Acupuncture-Induced Analgesia: The Role of Microglial Inhibition

Cell Transplant. 2016;25(4):621-8. doi: 10.3727/096368916X690872. Epub 2016 Feb 4.


The last three decades have documented preclinical and clinical data supporting the use of acupuncture in relieving symptoms of many diseases, including allergies, infections, and neurological disorders. The advent of electroacupuncture has not only modernized the practice of acupuncture, but also has improved its efficacy, especially for producing analgesic-like effects. Although the mechanism of action of acupuncture-induced analgesia remains largely unknown, several lines of investigation have implicated modulation of pain processes via brain opioid signaling and neuroimmunoregulatory pathways. Here, we review key findings demonstrating the efficacy and underlying mechanisms of acupuncture-induced analgesia. In particular, we discuss potent analgesic effects of acupuncture via neural pain processes through inhibition of microglial activation. The safe and effective use of acupuncture stands as a nonpharmacological alternative for induction of analgesia, which has direct clinical applications, especially for pain-related diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Analgesia*
  • Humans
  • Microglia / immunology*
  • Neuroimmunomodulation*
  • Pain / immunology*
  • Pain Management*