The gagging reflex, a physiological reaction which safeguards the airway from foreign bodies, can be so severe in some people that dental treatment is not possible. It may start as soon as dental instruments approach their mouth, or even when they only think of dental treatment. In a study on ten subjects to determine the benefits of ear acupuncture on the gagging reflex, acupuncture needles were inserted into a specific anti-gagging point on each ear, manipulated briefly and left in place. Ear acupuncture completely controlled the gag reflex in eight cases (23 treatment episodes) and partially controlled the reflex in two cases (two treatment episodes). Dental treatment could be carried out in all cases. In comparison with other methods for management of the gagging reflex, ear acupuncture was found to be cheap, quick, and without side effects. (Br Dent J 2001; 190: 611-613).

The placebo effect, which has been part of the orthodoxy of medical research has been coming under intense scrutiny after Danish doctors concluded that it simply does not exist (see NEWS 66). A more recent study disagrees. Patients taking an inactive placebo drug for Parkinson’s disease showed a substantial increase in the release of dopamine, similar to that caused by known anti-Parkinson drugs (Science 2001;293:1164-1166).

Patients of 4 acupuncturists in York, England, filled in questionnaires and were interviewed to find out their experience of the outcome of their treatment. The main reasons for seeking acupuncture treatment were physical symptoms in 90% of cases, mental and emotional problems in 9%, and general health and well-being in 1%. Patients reported definite change 75% of the time with physical symptoms, 67% of the time with emotional and mental symptoms, and 40% of the patients experienced lifestyle changes, 27% had major life changes, and 54% reported inner life changes. Emotional changes, irrespective of the initial reason for attending, were experienced in 83% of the patients. The authors conclude that acupuncture results in a broad range of outcomes and that existing outcome measures are not adequate to assess wider benefits often observed with acupuncture. (Patient perspectives on outcomes after treatment with acupuncture., Gould, A.; MacPherson,H., J Altern Complement Med, 2001, Vol. 7(3) p. 261-268).

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