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Eur J Pain. 2012 Feb;16(2):170-81. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2011.07.002.

Electroacupuncture alleviates affective pain in an inflammatory pain rat model.

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  • 1Center for Integrative Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Maryland, 520 W. Lombard Street, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


Pain has both sensory-discriminative and emotional-affective dimensions. Previous studies demonstrate that electroacupuncture (EA) alleviates the sensory dimension but do not address the affective. An inflammatory pain rat model, produced by a complete Freund adjuvant (CFA) injection into the hind paw, was combined with a conditioned place avoidance (CPA) test to determine whether EA inhibits spontaneous pain-induced affective response and, if so, to study the possibility that rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) opioids underlie this effect. Male Sprague-Dawley rats (250-275 g, Harlan) were used. The rats showed place aversion (i.e. affective pain) by spending less time in a pain-paired compartment after conditioning than during a preconditioning test. Systemic non-analgesic morphine (0.5 and 1.0 mg/kg, i.p.) inhibited the affective reaction, suggesting that the affective dimension is underpinned by mechanisms different from those of the sensory dimension of pain. Morphine at 0.5 and at 1 mg/kg did not induce reward. Rats given EA treatment before pain-paired conditioning at GB 30 showed no aversion to the pain-paired compartment, indicating that EA inhibited the affective dimension. EA treatment did not produce reward or aversive effect. Intra-rACC administration of D-Phe-Cys-Tyr-D-Trp-Orn-Thr-Pen-Thr amide (CTOP), a selective mu opioid receptor antagonist, but not norbinaltorphimine (nor-BNI), a selective kappa opioid receptor antagonist, blocked EA inhibition of the affective dimension. These data demonstrate that EA activates opioid receptors in the rACC to inhibit pain-induced affective responses and that EA may be an effective therapy for both the sensory-discriminative and the affective dimensions of pain.

© 2011 European Federation of International Association for the Study of Pain Chapters.

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