Scientists in Germany recently said they had proof that acupuncture works. Now, research shows that a new form of needle-free acupuncture can also ease certain conditions.
Laser acupuncture, a combination of modern and ancient medical treatments, has been found to help arthritis, post-operative pain, tennis elbow, depression, asthma and now tension headaches.
In traditional acupuncture, therapists insert needles into specific acupuncture points on the body.
The theory is based on the belief that we have a vital energy that circulates through invisible energy lines on the body known as meridians, each of which is associated with a different organ system.
An energy imbalance can result in disease, and the idea of activating the acupuncture points with a needle is to restore balance.
In laser acupuncture, the same traditional acupuncture points are stimulated but with a lowintensity, non-thermal laser light rather than needles.
But like needle acupuncture, it is believed to work by stimulating the release of pain-relieving endorphins, and by having a beneficial effect on the nervous system.
Research by Southampton University and University College London last month suggested that traditional acupuncture can have a similar effect to painkillers on patients with osteoarthritis.
The latest research shows that laser acupuncture can be highly effective for tension headache.
Fifty patients with chronic tension headaches were given lowenergy laser acupuncture for 43 seconds, or a dummy treatment.
Each of the patients had ten sessions over a three-week period. The placebo group was treated in a similar way except that the output power of the laser was zero.
The results show that there were significant differences between the two groups months after the treatment was given.
One month after the treatment ended, the laser-treated group had 15 days a month without a headache, compared to just two for the placebo patients.
After two months the laser patients were still getting ten days a month without a headache compared to no days for the other patients.
Jane Cooper, a 43-year- old mother of two from Reading used laser acupuncture to relieve pain caused by a prolapsed disc, when part of a disc in the spine comes out of place, pressing on nerves.
Despite surgery for partial removal of the disc, she has spent the past ten years with continual pain in the back, legs and feet as a result of nerve damage. But after laser acupuncture once a week the pain has gone.
‘It’s been fantastic. I feel nothing during the treatment, just a warm glow, and the next day the pain and inflammation have gone,’ she says.
‘I think the prolapsed disc was probably a sporting injury. I was a hockey goalkeeper when I was younger, and always throwing myself onto the floor. I am quite tall and skinny and apparently more likely to damage discs.
‘I had surgery to remove some scar tissue after the injury, but for ten or 11 years I’ve had a pain which never went away and made life difficult.
I tried lots of things, including osteopaths, chiropractors, physios, and none did any good. I then tried laser acupuncture and within two or three sessions there was a phenomenal difference.
‘I sit on a bench while the laser treatment goes onto my back. The laser seems to be having some kind of effect on the recovery and repair of tissue.
‘Now I don’t get the pain unless I do something very strenuous, like gardening for six hours at a time. Previously, the pain was there if I sat down or walked for even ten minutes.’