BEIJING, May 31 (Xinhuanet) -- A study conducted by neuroscientists in the U.S. finds that acupuncture can ease pain by triggering a natural painkilling chemical called adenosine, according to the Nature Neuroscience Monday.
The ancient Chinese art, which involves sticking needles into the body's "pressure points," has been underestimated and doubted for a long time, media reports quoted the journal as saying.
Critics say that what the patients benefit from the process is all in the mind. The care, attention and the belief of the treatment result in "placebo effect" for them.
But Maiken Nedergaard, the leading neuroscientist of the research group, said his research revealed a physical mechanism through which acupuncture relieved pain.
The research group performed acupuncture on mice with sore paws. They mimicked a standard acupuncture treatment.
During and just after this operation, levels of adenosine in the tissues surrounding the needle surged 24-fold. The mouse's discomfort -- measurable by the rodents' response time to touch and heat -- was reduced by two-thirds.
Increasing levels of adenosine without acupuncture also had a soothing effect, the journal Nature Neuroscience reports.