Acupuncture is effective for pain relief. Researchers from the University of South Florida (Tampa) and the Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine document that acupuncture alleviates pain, in part, by regulation of microglial cells.
The researchers cite evidence demonstrating that acupuncture inhibits “microglial and astrocytic proliferation coupled with improved functional recovery after SCI [spinal cord injury].” The researchers note that their investigation summarizes “clinical evidence demonstrating that acupuncture is capable of producing analgesia in neuropathic pain by suppressing microglial activation.”
The researchers also noted that acupuncture has an inhibitory effect on microglial activation and cited specific acupuncture points shown to elicit specific microglial responses. They discussed other mechanisms shown to alleviate pain by modern research. They noted that acupuncture stimulates the release of neurotransmitters, including opioids, in the central nervous system.
A different research team used fMRI data to compare true acupuncture with sham acupuncture for patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. The acupuncture point LI4 (Hegu) was tested. Both short-term and long-term responses were measured. True acupuncture at the real acupuncture point stimulated significantly “greater activation in the hypothalamus and deactivation in the amygdala” for patients with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Both research teams made significant findings. They noted that acupuncture modulates homeostasis – the feeling of balance and wellness, and alleviates pain. In addition, acupuncture activates certain areas of the central nervous system and deactivates areas of the limbic system thereby regulating emotions correlated with pain.