AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 1, 2017

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Acupuncture Impacts Same Biologic Pathways Ramped up by Pain in Animals, Humans

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In animal models, acupuncture appears to impact the same biologic pathways ramped up by pain and stress, analogous to what drugs do in humans, a study recently published in the journal Endocrinology found. “The benefits of acupuncture are well known by those who use it, but such proof is anecdotal. This research, the culmination of a number of studies, demonstrates how acupuncture might work in the human body to reduce stress and pain, and, potentially, depression,” said the study’s lead researcher. The team found that by applying electro-acupuncture to a single but powerful acupuncture point — stomach meridian point 36 (St36) — it blunts activity in the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, the chronic-stress pathway (associated with chronic pain), the immune system, mood and emotions. Researchers also found that tuning HPA down via acupuncture reduced production of stress hormones, secreted by the pathway, that are involved in the chronic-stress response. The study also used a drug to block acupuncture’s manipulation of the HPA system, and found that production of stress hormones equalized in all treatment groups. “This confirmed that electro-acupuncture does affect the HPA system,” said a lead researcher. This research provides a potential framework for future clinical studies on the benefits of acupuncture, both before or during chronic stressful events. To read more, click here.

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