Acupuncture in the Treatment of Pain - Hypothesis to Adaptive Effects A basic principle in conventional pain therapy is that the treatment should be tailored to the pathological mechanism of the disease. This is based on the knowledge of the effector mechanisms of the applied treatment modalities. Although for acupuncture the mode of action still remains elusive in many parts, evidence about its mechanisms in pain treatment is growing. A better understanding of the hypalgesic effects of acupuncture might lead to a more differentiated and mechanism guided application. The aim of this article is to evaluate the scientific data about the neurobiological mechanisms of acupuncture in the treatment of pain. Data are critically evaluated regarding their relevance for clinical practice. Possible mechanisms are differentiated in local and systemic effects and the question of point specificity is discussed. Additionally a comprehensive hypothesis is set up for the long-term effects of acupuncture in the treatment of chronic pain. In this context acupuncture is considered as a mode of repetitive, nociceptive stimulation, which induces adaptive processes on different physiological levels leading to an improved ability of the nociceptive system to cope with painful stimuli.

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