Pain relief with PAP injections may last 100 times longer than a traditional acupuncture treatment

Image: D Sharon Pruitt via Flickr

Last week I blogged about the newest research showing that acupuncture can improve skeletal muscle atrophy in mice. Well these are exciting times as researchers around the world are looking at the mechanisms of acupuncture (which unfortunately are still unknown) and applying them in a whole new way.

Traditionally acupuncture uses the concepts of qi and blood (which is basically oxygen and nutrients) in the channels (or vessels) and helping direct them to where they are needed most. If you are deficient in either qi or blood, then the acupuncturist will use the tonifying method and point selection. Likewise if there is a blood stasis (think back to the nightmare traffic jam) then the acupuncture method chosen would be of the moving variety, to help remove the blockage, or stagnation, and get the traffic going again.

Recent studies have looked at these concepts from outside the box. Researchers still don’t know how acupuncture works exactly but that hasn’t stopped them from applying them in new and wonderful ways.

Take this new finding from scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who have identified a new way to deliver long-lasting pain relief through acupuncture.

Injecting prostatic acid phosphatise (PAP) into the spine of rodents eased chronic pain for up to three days. Unfortunately the method of delivery, spinal injections, are invasive and must be performed in a clinical setting meaning they are typically reserved for patients with excruciating pain.

Mark J. Zylka, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology and the UNC Neuroscience Center, explains:

“When an acupuncture needle is inserted into an acupuncture point and stimulated, nucleotides are released. These nucleotides are then converted into adenosine. Adenosine has antinociceptive properties, meaning adenosine can decrease the body’s sensitivity to pain.”

Zylka and his team injected PAP in the soft tissue behind the knee (the acupuncture point, Weizhong) and found that pain relief lasted 100 times longer than a traditional acupuncture treatment. Also, by avoiding the spine the researchers could increase the dose of PAP. A single injection was also effective at reducing symptoms associated with inflammatory pain and neuropathic pain.

In the eyes of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) this is still masking the symptom and not treating the root of the illness (in this case, the cause of the severe pain). However possibilities like these mean that more research will be done into acupuncture and the mechanics involved, both molecularly and neurologically. This can only be a good thing.


Pain relief with PAP injections may last 100 times longer than a traditional acupuncture treatment.  ScienceDaily.  Retrieved April 24, 2012, from /releases/2012/04/120423103715.htm

You might also like:

Acupuncture being trialled in Australian emergency departments for acute pain relief

Are you feeling irritable and cranky? | Acupuncture isn’t just for back pain


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