How Electroacupuncture Inhibits Pain: On A Chemical Level

How Electroacupuncture Inhibits Pain

​The study “Mechanism of Acupuncture-Electroacupuncture on Persistent Pain” published in February 2015 shows that electroacupuncture activates the nervous system in a different way when in healthy conditions than in pain conditions. Electroacupuncture blocks pain by being able to activate several different bioactive chemicals though spinal, peripheral, and supraspinal mechanisms. These chemicals include opioids, which are responsible for desensitizing the peripheral nociceptors and for reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines both peripherally and in the spinal cord. Additional research also suggests that electroacupuncture combined with a low dose of conventional analgesics can provide just as effective, if not more so, than quite often-debilitating pharmaceuticals.

Because pain is such a major health problem causing not only social and economic consequences but puts athletes out of commission for generally long bouts of time. Conventional over-the-counter pain medication only works so well, and is not meant for long-term use, so another method of pain relief is needed to help those who are suffering. According to studies, around two million people in the United States turned to acupuncture, with pain relief being the number one cause in 2002 and increased to three million by 2007. Coinciding with these numbers, research has also continued to increase over time, not just on acupuncture, but on the benefits of electroacupuncture for pain relief.


In summary of this study, the research has shown how electroacupuncture significantly helped to alleviate various pains, whether it be inflammatory, neuropathic, cancer, or visceral pain in the corresponding animal models.


Electroacupuncture treatment has shown to activate the nervous system in a different way when one is healthy compared to when one is in pain. This is shown in two different studies. The first prove that the opioid receptors are involved differently in the electroacupuncture inhibition of pain in healthy animals versus those with persistent pain. This is also shown in patients with Bell’s Palsy compared to the responses shown by those of healthy volunteers.


Electroacupuncture treatment on inflammatory pain has been extensively studied and researched, showing that it blocks not just the sensory components of pain, but also the effective components by acting though spinal, supraspinal, and peripheral mechanisms. This is combined with the involvement of bio active molecules ranging from serotonin, norepinephrine, opioids, cytokines, and glutamate receptors and transporters.


Of all of those listed above, opioids play the most central role in how electroacupuncture can inhibit all kinds of pain. Because opioids can desensitize peripheral nociceptors and lower the levels of cytokines in peripheral sites, it helps to inhibit pain. Opioids also can activate the descending inhibitory system, or the main neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine, which helps to inhibit pain.


So, what does all this mean? This shows that on a chemical level, electroacupuncture is shown to alleviate and inhibit all types of pain, using the body’s own chemicals and biochemical reactions, reducing the need to turn to over-the-counter medication once more to feel relief from whatever injury or pain related issue you may be suffering from on a chronic basis. The more that electroacupuncture is studied, the more is found that there is another option out there for you besides simply continually taking pills that only temporarily fix the problem.

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