Scientists discover how acupuncture can help release a natural painkiller (which is great news for mums-to-be seeking a drug free alternative in labour!)
The effectiveness of acupuncture for pain relief has been backed up after scientists discovered it stimulates a natural painkiller in your body, which swells arteries, allowing more blood through.
In April, acupuncture was in the headlines after researchers claimed it didn’t ease pain in labour for most mums. But now a different group of scientists have made a discovery that suggests the opposite could be true – that acupuncture does indeed help ease pain.
“What we found is that adenosine, a natural painkiller, is released during acupuncture and that adenosine may be the primary way acupuncture reduces pain,” said Dr Maiken Nedergaard, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester, New York. After an injury, adenosine becomes active in the skin to inhibit nerve signals and relieve pain, reports the Telegraph.
The scientists treated mice that had one sore paw with acupuncture. Mice (with normal functional levels of adenosine) had their discomfort reduced by two-thirds. During and straight after the acupuncture, the amount of adenosine in the tissue near the needles was 24 times greater.
After the scientists found out about the role of adenosine, they investigated what happened when a drug that slows down the removal of adenosine from the body’s tissue was given. The result? The beneficial effects of acupuncture increased. “The most important observation is that acupuncture worked almost three times as long if we gave a drug that slow down the removal of adenosine,” said Dr Nedergaard. The drug is a cancer medication called deoxycoformycin.
Acupuncture has been suggested to increase the chances of conceiving with IVF (the jury's still out of this though!) and to boost fertility. It’s also been linked to helping treat depression in pregnancy.
Make sure you check out our acupuncture advice, from how it’s performed, to the safety and regulation of the treatment.
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