Acupuncture Continuing Education

Medical Breakthrough - Pain Reduced By Acupuncture

A breakthrough in medical science finds a special bodily chemical responsible for pain reduction that is activated by acupuncture. The state-of-the-art research from Germany by Dr. Ying Wang and her colleagues is a major discovery on how acupuncture stops pain. The anti-pain chemical is a chemokine called CXCL10. [1]  Acupuncture stimulates its expression which, in turn, reduces pain and inflammation by activating endogenous opioids peptide and receptors in the body. [1], [2] Dr. Ying Wang and her colleagues are from prestigious medical institutes in Europe including (University Hospital of Würzburg) as well as one of the largest university hospitals in Europe (Charité). They discovered this pain relief mediator in a controlled laboratory experiment. More recently, Dr. Ying Wang is now a medical researcher at the University of Minnesota, School of Medicine. 


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The implications of this research are far reaching. It maps an exact pathway by which electroacupuncture powerfully reduces pain and inflammation. Simultaneously, this finding points to an important bodily chemical for the activation of pain relief. CXCL-10 is a chemokine. In general, chemokines attract white blood cells to sites of infection to assist in immune system responses. This special chemokine, when activated by electroacupuncture, triggers a powerful anti-inflammatory response. 

Electroacupuncture stimulated other important chemical responses also including the augmentation of interferon (IFN)-gamma and mRNA expression. The cascade of chemical responses to electroacupuncture caused the increase in opioid peptide containing macrophages. As a result, the researchers note that electroacupuncture “elicited long-term antinociception".  Controlled laboratory experiments confirm the results and it is now medical fact that electroacupuncture stimulates powerful anti-hyperalgesic and anti-inflammatory biological responses and significantly reduces pain. This acupuncture continuing education research maps the pathway of anti-inflammatory and analgesic responses of electroacupuncture.

The researchers undertook this investigation because prior studies demonstrated that, “Acupuncture has been shown to significantly reduce pain intensity in various pain syndromes” including osteoarthritis, low back pain and knee pain. [3], [4] The team notes that the body of research demonstrating the effectiveness of acupuncture for pain reduction is so great that it is “covered by public health insurances in some countries including Germany.” The investigative team sought to measure how the results were medically possible by the application of electroacupuncture.

Filiform acupuncture needles are made of metal and do not contain any surface chemical stimulants for the purposes of eliciting biological responses. Prior to this research, studies revealed that acupuncture “leads to a down-regulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor” and reduced sensitivity to pain by activating cannabinoid receptor 2. This recent discovery confirms that electroacupuncture causes important biological changes responsible for analgesia by activating CXCL10, mRNA, interferon and opioid peptide containing macrophages. [1]

This research lead by Dr. Wang and Dr. Heike Rittner eliminates the placebo effect as the active role in acupuncture analgesia and establishes acupuncture as an effective down-regulator of pain and inflammation ​responses. Prior to this research, it was known that acupuncture caused opioid peptide releases in the spinal cord, brain and peripheral nervous system. [5], [6] Dr. Wang el al.'s research extends “these findings by demonstrating that electroacupuncture stimulated the increased numbers of leukocytes (macrophages) containing the three opioid peptides END, ENK, and DYN and that all three opioid peptides mediated antinociception to thermal and mechanical stimuli….” The researchers note that the study provides supportive evidence that electroacupuncture exerts therapeutic anti-inflammatory responses.

The increase in recent high quality acupuncture continuing education research is significant. This research sweeps away critics of acupuncture. The skeptics are simply uninformed about modern scientific acupuncture findings. The research is peer-reviewed, published in established journals and encompasses both primary and secondary studies. Some meta-analyses involve the investigation of tens of thousands of patients and the evidence is clear, acupuncture works. 

1. Wang, Ying, Rebekka Gehringer, Shaaban A. Mousa, Dagmar Hackel, Alexander Brack, and Heike L. Rittner. “CXCL10 Controls Inflammatory Pain via Opioid Peptide-Containing Macrophages in Electroacupuncture.” PloS one 9, no. 4 (2014): e94696.

2. Wang Y, Hackel D, Peng F, Rittner HL (2013) Long-term antinociception by electroacupuncture is mediated via peripheral opioid receptors in free-moving rats with inflammatory hyperalgesia. Eur J Pain 17: 1447–57.

3. Manheimer E, White A, Berman B, Forys K, Ernst E (2005) Meta-analysis: Acupuncture for low back pain. Ann Intern Med 142: 651–663.

4. Vas J, Aranda JM, Modesto M, Benitez-Parejo N, Herrera A, et al. (2012) Acupuncture in patients with acute low back pain: A multicentre randomised controlled clinical trial. Pain 153: 1883–1889.

5. Zhang RX, Lao LX, Wang LB, Liu B, Wang XY, et al. (2004) Involvement of opioid receptors in electroacupuncture-produced anti-hyperalgesia in rats with peripheral inflammation. Brain Res 1020: 12–17.

6. Taguchi R, Taguchi T, Kitakoji H (2010) Involvement of peripheral opioid receptors in electroacupuncture analgesia for carrageenan-induced hyperalgesia. Brain Res 1355: 97–103.


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