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Acupuncture Shown to Offer Relief for Eczema Sufferers

Posted: January 14, 2010

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For the study, Pfab and his colleagues looked at all 30 patients under three different test conditions. In one, patients had their skin exposed to either pollen or dust-mite allergens, then received true, or "point-specific," acupuncture, in which needles were placed in traditional acupuncture points that, according to Chinese medicine, are related to itchy skin.

In another condition, the allergen exposure was followed by "placebo-point" acupuncture, where the needles were inserted into skin areas not used in traditional Chinese medicine. In the third condition, patients received no treatment.

Overall, Pfab's team found, patients' itchiness ratings were lower after they received true acupuncture, compared with both no treatment and placebo acupuncture. Then, when the researchers exposed patients' skin to the allergens a second time, skin flare-ups tended to be less-severe following the point-specific acupuncture. As for itchiness, however, both the true and placebo therapies had similar benefits compared with no treatment.

Acupuncture has been used for more than 2,000 years in Chinese medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments. According to traditional medicine, specific acupuncture points on the skin are connected to internal pathways that conduct energy, or qi ("chee"), and stimulating these points with a fine needle promotes the healthy flow of qi.

Modern research has suggested that acupuncture may help ease pain by altering signals among nerve cells or affecting the release of various chemicals of the central nervous system. Pfab explained that pain and itchiness have similarities in their underlying mechanisms, so acupuncture's effects on pain mechanisms may also account for the benefits seen in this study. The researcher pointed out, however, that more research is needed to see whether and why acupuncture might be helpful for people with eczema.