Study Find Electro-Acupuncture May Slow And Possibly Rebuild Degenerative Disc Disease

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Study Find Electro-Acupuncture May Slow And Possibly Rebuild Degenerative Disc Disease

Published on 07-07-2014

"ChadD" is an acupuncturist and lives in Minneapolis and has authored 367 other posts.

Acupuncture and the entire range of Chinese Medicine tools (cupping, herbal medicine, tuina, etc.) are used for a wide variety of acute and chronic pain issues.  Low back pain, which this study looked at more closely, is a global problem that affects around 80% of the population at one point or another in their lifetime.  There are a host of studies and clinical evidence that shows acupuncture being extremely useful for low back pain and related conditions.

One of the first things I usually talk about with my patients that have disc pain is to discuss the relative "aliveness", so to speak, of the spine.  We tend to think of it as a strong relatively fixed structure from how we learn in gradeschool from skeletons.  In reality it is much more alive and has much more potential for healing that we may realize.  Getting people to think in terms of not just managing their pain but to see the potential for them to truly heal is a big part of Chinese Medicine and in my clinical experience many have great responses.

The study I'm writing about today is a bit technical as well as done on rabbits, but it illustrates the potential not just for management of pain but for healing of the spine (or at least tremendously slowing the degeneration).

Recently researchers from the Tongki Medical College of Huazhong University and the Wuhan Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine within the same university conducted a study looking at the affects of electro acupuncture on disc degeneration.

Their goal was to see if electroacupuncture (EA) could "protect degenerated disc."  They used 40 rabbits divided into 4 groups with one of these groups receiving EA.  Using a combination of MRI and Pfirrman's classifications they judged the changes from treatment.  The Pfirrman classifications are more widely used for research and come with grades from grade I to grade V which range from normal disc spacing to complete collapse.  The researchers also used protein markers which would show disc regeneration or degeneration.

What they found was the following:

  • EA reduced Pfirrmann's MRI grade scores
  • EA increased BMP-2 and TIMP-1 and decreased MMP-13
  • BMP-2 = bone morphogenetic protein 2 which plays an important role in the development of bone and cartilage.
  • TIMP-1 = tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases which is a natural inhibitor of the functions that lead to bone degeneration.
  • MMP-13 = metalloproteinase 13 when upregulated is an indicator of bone degradation, also some studies have shown this as part of the functions behind bone cancer when upgregulated.

The researchers concluded that "EA therapy has significant potential for treatment of degenerative disc disease".



This post has the following associations:

Issues/Symptoms: back pain, bone cancer, cancer

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