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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 187182, 12 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/187182
Review Article

Understanding Central Mechanisms of Acupuncture Analgesia Using Dynamic Quantitative Sensory Testing: A Review

1Stanford Systems Neuroscience & Pain Laboratory, Department of Anesthesiology, Division of Pain Medicine, School of Medicine, Stanford University, 1070 Arastradero Road, Suite 200, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA
2School of Nursing, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78701, USA

Received 24 November 2012; Revised 17 March 2013; Accepted 29 March 2013

Academic Editor: Di Zhang

Copyright © 2013 Jiang-Ti Kong 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.

Abstract

We discuss the emerging translational tools for the study of acupuncture analgesia with a focus on psychophysical methods. The gap between animal mechanistic studies and human clinical trials of acupuncture analgesia calls for effective translational tools that bridge neurophysiological data with meaningful clinical outcomes. Temporal summation (TS) and conditioned pain modulation (CPM) are two promising tools yet to be widely utilized. These psychophysical measures capture the state of the ascending facilitation and the descending inhibition of nociceptive transmission, respectively. We review the basic concepts and current methodologies underlying these measures in clinical pain research, and illustrate their application to research on acupuncture analgesia. Finally, we highlight the strengths and limitations of these research methods and make recommendations on future directions. The appropriate addition of TS and CPM to our current research armamentarium will facilitate our efforts to elucidate the central analgesic mechanisms of acupuncture in clinical populations.