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Anesth Analg. 2008 Feb;106(2):602-10. doi: 10.1213/01.ane.0000277493.42335.7b.

Acupuncture analgesia: I. The scientific basis.

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1
Department of Anesthesiology, Yale School of Medicine, 333 Cedar St., New Haven, CT 06510, USA. shu-ming.wang@yale.edu

Abstract

Acupuncture has been used in China and other Asian countries for the past 3000 yr. Recently, this technique has been gaining increased popularity among physicians and patients in the United States. Even though acupuncture-induced analgesia is being used in many pain management programs in the United States, the mechanism of action remains unclear. Studies suggest that acupuncture and related techniques trigger a sequence of events that include the release of neurotransmitters, endogenous opioid-like substances, and activation of c-fos within the central nervous system. Recent developments in central nervous system imaging techniques allow scientists to better evaluate the chain of events that occur after acupuncture-induced stimulation. In this review article we examine current biophysiological and imaging studies that explore the mechanisms of acupuncture analgesia.

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