Acupuncture is effective for pain relief. Researchers from the University of South Florida (Tampa) and the Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Fuzhou) document that acupuncture alleviates pain, in part, by regulation of microglial cells. These are non-neural cells that comprise part of the central nervous system structure. Scientists already knew that microglial cells act as macrophages at sites of damaged central nervous system tissue. The research team (Lin et al.) from the University of South Florida (Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences) along with researchers from the Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (College of Acupuncture) made the key findings.
The researchers cite evidence demonstrating that acupuncture inhibits “microglial and astrocytic proliferation coupled with improved functional recovery after SCI [spinal cord injury].” They add, “acupuncture exerts a remarkable analgesic effect on SCI by also inhibiting production of microglial cells through attenuation of p38MAPK and ERK activation.” The researchers note that their investigation summarizes “clinical evidence demonstrating that acupuncture is capable of producing analgesia in neuropathic pain by suppressing microglial activation.” Funding for the groundbreaking research was provided by the US Department of Defense, University of South Florida Neurosurgery and Brain Repair, and the James and Esther King Biomedical Research Foundation.