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New Findings Suggest Acupuncture Stimulation Reduces Systemic Inflammation

Illustration of electroacupuncture device

New findings published in a recent issue of the journal Neuron suggest that acupuncture stimulation reduces systemic inflammation in intensity-, somatotopy-, and disease state-dependent manners. The research, supported by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), also suggests that electroacupuncture has an advantage over manual acupuncture in that the intensity of electroacupuncture is easier to control. NCCIH is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The researchers investigated organizational rules on how stimulation at specific body regions drives distinct autonomic nervous pathways, with a particular focus on prevention and treatment of systemic inflammation. The researchers used endotoxin-induced systemic inflammation in mice as a model. They found that electroacupuncture stimulation can activate distinct sympathetic pathways. For example, low-intensity electroacupuncture stimulation at hindlimb regions drove the vagal-adrenal axis, producing anti-inflammatory effects in non-splenic tissues. And high-intensity electroacupuncture stimulation at the abdomen drove the spinal-sympathetic axis and could suppress splenic inflammation.

These findings should help to improve acupuncture practice, the researchers noted. The revelation of somatotopic organization and intensity dependence in driving distinct autonomic pathways could form a road map for optimizing stimulation parameters to improve efficacy and safety in using acupuncture as a therapeutic treatment.

Reference

  • Ma Q, Liu S, Wand Z, et al. Somatotopic organization and intensity dependence in driving distinct NPY-expressing sympathetic pathways by electroacupuncture. Neuron. August 12, 2020. [Epub ahead of print]
Additional Resources

Acupuncture: In Depth

Publication Date: August 12, 2020