Saturday, October 08, 2011

Acupuncture's Method of Action: Adenosine (?)

"A patient's report of pain is to be believed." This basic assessment is taught to all aspiring healthcare providers. Their report of pain relief, however, is often accepted only if there is a scientific explanation. Acupuncture is constantly being called quack medicine with all of it's "Qi" and "meridian" hocus-pocus, while patients who support it's efficacy cajoled for being so simple or desperate that they experience nothing more than a placebo effect.  Thanks to an ever-expanding body of research, we may start referring to "Qi" as both energy and chemical transmission.

Researchers from the Center for Translational Neuromedicine in Rochester now offer another plausible scientific explanation for the analgesic effect of acupuncture. A study on peripheral nervous system pain in animals found acupuncture increases formation of adenosine, a nucleoside that produces anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effect.  Although deeper insertion and stimulation produced a greater effect, a moderate increase in adenosine may be observed with application of pressure, heat, or vibration to this skin.  This may also explain why non-invasive "sham" acupuncture treatments can elicit a therapeutic effect, but also why these benefits do not endure over the course of follow-up. Previous studies focused on the central nervous system determined acupuncture also stimulates the release of endorphins in the brain. Bring on the science!

For the full article, visit Nature Neuroscience

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