Yin and Yang: how acupuncture boosts conventional medicine

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Acupuncture used alongside medication can be more effective against osteoarthritis than drugs alone, according to a study published yesterday.

Acupuncture used alongside medication can be more effective against osteoarthritis than drugs alone, according to a study published yesterday.

The needle treatment used as a complementary therapy helped to reduce pain and stiffness and gave patients a better quality of life, research in the British Medical Journal found.

Researchers at the Pain Treatment Unit in Spain tested 88 patients who had osteoarthritis of the knee with either acupuncture and conventional anti-inflammatory drugs or a dummy, placebo form of the ancient Chinese medicine.

Almost one in 10 people over the age of 55 suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee, which can restrict movement and cause constant pain. The Spanish researchers found that the genuine acupuncture patients reported a greater reduction in pain and stiffness, as well as improved physical movement and better quality of life.

Jorge Vas, the lead researcher, said: "Osteoarthritis is the most common form of joint disease and its most common location is the knee. Acupuncture as a complementary therapy to pharmacological treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee is more effective than pharmacological treatment alone."

Acupuncture has been practised in China for more than 3,000 years and was brought to Europe by missionaries in the 17th century. It is said to work on the ancient oriental theory that all life is based on the interplay between the yin and yang forces in the body. Yin and yang are regulated by energy flows in 14 main channels, known as meridians, which connect to different organs and pressure points in the body. Needles are inserted into these 300 pressure points to treat different problems. According to the theory, the needles remove blockages and promote the flow of "Qi" energy along the meridians.

Some experts believe the therapy may work by triggering the release of pain-relieving and mood-enhancing endorphins in the brain.Acupuncture is used to treat conditions including stress, insomnia infertility and asthma. The World Health Organisation recognises more than 100 conditions that can be helped by the treatment.

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