16 Jan

How Acupuncture helps relieve pain

How acupuncture helps relieve pain.  Research by two Universitites, working together to show HOW and why acupuncture relieves pain. From Healthcmi.com
Acupuncture is effective for pain relief. Researchers from the University of South Florida (Tampa) and the Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Fuzhou) document that acupuncture alleviates pain, in part, by regulation of microglial cells. These are non-neural cells that comprise part of the central nervous system structure. Scientists already knew that microglial cells act as macrophages at sites of damaged central nervous system tissue. The research team (Lin et al.) from the University of South Florida (Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences) along with researchers from the Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (College of Acupuncture) made the key findings.

The researchers cite evidence demonstrating that acupuncture inhibits “microglial and astrocytic proliferation coupled with improved functional recovery after SCI [spinal cord injury].” They add, “acupuncture exerts a remarkable analgesic effect on SCI by also inhibiting production of microglial cells through attenuation of p38MAPK and ERK activation.” The researchers note that their investigation summarizes “clinical evidence demonstrating that acupuncture is capable of producing analgesia in neuropathic pain by suppressing microglial activation.” Funding for the groundbreaking research was provided by the US Department of Defense, University of South Florida Neurosurgery and Brain Repair, and the James and Esther King Biomedical Research Foundation. 

The researchers note that scientists find both microglia and astrocytes involved in inflammation and pain. In addition, the researchers cite evidence demonstrating that acupuncture has an inhibitory effect on microglial activation. The research team provides background to this information. Microglia are the primary immune system cells in the central nervous system. They secrete proinflammatory and neurotoxic mediators when activated. The release of these mediators creates a positive feedback loop that leads to increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) induced microglial activation and subsequent inflammatory responses. Since acupuncture inhibits ROS, the researchers note that their findings “provide the possibility that acupuncture can be used effectively as a nonpharmacological intervention for spinal cord injury (SCI)-induced chronic neuropathic pain in patients.” They add that acupuncture has an important benefit to the brain. Electroacupuncture alleviates oxidative damage to the hippocampus by “preventing microglial activation.”
Lin et al. cited specific acupuncture points shown to elicit specific microglial responses. Electroacupuncture at GB20 (Huantiao) and GB34 (Yanglingquan) “significantly suppressed CFA-induced nociceptive behavioral hypersensitivity and spinal microglial activation.” Freund’s Complete Adjuvant (CFA) is comprised of inactive mycobacteria, often used for stimulating cell mediated immunity responses in research. Moreover, when electroacupuncture was combined with a microglial inhibitor drug, the pain relieving effects of electroacupuncture were enhanced for cases of allodynia and hyperalgesia. The research team adds several other examples of microglial attenuation by acupuncture, including the ability of manual acupuncture to downregulate MAC-1 (macrophage-1 antigen), an indicator of microglial activation.
Lin et al. discussed other mechanisms shown to alleviate pain by modern research. They note that acupuncture stimulates the release of neurotransmitters, including opioids, in the central nervous system (2,3,4). The researchers add that this causes “potent analgesia, regulation of visceral functions, and immune modulation.” Lin et al. add that electroacupuncture enhances natural killer (NK) cell activity and beta-endorphin production via the hypothalamus.
The research team notes that numerous MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) studies find electroacupuncture effective for the activation of the hypothalamus. In one study cited by the team, researchers find “evidence suggesting that chronic pain patients respond to acupuncture differently than HC [healthy controls], through a coordinated limbic network including the hypothalamus and amygdala (Napadow et al.).”
Napadow et al. used fMRI data to compare true acupuncture with sham acupuncture for patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. The acupuncture point LI4 (Hegu) was tested. Both short-term and long-term responses were measured. True acupuncture at the real acupuncture point stimulated significantly “greater activation in the hypothalamus and deactivation in the amygdala” for patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. The research team was comprised of Massachusetts General Hospital (Charlestown), Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts), and Logan College of Chiropractic (Chesterfield, Missouri) researchers.
Lin et al. note that numerous studies find acupuncture effective for the relief of pain; however, the mechanisms of action were unknown. For example, University of Manchester (UK) researchers (Abuaisha et al.) note, “acupuncture is a safe and effective therapy for the long-term management of painful diabetic neuropathy, although its mechanism of action remains speculative.” Lin et al. add that researchers at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute in the Lyndhurst Centre (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) also found acupuncture clinically effective but did not map the mechanisms of effective action. The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute researchers concluded, “This retrospective study suggests that the Lyndhurst Center Central Neuropathic Pain Acupuncture Protocol may be an effective treatment option for patients with SCI who are experiencing below-level central neuropathic pain.”
Lin et al. provided another important example of clinical results with a call for greater inquiry into the mechanisms of effective action. Researchers from the University of Maryland (Baltimore) conclude, “Electroacupuncture blocks pain by activating a variety of bioactive chemicals through peripheral, spinal, and supraspinal mechanisms. These include opioids, which desensitize peripheral nociceptors and reduce proinflammatory cytokines peripherally and in the spinal cord, and serotonin and norepinephrine, which decrease spinal N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor subunit GluN1 phosphorylation.” Given the results of their research, the University of Maryland team (Zhang et al.) adds, “Clarification of acupuncture/electroacupuncture mechanisms will open a variety of opportunities to combine acupuncture/electroacupuncture with medications to manage and control pain, which makes it all the more important to continue such research.” The University of Maryland study was published in the The Journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.
Lin et al. note that mechanisms of action have been explored in a variety of research. For example, Xiao et al. conclude that “P2X3 receptors in the lPAG [lateral midbrain periaqueductal gray] are involved in the supraspinal antinociception effect of EA [electroacupuncture] treatment.” Lin et al. note that the details of the research by Xiao et al. reveal that PAG (midbrain periaqueductal gray) is an important brain structure active in electroacupuncture pain regulation.
Lin et al. made significant findings. They note that acupuncture modulates homeostasis and alleviates pain. In addition, acupuncture activates areas of the central nervous system including the PAG and nucleus raphe magnus. In addition, acupuncture deactivates areas of the limbic system thereby regulating emotions correlated with pain.
Lin et al. provide insight into how acupuncture achieves its analgesic effects. The research demonstrates that acupuncture alleviates pain, in part, by inhibiting microglial activation. In addition, a microglial inhibitor drug was found to enhance the painkilling effects of acupuncture. Additional investigations into the effective mechanisms of acupuncture may help to improve clinical protocols resulting in improved analgesia for patients.


1. Lin, Lili, Nikola Skakavac, Xiaoyang Lin, Dong Lin, Mia C. Borlongan, Cesar V. Borlongan, and Chuanhai Cao. “Acupuncture-induced analgesia: the role of microglial inhibition.” Cell transplantation 25, no. 4 (2016): 621-628.
2. Han, J. S. Acupuncture neuropeptide release produced by electrical stimulation of different frequencies. Trends Neurosci. 26(1):17–22; 2003.
3. Mori, H.; Nishijo, K.; Kawamura, H.; Abo, T. Unique immunomodulation by electro-acupuncture in humans possibly via stimulation of the autonomic nervous system. Neurosci. Lett. 320(1–2):21–24; 2002.
4. Sato, A.; Schmidt, R. F. The modulation of visceral functions by somatic afferent activity. Jpn. J. Physiol. 37(1):1–17; 1987.
5. Napadow, V., N. Kettner, J. Liu, M. Li, K. K. Kwong, M. Vangel, N. Makris, J. Audette, and K. K. S. Hui. “Hypothalamus and amygdala response to acupuncture stimuli in carpal tunnel syndrome.” Pain 130, no. 3 (2007): 254-266.
6. Abuaisha, B. B., J. B. Costanzi, and A. J. M. Boulton. “Acupuncture for the treatment of chronic painful peripheral diabetic neuropathy: a long-term study.” Diabetes research and clinical practice 39, no. 2 (1998): 115-121.
7. Zhang, Ruixin, Lixing Lao, Ke Ren, and Brian M. Berman. “Mechanisms of acupuncture–electroacupuncture on persistent pain.” The Journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists 120, no. 2 (2014): 482-503.
8. Xiao, Zhi, Shan Ou, Wen-Juan He, Yan-Dong Zhao, Xiao-Hong Liu, and Huai-Zhen Ruan. “Role of midbrain periaqueductal gray P2X3 receptors in electroacupuncture-mediated endogenous pain modulatory systems.” Brain research 1330 (2010): 31-44.


Acupuncture kills pain

21 Mar

Foods that support you in Cancer recovery through and after treatment.

When you are going through Cancer treatments, you can use food to support you to feel as well as possible when you know how.

To help with chemothaerapy related nausea:  Indonesian ginger chews, fresh ginger tea, peeled, chopped and simmered for 10 mins. with a little honey added at the end, or Yummy Earth ginger candy warm the stomach, decrease nausea and will stimulate your appetite.
To get the most from your nutritional buck: chicken soup nourishes the center/stomach, and will provide you with building blocks to heal in an easily digestible form.  In Chinese Medicine, we are looking not only at the nutritional quality of the food, but the nature of the food, we want warming, and the digestability of the food.  That said,while in and recovering from cancer treatment, white rice is your friend. Wait a minute, everyone says I need to eat brown rice for the fiber?  Under different circumstances, yes.  When your digestion is weak, we want white rice which is easier to digest. Bone broth is also your friend, marrow bone soup.  To nourish your Qi/Life force/Vital energy and blood (from a Chinese Medicine diagnostic perspective.)
Surprise food to help you heal? Jello! Jellow nourishes your Jing/Essence. We are born with all the Jing/Essence we will ever have.  Women lose it when we menstruate when we give birth.  Men lose Jing/Essence when they ejaculate. Just as our body does not make amino acids, the building blocks of protein, our body does not make Jing/Essence.  We take it in through bone broth and jello.  You can use rehular jello, unflavored jello with juice, you can make a Kanten with agar agar.  The most important thing is that you find a way to get it in that you are willing to act on. Supplement wise that is Omega 3 fatty acids either as fish oil or flax seeds/flax seed oil.

If you are experiencing dryness in your nose or throat, steamed pears or room temperature pear juice and water.  This can be helpful during and pist radiation treatment.

Wishing you a complete healing.

09 Dec

Choose to be Grateful

Hear an episode from Amy’s Podcast, featured on WHMP Radio:

Choosing to be grateful can make you happier. In the segment “Healing from Outside the Box, Inside the Heart.” Northampton acupuncturist Amy Mager says you can change your brain to work to overcome difficulties like anxiety and depression. “Some people have a gene that increases positive outlook, others have to work at it.”

15 Nov

Start your morning with some Kidney warming

It’s getting colder, how can you take care of yourself at home to stay healthy and strong?Start your day with something warm: Oatmeal or quinoa with cinnamon to support your center.

Miso, chicken soup or bone broth – not just for when you aren’t feeling well, to support you to stay well.

You can use your hair dryer to help you stay warm and healthy even if you don’t use it on your hair. Huh? You can use your hair dryer instead of a moxa stick to warm your life gate fire, your low back and your four fingers below your belly button (as long as you are not pregnant you can warm your belly). The heat will feel good, warm you up and support your energetic kidneys. Also: the bottoms of your feet: sit on a stool or on a closed toilet and arch your foot. Hit the bottom of your foot with the heat of the hair dryer until it gets nice and warm – warming your feet and supporting your kidney energy.  
You can also warm the outside of your leg – a handbreadth below the outside of your knee, as well as the inside of your ankles.  Cotton is useless when wet.  Wearing cotton socks in winter, when we go from a cold outside to a warm inside and walk around, causes our feet to sweat.  When we sweat, then our feet get cold. Wearing wool socks keeps your feet warm, your ankles warm and will help you stay centered.  An easy way to stay warm and healthy in wintre.

Try this when you get out of the whower for three days and see if you don’t feel stronger, warmer and more centered.