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Am J Chin Med. 2000;28(2):291-9.

Analgesic effect of electric stimulation of peripheral nerves with different electric frequencies using the formalin test.

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School of Chinese Medicine and Institute of Chinese Medical Science, China Medical College, Taichung, Taiwan.


Although electroacupuncture (EA) has been widely used to treat pain, the optimal frequency of EA therapy remains unclear. The study sought to determine the effect of different EA frequencies in a Sprague-Dawley (SD) rat model of pain. Electric stimulation (ES) at frequencies of 2 Hz, 15 Hz or 100 Hz was applied to the ipsilateral or contralateral sciatic nerve of the injected hindpaw of SD rats. Formalin (50 microl, 5%) was subcutaneously injected into the plantar surface of the left hindpaw to induce a nociceptive response. Behavior, including licking and biting, was observed to have two distinct periods, an early phase during the first 5 mins and a late phase from 21-35 mins after injection. The total biting or licking count served as an Indicator of nociceptive response. Our results indicate that ES of the ipsilateral sciatic nerve at a frequency of 2 Hz or 15 Hz reduced the nociceptive responses in both the early and the late phases of the formalin test, whereas ES at 2 Hz had greater antinociceptive effect than ES at 15 Hz in the early phase. No similar analgesic effect in the early phase was observed for ES at 100 Hz. Both pretreatment with ES at 2 Hz and naloxone (3 mg/kg, s.c.) produced a greater antinociceptive response in the late phase than when ES at 2 Hz was delivered immediately after formalin administration. In addition, ES of the neck muscle or contralateral sciatic nerve at a frequency of 2 Hz also decreased licking and biting activity in both phases. The results of this study indicate that different analgesic mechanisms are involved in the response to ES at frequencies of 2 Hz, 15 Hz and 100 Hz, and that ES at 2 Hz has a greater analgesic effect on formalin-induced nociceptive response, especially when it is delivered prior to the onset of pain. The analgesic effect of ES may be mediated via a central origin in the supraspinal level. These findings suggest that 2 Hz may be a good frequency selection for clinical EA applications in analgesia, and that pretreatment with EA at 2 Hz may be an effective method to treat post-operative pain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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