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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 785613, 5 pages
Research Article

Does Acupuncture Needling Induce Analgesic Effects Comparable to Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Controls?

1University Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Therapy, Inselspital Bern, 3010 Bern, Switzerland
2Faculty of Medical Sciences, Radboud University Nijmegen, 6500 HB Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
3Experimental Pain Research Laboratory, Centre for Sensory Motor Interaction, University of Aalborg, 9220 Aalborg, Denmark

Received 18 January 2011; Accepted 10 May 2011

Academic Editor: Fengxia Liang

Copyright © 2012 Juerg Schliessbach et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Diffuse noxious inhibitory control (DNIC) is described as one possible mechanism of acupuncture analgesia. This study investigated the analgesic effect of acupuncture without stimulation compared to nonpenetrating sham acupuncture (NPSA) and cold-pressor-induced DNIC. Forty-five subjects received each of the three interventions in a randomized order. The analgesic effect was measured using pressure algometry at the second toe before and after each of the interventions. Pressure pain detection threshold (PPDT) rose from 299 kPa (SD 112 kPa) to 364 kPa (SD 144), 353 kPa (SD 135), and 467 kPa (SD 168) after acupuncture, NPSA, and DNIC test, respectively. There was no statistically significant difference between acupuncture and NPSA at any time, but a significantly higher increase of PPDT in the DNIC test compared to acupuncture and NPSA. PPDT decreased after the DNIC test, whereas it remained stable after acupuncture and NPSA. Acupuncture needling at low pain stimulus intensity showed a small analgesic effect which did not significantly differ from placebo response and was significantly less than a DNIC-like effect of a painful noninvasive stimulus.