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Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Mediated by Acupuncture

April 14th, 2010 1 comment

A Korean study has demonstrated how Acupuncture can help patients with spinal cord injuries recover function.

In this article indexed by pubmed, two acupuncture points are shown to control the inflammation associated with traumatic spinal cord injury.  Inflammation is a good thing, but too much inflammation just bogs everything down.  In fact, that’s how steroids became wonder drugs – they mediate excessive inflammation.  Swelling then goes down, encouraging function.

spine Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Mediated by AcupunctureHere’s the abstract:

Acupuncture-mediated inhibition of inflammation facilitates significant functional recovery after spinal cord injury.

Choi DC, Lee JY, Moon YJ, Kim SW, Oh TH, Yune TY.

Age-Related and Brain Diseases Research Center, Biology, School of Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul 130-701, Korea; Neurodegeneration Control Research Center, Biology, School of Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul 130-701, Korea.

Here, we first demonstrated the neuroprotective effect of acupuncture after SCI. Acupuncture applied at two specific acupoints, Shuigou (GV26) and Yanglingquan (GB34) significantly alleviated apoptotic cell death of neurons and oligodendrocytes, thereby leading to improved functional recovery after SCI. Acupuncture also inhibited caspase-3 activation and reduced the size of lesion cavity and extent of loss of axons. We also found that the activation of both p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase and resident microglia after injury are significantly attenuated by acupuncture. In addition, acupuncture significantly reduced the expression or activation of pro-nerve growth factor, proinflammatory factors such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-1beta, interleukin-6, nitric oxide synthase, cycloxygenase-2, and matrix metalloprotease-9 after SCI. Thus, our results suggest that the neuroprotection by acupuncture may be partly mediated via inhibition of inflammation and microglial activation after SCI and acupuncture can be used as a potential therapeutic tool for treating acute spinal injury in human. Copyright © 2010. Published by Elsevier Inc.

In addition to the mediation of inflammation, it appears that acupuncture also promotes constructive mechanisms.  The study actually mentions two points, GV 26 Shuigou and GB 34 Yanglingquan.  Let’s examine those two.

Renzhong or Shuigou is a well known resuscitation point in chinese medicine.  Normally it is known as a point to press to revive consciousness.  In addition, a list of it’s functions includes “benefitting the spine” which is the obvious mechanism here.  However, GV 26 is located at the very end of the GV channel.  This would imply that it would be best for treating the spine as a whole in general but the lumbar spine in particular.  This is because one maxim in meridian-style acupuncture is that points on one end can affect the meridian’s other end. I wonder if there is a significant difference in using GV 26 for cervical/thoracic spine injury as opposed to lumbar spine injury?

Screen shot 2010 04 14 at 7.16.30 AM Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Mediated by Acupuncture

Pressing of GV 26 Renzhong from the movie Red Cliff Part 1

Gallbladder 34 is known as the influential point of the sinews and is indicated for neuromuscular problems in general.  In addition to strengthening the sinews and tendons, it also clears Damp Heat.  I believe that the terms “Heat” and “Fire” in Chinese medicine refer to the same thing westerners refer to as “inflammation”.  To be inflamed, if you think about it, means to be on fire, yes?  Dampness in Chinese can indicate heaviness – a consequence of inflammation, perhaps?

All in all I wish to know more details about this study: what was the method for stimulating the points? Was it light stimulation on the needle or heavy?  What were the animal models used in this study? etc etc

Again, more studies to look forward to.

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