Acupuncture has been just scientifically proven to be able to render a pain-relieving effect by triggering a naturally occurring painkilling chemical, according to a new study published in Nature NeuroScience.
For a long time, the western medical circle ridiculed acupuncture, an ancient Chinese therapy indicated to relieve pain in patients with conditions such as arthritis, as something that works by giving some patients a placebo effect.
The current study led by Dr. Maiken Nedergaard and colleagues at the University of Rochester in New York found that acupuncture raises the level of a naturally occurring painkiller known as adenosine by more than 20 times.
The level of adenosine, a chemical that is also good for sleep and heart health, is boosted drastically when the skin suffers an injury, such as in the case of acupuncture, to inhibit nerve signals that trigger pain.
In the study, Dr. Nedergaard first demonstrated in animal models that adenosine is the painkiller induced by acupuncture and involved in the pain-relieving effect. Acupuncture did not work to relieve discomfort in mice that were unable to produce the compound.
Secondly, the researchers applied acupuncture to mice with sore paws - rotating tiny needles in points near their knees and found adenosine was boosted by 24 times and the discomfort was reduced by two-thirds.
The authors of the study also found that a drug given leukemia patients, called deoxycoformycin tripled the accumulation of adenosine when injected into mice; the duration of high levels of adenosine induced by acupuncture were also tripled.
The drug prevented the tissue from ridding itself of adenosine, thus maintaining the pain-relieving effect for a longer time.