Acupuncture reduces pain sensitivity in auto injury patients
Acupuncture could reduce central sensitization in patients with chronic auto injury pain, according a new study from the European Journal of Pain. Previous research has shown that car crash injuries can induce central sensitization which can increase patients' pain sensitivity and lead to chronic symptoms.
Researchers from Belgium sought to asses whether acupuncture treatment could disrupt the process of sensitization. In the study, 39 patients with whiplash-associated disorder (WAD) were randomly assigned to receive either relaxation therapy or acupuncture. Immediately following the treatment, acupuncture patients had more significant reductions in pressure pain sensitivity, a major indicator of sensitization. This led researchers to suggest that "acupuncture treatment activates endogenous analgesia in patients with chronic WAD."
Interestingly though, there were no major differences between the groups when it came to reducing symptom severity and neck disability. Another more longer term study did show however that acupuncture improved functionality and pain symptoms in WAD patients. While more research is needed to understand the immediate and long-term effects of the treatment, these initial studies strongly suggest that acupuncture can effectively ease many whiplash symptoms.
The Belgian study was published just a day after a major literature review confirmed that acupuncture is an effective treatment for many types of chronic pain.
Tobbackx Y, Meeus M, Wauters L, et al. Does acupuncture activate endogenous analgesia in chronic whiplash-associated disorders? A randomized crossover trial. European Journal of Pain 2012; doi: 10.1002/j.1532-2149.2012.00215.x. [Epub ahead of print].