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J Pain. 2009 Jul;10(7):732-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2008.12.012. Epub 2009 May 5.

Endogenous anandamide and cannabinoid receptor-2 contribute to electroacupuncture analgesia in rats.

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Department of Neurobiology, Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, Peoples Republic of China.


Acupuncture is widely used clinically to treat acute and chronic pain conditions, but the mechanisms underlying its effect are not fully understood. Although endocannabinoids are involved in modulation of nociception in animal models and in humans, their role in acupuncture analgesia has not been assessed. In this report, we determined the effect of electroacupuncture (EA) on the level of anandamide in the skin tissue and the role of cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors in the analgesic effect of EA in an animal model of inflammatory pain. Inflammatory pain was induced by local injection of complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) into the hind paw of rats. Thermal hyperalgesia was tested with a radiant heat stimulus, and mechanical allodynia was quantified with von Frey filaments. The anandamide concentration in the skin tissue was measured by using high-performance liquid chromatography. EA, applied to GB30 and GB34, at 2 and 100Hz significantly reduced thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia induced by CFA injection. Compared with the sham group, EA significantly increased the anandamide level in the inflamed skin tissue. Local pretreatment with a specific CB2 receptor antagonist, AM630, significantly attenuated the antinociceptive effect of EA. However, the effect of EA was not significantly altered by AM251, a selective CB1 receptor antagonist. These findings suggest that EA potentiates the local release of endogenous anandamide from inflamed tissues. Activation of peripheral CB2 receptors contributes to the analgesic effect of EA on inflammatory pain.


This study shows that electroacupuncture increases the anandamide level in inflammatory skin tissues, and CB2 receptors contribute to the analgesic effect of electroacupuncture in a rat model of inflammatory pain. This information improves our understanding of the mechanisms involved in the analgesic effect of acupuncture.

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