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Open Access Research article

Standardizing therapeutic parameters of acupuncture for pain suppression in rats: preliminary study

Sujung Yeo12, Hyungtaeck Lim1, Ilwhan Choe1, Sung-Hoon Kim1 and Sabina Lim12*

  • * Corresponding author: Sabina Lim

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Acupuncture and Meridian, Graduate School of Applied Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Republic of Korea

2 Research Group of Pain and Neuroscience, WHO Collaborating Centre, East–west Medical Research Institute, Kyung Hee University, Seoul 130-701, Republic of Korea

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:25  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-25

Published: 15 January 2014



Despite acupuncture’s wide and successful use, it is still considered as lacking scientifically rigorous evidence, especially with respect to its effectiveness. To address this problem, it is necessary to re-examine the practice of acupuncture using scientific methodology. The standardization of acupuncture practices may offer a solution. As a preliminary step towards the standardization of acupuncture stimulation in animal experiments, this study attempted to clarify the various therapeutic parameters that contribute to acupuncture’s efficacy.


This study identified specific acupoints, temporal point of needling, rotation of the needle, duration of acupuncture, and diameter of the needle as the parameters, through formalin test. In this test, acupuncture was performed on either the ST36 or LR2 point immediately after pain induction and 5 minutes after pain induction.


The formalin test yielded no significant suppression of pain in the case of ST36 and LR2 acupuncture stimulation immediately following pain induction. When acupuncture was applied 5 minutes after pain induction, however, the ST36 stimulation resulted in a significant decrease in pain, while the LR2 stimulation produced no change. The duration of acupuncture, but not the diameter of the needle, was also significant. As for the rotation of the needle, there was no significant difference in the pain reduction achieved in the rotation and non-rotation groups.


We determined that specific acupoint, temporal point of needling, and duration of treatment are important factors in the inhibition of pain. These finding strongly suggest that in animal experiments, the application of a set of appropriate therapeutic parameters can significantly influence the outcome.

Acupuncture; Therapeutic parameters; Pain suppression; Electrical nerve stimulation method (TENS); Diffuse noxious inhibitory controls (DNIC)