—by Cate Stevenson, BA
Acupuncture has been used for a long, long time to treat all sorts of ailments, including everything from aches and pains to infertility. In the Western world, acupuncture is treated with a certain amount of skepticism. In truth, the procedure is actually endorsed by the World Health Organization for a couple dozen different conditions. But how can sticking needles in your skin be good for you?
Scientists have discovered that, when an acupuncture needle is inserted and rotated in an acupoint, the tissues surrounding the area get flooded by a chemical called “adenosine.” Adenosine provides relief from pain by preventing pain signals from reaching your brain.
At the University of Rochester Medical Center, researchers studied the mechanism through which acupuncture reduces pain in the body. In this animal trial, a research team administered half-hour acupuncture treatments to a group of mice with paw discomfort. They found that adenosine levels in tissue near the needle insertion points were 24 times greater after treatment. Those mice with normal adenosine function experienced a two-thirds drop in paw pain. This result was contrasted by mice that were genetically engineered to have no adenosine function and that subsequently gained no benefit from the treatment.
How could the research team be certain that adenosine was specifically responsible for the pain relief and improvement in the mice’s condition? Because the team also found that if they activated adenosine in the same tissue areas without applying acupuncture, the animals’ discomfort was equally reduced.
The researchers conducted one more experiment. They used a drug called “deoxycoformycin,” which is known to block adenosine removal from the body. According to the team, the drug almost tripled the amount of adenosine in the targeted muscles and more than tripled the amount of time that the mice experienced pain relief.
Prior to this study, adenosine was known for regulating sleep and for its role in inhibiting nerve signals and inflammation.
These results are quite groundbreaking and may lead to improvements in the way in which those suffering from chronic pain are treated. As far as your own health is concerned, don’t hesitate to give acupuncture a try if you are experience pain — it could be the relief you have been looking for.