How Acupuncture Stops Pain

Acupuncture-Induced Analgesia: The Role of Microglial Inhibition

Lili Lin,*† Nikola Skakavac,‡ Xiaoyang Lin,‡ Dong Lin,* Mia C. Borlongan,† Cesar V. Borlongan,† and Chuanhai Cao‡

*College of Acupuncture, Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Minhou Shangjie, Fuzhou, Fujian, P. R. China

†Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair, University of South Florida, Morsani College of Medicine, Tampa, FL, USA

‡College of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of South Florida,

Morsani College of Medicine, Tampa, FL, USA

The last three decades have documented preclinical and clinical data supporting the use of acupuncture in relieving symptoms of many diseases, including allergies, infections, and neurological disorders. The advent of electroacupuncture has not only modernized the practice of acupuncture, but also has improved its efficacy, especially for producing analgesic-like effects. Although the mechanism of action of acupuncture-induced analgesia remains largely unknown, several lines of investigation have implicated modulation of pain processes via brain opioid signaling and neuroimmunoregulatory pathways. Here, we review key findings demonstrating the efficacy and underlying mechanisms of acupuncture-induced analgesia. In particular, we discuss potent analgesic effects of acupuncture via neural pain processes through inhibition of microglial activation. The safe and effective use of acupuncture stands as a nonpharmacological alternative for induction of analgesia, which has direct clinical applications, especially for pain-related diseases.

Key words: Alternative medicine; Analgesia; Inflammation; Pain; Drug-free

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