Thinker in painRecent studies have shown that adenosine increases with acupuncture, suggesting that acupuncture works partially through adenosine A1 receptors.  This study suggests that the response is specific to acupoints and requires rotation of the needle.  This study looks at the response to Zusanli, one of the most commonly used points in acupuncture.  I’m glad to see correlation between animal studies and clinical studies.  More like this please!!

Traditional acupuncture triggers a local increase in adenosine in human subjects.
Takano T, Chen X, Luo F, Fujita T, Ren Z, Goldman N, Zhao Y, Markman JD, Nedergaard M.
J Pain. 2012 Dec;13(12):1215-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2012.09.012.Division of Glial Disease and Therapeutics, Center for Translational Neuromedicine, Department of Neurosurgery, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York. Electronic address:

Recent studies in mice, however, demonstrate that acupuncture triggers increases in interstitial adenosine, which reduces the severity of chronic pain through adenosine A1 receptors, suggesting that adenosine-mediated antinociception contributes to the clinical benefits of acupuncture. … The interstitial adenosine concentration increased significantly during acupuncture and remained elevated for 30 minutes after the acupuncture. Acupuncture-mediated adenosine release was not observed if acupuncture was not delivered in the Zusanli point or if the acupuncture needle was inserted, but not rotated. This study strengthens the role of adenosine in acupuncture-mediated antinociception by directly providing such evidence in humans.