J Korean Neurosurg Soc.  1984 Jun;13(2):293-300.

The Effects of Acupuncture in Chronic Pain

  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, Catholic Medical College, Seoul, Korea.


Pain is one of the most complex human experience and the commonest cause of stress and the most frequent symptom that makes people seek medical help. The mechanism of its production and perception are poor understood. Since the past, various procedures have been tried to control or relieve pain. It had been observed that acupuncture stimulation has been effective in the relief of painful conditions. However, up to the present there had been no definite proof that acupuncture treatment has cured any pathological condition. Work is at present proceeding to make this a practical possibility. Recently, in modern medical science, several experiments are in progress and in some cases, cure had been obtained but until these studies are completed and proved to be effective, it is impossible at the present stage to evaluate whether these occasional cures are statistically significant. So, we launched studies and observations at our pain clinic at St. Paul's Hospital employing the "Somatosensory evoked Potential",(SEP) responses for chronic pain patient to relieve pain with acupuncture. The median and sural nerve of patients with chronic pain were stimulated and recorded using the SEP. Recordings were made before and after the acupuncture therapy was initiated. We analyzed the recorded SEP responses to see if ther are any physiological effects of the acupuncture therapy in patients with chronic pain. Findings: The important changes of the SEP responses recorded during acupuncture therapy in patients with chronic pain were the suppression of the amplitude of the SEP waves and delayed latency of the responses, similar to those manifested by patients, who are under morphine therapy. Then, naloxone an antagonist to morphine was administered. The effects were the same, that is the SEP responses were reversed in both the patients under morphine therapy and those under acupuncture therapy. So, we postulated that, since the meridian system is closely connected to the posterior column of the spinal cord conducting system, which is concerned in the somatosensory conducting system, peripheral stimulation by acupuncture may bring about the so called "pain suppression of descending system", which is closely connected to the meridian system of acupuncture. Though it is quite early to draw positive and definite conclusions, the results are very encouraging. More cases and further observations are advocated.


Chronic pain; Acupunture; Pain pathway; SEP

MeSH Terms

Acupuncture Therapy
Chronic Pain*
Pain Clinics
Spinal Cord
Sural Nerve
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