Acupuncture is most famous for its treatment of pain. Treatments can significantly reduce chronic and acute pain and decrease one’s need for pain medications and their unwanted side effects. Acupuncture treatments decrease inflammation, block pain receptors, release endorphins, boost the immune system, and regulate neurotransmitters to assist you in becoming pain free.
There have been many studies on acupuncture’s potential health benefits for a wide range of conditions. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) as well as the National Institute of Health (NIH) have funded extensive research to advance scientific understanding of acupuncture.
The following is a listing of commonly treated pain disorders with acupuncture:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Muscle spasm
- Herniated disc
- Spinal Stenosis
- Degenerative joint disease
- Carpal Tunnel
- Shoulder pain, frozen shoulder, thoracic outlet syndrome
- Nerve entrapment
- Plantar fascitis
- Tennis elbow
- Myofascial pain
- Autoimmune diseases
- Post surgery pain
- Migraines and headaches
- Menstrual cramps
- Post surgery pain
How Does Acupuncture work and How does it decrease pain?
Presently there are five prevailing theories which explain how acupuncture works from a scientific perspective:
Acupuncture improves blood flow throughout the body. It has been found to have the effect of either constricting or dilating the blood vessels. Bringing blood flow to any diseased area, or where there exists pain, is what heals that area, decreases inflammation and pain, and promotes regeneration.
Augmentation of Immunity Theory:
Acupuncture has been found to increase levels of white blood counts, gamma globulins, prostaglandins, and specific hormones. Post acupuncture blood tests have shown that overall anti-body levels are increased after acupuncture.
Gate Control Theory:
The perception of pain we feel comes from a part of the nervous system in the brain. With acupuncture, certain points are stimulated and these points overload the nerve gates in the brain with impulses. When the nerve gates become overwhelmed, they close. The first gates to close are the smallest ones, called “C” fibers, which carry pain signals. Thus, acupuncture has the ability to block the pain receptors in the brain which results in pain relief.
Acupuncture stimulates the release of certain endorphins (enkaphalins) which are our body’s natural pain killer. Much stronger than morphine, endorphins make you feel euphoric and relaxed. This theory explains why acupuncture decreases pain, reduces stress, helps people feel good and overcome addictions such as smoking, drugs, and overeating.
Acupuncture has an affect on neurotransmitters such as serotonin, noradrenaline, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are very important for the regulation of our moods, appetite, sleep, and overall psycho-emotional well being. Acupuncture can mimic the mechanism used by anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs. Since many chronic pain sufferers also from depression, acupuncture benefits the psycho-emotional and physical aspects associated chronic pain.
A typical treatment plan involves 5-20 treatments and depends on the severity of the condition and how long the patient has had the pain. Minimum bi-weekly treatments are recommended for the first 2 weeks, followed by less frequent treatments when the pain begins to subside. Acute pain typically resolves more quickly than chronic pain cases.
Needles may be place in the affected area of pain, as well as on other body parts. For example, for lower back pain, needles may be placed in the lower back, and also in the ankles, hands,and neck.