Richard G. Petty, MD

Acupuncture Without Needles

There are, in the United States, over 7 million people who are partially or completely disabled by back pain and another 40-50 million people who suffer from chronic recurrent headaches. Frustrated with my inability to help all my patients with conventional treatments, I have been using acupuncture since 1981. But about ten years ago I started using more acupressure, particularly since I could teach a lot of people to continue treating themselves.

Last month we saw evidence from a study using magnetoencephelography (MEG) scanning equipment that acupuncture reduces the activity of regions of the limbic system of the brain. MEG is a relatively new technology that measures the very faint magnetic fields that emanate from the head because of brain activity, instead of measuring electrical activity itself, which is a fairly blunt instrument. This reduced activity only occurred with deep needling, and when the patient experienced what is known as de qi. In Chinese medicine it is normally considered that the needle has not been correctly positioned until the patient and the practitioner both get the sensation of de qi. By contrast, superficial needling just caused activation of sensory areas of the cortex. Many doctors trained in needling techniques ignore the de qi experience, which is, I think, a mistake. When you are able to elicit it, the efficacy of acupuncture increases enormously.

Keep in mind what I have said before: just because acupuncture is associated with neurological changes, does not mean that they are responsible for the effects of acupuncture.

In this week’s British Medical Journal is an article from Taiwan, showing the effectiveness of acupressure in 129 patients with chronic low back pain. Like every study ever done, it is possible to pick some holes in this one, but overall it appears to be sound.

Now I am interested to see a press release about a form of needle-less therapy. I have written before about Thought Field Therapy (TFT), and the subject of the press release is a development of it called Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT. While TFT uses tapping at specific points, together with humming, counting and eye movements, EFT is much simpler. It combines gentle fingertip tapping on key acupuncture points with focused thought. It is claimed to effectively reduce – and often permanently eliminating – chronic pain. According to its practitioners, EFT is more than 80-percent effective in treating headaches, back pain, cancer pain, arthritis, and pain from other conditions.

There is the rub: I could find no published research when I did a Medline search. That being said, I have reported elsewhere that I went to California to debunk TFT and became a convert after being treated by its inventor, Roger Callahan. There is a small amount of research on TFT that appears to confirm its effectiveness in some conditions, and I have certainly found it to be very helpful for many people.

Whether the claims of EFT will be born out remains to be seen. I have seen the techniques work, and I have to give credit where it is due. In exchange for your email address Gary Craig, who developed EFT, allows you to download a EFT manual from his website. You may also purchase DVDs from his site to learn more about this treatment modality. As always, I do not suggest using EFT or any other method in place of tried and tested treatments, but it may be a good adjunctive treatment for mild conditions.

In future message and in my newsletter I shall share some of the precise techniques that I have found useful, as well as ones that did not work out for me.

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About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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