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Pain. 2009 Oct;145(3):332-40. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2009.06.035. Epub 2009 Jul 30.

Electroacupuncture suppresses capsaicin-induced secondary hyperalgesia through an endogenous spinal opioid mechanism.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77555-1069, USA.


Central sensitization, caused either by tissue inflammation or peripheral nerve injury, plays an important role in persistent pain. An animal model of capsaicin-induced pain has well-defined peripheral and central sensitization components, thus is useful for studying the analgesic effect on two separate components. The focus of this study is to examine the analgesic effects of electroacupuncture (EA) on capsaicin-induced secondary hyperalgesia, which represents central sensitization. Capsaicin (0.1%, 20 microl) was injected into the plantar side of the left hind paw, and foot withdrawal thresholds in response to von Frey stimuli (mechanical sensitivity) were determined for both primary and secondary hyperalgesia in rats. EA (2 Hz, 3 mA) was applied to various pairs of acupoints, GB30-GB34, BL40-BL60, GV2-GV6, LI3-LI6 and SI3-TE8, for 30 min under isoflurane anesthesia and then the effect of EA on mechanical sensitivity of paw was determined. EA applied to the ipsilateral SI3-TE8, but to none of the other acupoints, significantly reduced capsaicin-induced secondary hyperalgesia but not primary hyperalgesia. EA analgesic effect was inhibited by a systemic non-specific opioid receptor (OR) antagonist or an intrathecal mu- or delta-OR antagonist. EA analgesic effect was not affected by an intrathecal kappa-OR antagonist or systemic adrenergic receptor antagonist. This study demonstrates that EA produces a stimulation point-specific analgesic effect on capsaicin-induced secondary hyperalgesia (central sensitization), mediated by activating endogenous spinal mu- and delta-opioid receptors.

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