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Acupuncture really can relieve pain say scientists - this time

acupuncture, birth, pain, research, labour

Posted: 1 December 2010
by Susie Boone
woman having acupuncture
Can acupuncture help reduce pain in labour?

A research team in Germany has concluded that acupuncture does indeed relieve pain. This study was only a small one (with just 18 volunteers) but comes hot on the heels of scientific evidence showing how acupuncture stimulates a natural painkiller in your body.

Then again, that research came hot on the heels of a different group of scientists saying acupuncture didn't reduce pain in labour.

So what should pregnant women do? The latest results do suggest that acupuncture - the ancient medical art that involves putting needles into parts of your body - may be able to combat pain. And by rights, that should mean labour pain too.

The study didn't look at women during childbirth but instead followed 18 volunteers who were given electric shocks. They were then given acupuncture and more electric shocks. There was signifcantly less activity in the parts of their brains that react to pain when the volunteers were given acupuncture. The scientists suggest that acupuncture can calm those brain cells that process and perceive pain. 

Previously, another group of scientists had concluded that acupuncture only works through the 'placebo effect' - if you simply believe you're being treated, it can be enough to produce health benefits.

Not everyone is convinced by the new research. David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at University College London, claimed that the placebo effect may still be working, suggesting that the volunteers may have believed the acupuncture was helping.

Recent research also doesn't explain why some couples claim acupuncture helps improve fertility and success with IVF, although we do know that high levels of stress can make it harder to conceive.

Ultimately, even if it is a placebo effect, if it works for you, then it works for you. It's also safe for your baby, so if you have the money, time and ability to withstand all those needles, it may be worth a shot.


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First researchers said acupuncture was all in the mind, now a new report says it does reduce pain. So will it help mums in labour?
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