Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Neuroscience Center have published a new method to eliminate pain using acupuncture point location as a basis for the procedure. It all started when researchers measured that adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter with antinociceptive properties, is produced by acupuncture stimulation. The chief investigator who made the initial discovery at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York stated, “acupuncture releases a natural pain-relieving molecule into the body…. Adenosine is a key to reducing pain during acupuncture treatment.”

Nociceptors, commonly referred to as pain receptors, are blocked by adenosine. Acupuncture stimulates the natural production of adenosine within the body. Even more intriguing is that this research discovered a natural residual pool of an adenosine precursor (adenosine monophosphate, AMP) at the acupuncture point St36 (Zusanli) prior to acupuncture needling. Manual acupuncture stimulation at St36 increases adenosine levels. It is postulated that acupuncture stimulates the conversion of AMP reserves into adenosine thereby reducing pain.

Based on these findings, the researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill decided to inject prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP) into UB40 (Weizhong), an acupuncture point located at the back of the knee located in the popliteal fossa. PAP is an ectonucleotidase that converts AMP to adenosine. The results showed a powerful dose dependent antinociceptive response in mice. Antinociception was boosted by adding additional AMP and was blocked with adenosine antagonists. The researchers note that this approach “locally inhibits pain for an extended period of time” and “exploits a molecular mechanism that is common to acupuncture….” The researchers add that this approach to pain management would “bypass side-effects associated with opioid-based analgesics, and hence could provide a novel abuse-resistant way to treat pain.” The researchers also note “our study reveals that key mechanisms associated with Eastern and Western medicine can be merged and exploited to locally inhibit acute and chronic pain for an extended period of time.”

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