Western researchers are using high-tech tools to unlock the secrets of an ancient therapy: acupuncture. Neuroimaging studies show the practice can calm parts of the brain linked to pain and activate those linked to recuperation. Doppler ultrasounds, meanwhile, show that acupuncture increases blood flow. Carefully placed needles can even make inflammation subside, thermal imaging tests suggest.
Some are still skeptical. "Something measurable is happening when you stick a needle into a patient—that doesn't impress me at all," a professor of complementary medicine tells the Wall Street Journal. Acupuncture has a placebo effect, he says. "Whether it does anything else, the jury is still out." Either way, a growing number of Americans are sold: 3.2 million underwent acupuncture in 2007, up from 2.1 million in 2001, a survey shows.
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