Acupuncture in the treatment of Fibromyalgia

A new study published in the June 2006 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceeding, suggests that acupuncture reduces the symptoms of fibromyalgia. This disorder, characterized by chronic, widespread pain, fatigue, joint stiffness and disturbed sleep, is particularly difficult to treat; no cure is known, and treatments generally have limited effectiveness.

In this randomised, controlled trial, 50 fibromyalgia patients were allocated to one of two groups. The active group received acupuncture for their symptoms; the control group received sham acupuncture, in which needle placements did not conform to conventional acupuncture protocols.

Patients who received acupuncture to counter their fibromyalgia symptoms reported improvement in fatigue and anxiety, among other symptoms. In addition, acupuncture was well tolerated, with minimal side effects.

Mayo's acupuncture study is one of only three randomised and controlled studies involving fibromyalgia patients. Of the other studies, one found acupuncture to be helpful, while the other reported it was ineffective for pain relief.

References : Mayo Clinic Proceedings June 2006

Other interesting non-clinical articles:

DNA shaped nebula near the centre of our Galaxy

A DNA shaped cloud of dust has been photographed using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. It measures 80 light years in length, and is thought to have occured as a result of powerful magnetic forces at the entrance of the Black Hole in the centre of our Milky Way. These observations have been recently detailed in the March 16th edition of Nature.

The effect has been described as similar to what we observe in our bathwater, after we have pulled the plug.

"Nobody has ever seen anything like that before in the cosmic realm,” said the study’s lead author Mark Morris of UCLA. “Most nebulae are either spiral galaxies full of stars or formless amorphous conglomerations of dust and gas—space weather. What we see indicates a high degree of order.”

For more information, click here.

The DNA nebula serves as a graphic reminder that our universe shares a 'sacred' geometry, manifesting equally within the smallest and the largest structures known.

In The Human Aerial , Robin Kelly examines the growing evidence that our DNA acts as an aerial for another dimension, outside the classical confines of time and space.

The ‘Magical’ Quantum Properties of Water

A crystal of ice, photographed by Dr. Masaru Emoto (Japan), which has formed after distilled water had been exposed to the written words "Love/Appreciation"

A leading article in the popular science magazine New Scientist describes the growing understanding within the scientific community, of the vital role played by water in all our lives. There is considerable research in progress studying water’s unique physical, and life enhancing, properties.

It has long been known that water freezes from ‘the top down’ allowing life to survive in the ocean and lakes during freezing weather. As it is also slow to heat up, it protects our planet from wildly fluctuant climate changes, giving all living things time to adapt.

But the article, written by science writer Robert Matthews, explores new evidence that suggests that water also has unique quantum properties, lending some credence to the claims that water has a ‘memory.’ Researchers from Budapest report how water molecules, proteins and DNA communicate with each other electrically at a distance – and suggest that DNA, and our bodies, cannot function effectively without this interplay.

Rustum Roy, a scientist at Pennsylvania State University, believes that we can no longer adopt a strictly chemical view of water, something that he now regards as a ‘naïve, chemistry school-book argument.’

He believes scientists should take homeopathy more seriously. Homeopaths use ever increasing dilutions of a compound to create ever increasing potencies in their remedies. One mechanism suggested is that the memory of the compound is retained and amplified by the water, especially if the mixture is subjected to vigorous shaking, known in homeopathy as succession.

However, most mainstream scientists won’t venture near this line of research, and are dismissive of homeopathy and the whole concept of ‘the memory of water.’

To read an introduction to Robert Matthews' article in the April 8 New Scientist, click here.

Dr Masuro Emoto’s work shows that water crystals may be incredibly sensitive to emotions, music and even intent. This suggests that the mindset of the scientists studying the properties of water may affect their findings, making the study of homeopathy using conventional randomised trials methods difficult, and possibly inappropriate.

In Healing Ways, Robin discusses the theory that the homeopathic therapist, the patient and the remedy, are all intricately linked through subtle, non-local bonds.

In The Human Antenna, evidence for the Experimenter Effect is examined. Robin explains how, in the world of subtle energy, the intent of the researcher or therapist can influence the outcome of an experiment or treatment.

The Red Rains of Kerala

Red 'mother' cells, and white 'daughter' cells in Kerala rain water.
Magnified x 1000. Photomicrograph (c) 2006 Louis Godfrey PhD
Mahatma Ghandi University, India.

Five years ago, between July and September 2001, red rains fell over Kerala in South West India. Unable to explain this scientifically, Dr. Godfrey Lewis, a professor of Pure and Applied Physics at Mahatma Ghandi University in Kerala, collected test tubes of the water which he examined under a microscope.

He was to discover in the rain water what appeared to be living cells, slightly larger than human blood cells. Over the past five years these cells have been extensively studied, and as yet they appear different to anything found here on earth. Further research is being carried out in Cardiff, Wales, by the team of scientists under astrophysicist and astrobiologist Dr Chandra Wickramasinghe.

Most interestingly, no evidence of DNA has yet been found despite the fact that they have been observed to divide many times in the past 5 years. Also the suggestion that this cellular material (estimated to have been many thousands of tonnes in total weight) has come from spores on earth, has been disproved by expert analysis.

Before the red rains fell, a sonic boom was heard in the region, and there is now speculation that this represents cellular material, an extra-terrestrial life form carried within a comet into our atmosphere.

The theory known as 'panspermia' speculates that life on this planet shares an ancestry common within the universe - that the earth (Gaia) is one autonomous part of an open cosmic biological system. However, until now there has been an assumption that all life forms in the universe share the same blueprint for growth and replication ie DNA.

If Dr Wickramasinghe's team fails to detect DNA within these cells, then these theories about our fundamental origins will be challenged. The cells in the red rains that fell over Kerala will represent a new form of life, at present unexplained by our current understanding of biology.

To read a full article, click here