A new study from the University of Pennsylvania demonstrates the effectiveness of acupuncture for pain management.

This is important news for a couple of reasons.  One, it demonstrates a 40% reduction in pain for patients, which is truly significant.  That would be enough for any drug to labeled a runaway success and potentially lead to blockbuster sales.  Second, it works regardless of whether a patient “believes” in acupuncture.

Many people are skeptical about the effectiveness of acupuncture and reach instead, for over-the-counter or prescription strength pain medications.

The challenge with the pills approach is in metabolic trade-offs.  One, there is the basic metabolic impact to the liver.  Recall, the liver is where drug biotransformation takes place.  This is why too much ibuprofen for example, could be damaging to liver health.   Two, potentially compromising energy supplies for athletic performance.  The liver is key to supplying the athlete’s energy fuel system, as the reservoir of glucose (in the form of glycogen) and blood (it expands to store blood in some cases).

So think about acupuncture as a hedge against pushing too hard on your liver. The goal with patients, especially athletes, is to use acupuncture for stress and performance recovery and pain relief.   So it is encouraging to see studies such as this one from Penn providing evidence toward this approach.