Caffeine Sabotages Acupuncture Pain Relief


Could your morning cup be sabotaging your acupuncture pain relief?

This just in from the “say it isn’t so,” department. In a recent mouse study, acupuncture’s pain-relieving effects were blocked by caffeine. Brazilian scientists looked at different amounts of caffeine and its effects on acupuncture treatment for pain in this early research. It did not matter if it was one dose or a series of doses, caffeine consumption mimicking the levels of Western countries effectively erased any pain relief from acupuncture.*

How can this be true? Caffeine binds to the adenosine receptor and blocks it from regulating pain sensations. Adenosine receptors are one of the many receptors associated with pain regulation. When blocked, the pain relieving effects of acupuncture are thwarted. One important thing to note, the study’s conclusions should be taken cautiously as this is an animal study, not a human study. More definitive research is needed to confirm your morning cup counteracts the acupuncture you may have scheduled later today.

This is still not good news if you live in the Pacific Northwest and are a chronic pain sufferer. We love our coffee, and we are frequent acupuncture users. For the curious, you can make an educated guess on how much caffeine you are consuming with this reference. If you are treating your chronic pain with acupuncture and drink more than 35mg of caffeine a day, consider reducing your caffeine intake for a few weeks to see if you notice any changes in your pain relief.

Source: More AOO, Cidral-Filho F, Mazzardo-Martins L, Martins D, Nascimento F, Li SM, Santos, A. Doses of Caffeine Relevant to Dietary Human Intake Can Inhibit the Acupuncture-Induced Analgesia. J Alt Complement Med. 2013; 19(7):680. doi:10.1089/acm.2013.1502.

* For the acupuncturists reading this, the researchers looked at both methods of acupuncture:  needling with and without electrical-stimulation. Caffeine blocked the painkilling effects in both acupuncture methods.

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