I have always been more than a bit cynical about any “cures or healings”which can't be supported by substantial evidence produced by a competent group of scientists.

Things such as weird diets, things that are sold on TV at 12:30 AM for 3 payments of $29.95, anything promoted by “celebrity spokespersons” are all suspect. I have, however, thought there was more to acupuncture that the standard quack bullshit. It has, after all, survived for over 4000 years (of course so have magical, mythical sky guys).

Science may have shed some new light on the practice

In a paper published online May 30 in Nature Neuroscience, a team at the University of Rochester Medical Center identifies the molecule adenosine as a central player in parlaying some of the effects of acupuncture in the body. Building on that knowledge, scientists were able to triple the beneficial effects of acupuncture in mice by adding a medication approved to treat leukemia in people.


The research focuses on adenosine, a natural compound known for its role in regulating sleep, for its effects on the heart, and for its anti-inflammatory properties. But adenosine also acts as a natural painkiller.

Adenosine is also the primary molecule that produces the energy molecules that are used directly by the body (Adenosine Tri-phosphate, ATP and Adenosine Di-phosphate, ADP)

In the current study, scientists found that the chemical is also very active in deeper tissues affected by acupuncture....acupuncture creates signals that cause the brain to churn out natural pain-killing endorphins.

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While there are definitely snake oil remedies out there, I firmly believe there's also an awful lot of medicines and medical treatments that get swept under the rug of pseudoscience for the mere fact that they are not what our western minds expect, therefore they don't get serious study and/or unbiased study.

The concept of pressure and nerve points is not so far fetched. We use them all the time in martial arts. There's a pressure point on the sole of the foot that instantly relieves menstrual cramps, one in the hand that's good for headaches. Our bodies are a vast network of neural synapses. It's not so far a stretch to say that this interconnectedness can be manipulated.

That said, every body also works a little differently; every ailment and injury is a little different. For the same reason that Tylenol might be your miracle headache relief but does absolutely nothing for me, acupuncture might work great for one person but not for the next.
Tell me more more about the pressure points to relieve cramps. I get bad ones.
Much easier to show in person but I'll try:

Use left hand on your left foot, or right hand on your right foot (either foot should work).

Where the ball of your foot melds into the arch which then follows the outer part of your foot to the heel; think of that as one, continuous semi-circle. The important part here is where ball melds into arch.

Put your thumb on the inside of the ball of your foot; directly below your big toe.

Now slide your thumb back towards the heel until you've slid just off the ball of your foot. You're now against the bottom edge of the ball in that squishy area below it ("squishy area;" I believe that's the technical medical term).

Using that ball-to-arch semi-circle as a guide, slide your thumb towards the outside of your foot about an inch; along the bottom edge of the ball and just barely start to leave it moving towards the arch. On my feet at least I'm going back 'up' just a hair. The pressure point is right there where the bottom-outside part of the ball of your foot ends and the arch is about to begin. Again I can only speak for my own feet but there's a nice little dimple right there.

I press my thumb inward and kind of towards my pinky toes. Sometimes I rub just a little, usually I just hold. But press in deep and firm and it would usually relieve my cramps in about 30-60 seconds. If I did it a few times over a couple of minutes, the cramps would usually go away entirely.
This is funny, I've seen skeptics using this same journal article to prove that acupuncture is fraudulent.

This article demonstrates one physiological mechanisms for SOME examples of ONE effect claimed by acupuncture. Local tissue trauma causes the brain to release endorphins. There are a couple of other physiological mechanisms that are plausible, but undemonstrated still.

I, personally, don't take it as evidence for or against acupuncture writ large.

@Jo: There is no evidence for reflexology, and substantial evidence against it. Massages can help you in many ways, though, including relaxing you and distracting your haptic sense. Not even the NIH's huge embarrassment, the NCCAM, has performed any studies about reflexology.
I don't think there is enough evidence to show a direct connection between acupuncture and subsequent physiological benefits. Despite that, there is great deal of subjective evidence from patients that something beneficial is happening. That evidence is at least strong enough that my HMO (Kaiser) covers acupuncture treatments.


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