Research conducted on mice showed that levels of a natural painkiller known as adenosine, increases in tissues near to acupuncture sites. The same research also found that the mice resistant to the effects of adenosine were not effected by acupuncture.
Adenosine is thought to have many roles in the body, one of which is to regulate sleep and another is reducing inflammation. Experts have said these findings may explain why Acupuncture works.
The study involved performing 30 minute acupuncture sessions at a pressure point in the knee of the mice that had discomfort in one paw. The researchers found that the mice who had normal levels of adenosine experienced reduced soreness by two-thirds, as assessed by nerve sensitivity measurements.
It was also found that during and immediately after treatment the levels of adenosine in the tissues near the needles was 24 times higher than before treatment.
Researchers took the experiments one step further and discovered that using a drug which extends the effects of adenosine could see the benefits of acupuncture lasting up to three times as long.
A spokesman from the British Pain Society said: “We have known for a long time that acupuncture alters the response to pain by modulation of some of the pain pathways in the spinal cord, and also by the release of endorphins.