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Brain Res. 2007 Dec;1186:171-9. Epub 2007 Oct 22.

Electroacupuncture suppresses hyperalgesia and spinal Fos expression by activating the descending inhibitory system.

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Center For Integrative Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Maryland, 20 Penn Street, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


Although electroacupuncture (EA) is widely used to treat pain, its mechanisms have not been completely understood. The present study investigated the descending inhibitory system involvement in EA action. Inflammatory pain was induced by injecting complete Freund's adjuvant subcutaneously into one hind paw of rats with dorsolateral funiculus lesions and sham-operated rats. EA treatment, 10 Hz at 3 mA, was given twice for 20 min each, once immediately post- and again 2 h post-Freund's adjuvant at GB 30, at the junction of the lateral 1/3 and medial 2/3 of the distance between the greater trochanter and sacral hiatus. For sham EA control, acupuncture needles were inserted bilaterally into GB 30 without electrical or manual stimulation. Paw withdrawal latency to a noxious thermal stimulus was measured at baseline and 20 min after EA treatment. Compared to sham EA, EA significantly (P<0.05, n=9) increased withdrawal latency of the inflamed hind paws in the sham-operated rats but not in those with dorsolateral funiculus lesions, indicating that lesioning blocked EA-produced anti-hyperalgesia. EA, compared to sham EA, also significantly inhibited Fos expression in laminae I-II of the spinal cord in the sham-operated rats (58.4+/-6.5 vs. 35.2+/-5.4 per section) but not in those with dorsolateral funiculus lesions. Further, EA activated serotonin- and catecholamine-containing neurons in the nucleus raphe magnus and locus coeruleus that project to the spinal cord. The results demonstrate that EA inhibits transmission of noxious messages and hyperalgesia by activating supraspinal neurons that project to the spinal cord.

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