"It's a potentially very important article," says Edgar L. Ross, M.D., director of the Pain Management Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.
Ross, who works with an acupuncturist at his center, says he sees similar benefits, although the average 50 percent pain reduction reported in the study was greater than that experienced by his patients.
practice, "it's closer to 25 or 30 percent reduction in pain scores."
Western-trained doctors are increasingly willing to recommend acupuncture to their patients, but there's still no clear scientific explanation for why it works, Ross
One theory is that acupuncture triggers the release of endorphins, natural painkilling compounds in the brain.
Another is that it affects neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that help brain cells communicate pain.
"It's very safe in trained hands," Ross
says, though he
also believes in a pain management plan that uses a mixture of techniques.
Acupuncture "is certainly a very viable therapy," but it should be considered as one part of a whole pain treatment plan, he