What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture for pain relief is an alternative to over-the-counter medicines and addictive opioids. Chronic pain can make life difficult, so it’s important to find a solution that works for you. This centuries-old practice may help you manage your pain and improve your quality of life.
Acupuncture is an alternative to modern medications. It is a part of Traditional Chinese medicine that has been practiced for thousands of years. Practitioners use small, thin needles that pierce the skin at specific acupuncture points. There are more than 2,000 acupuncture points connected by pathways called meridians. Energy, called Qi (pronounced like chee), flows through these meridians and promotes good overall health.
When the energy flow is disrupted, it can cause disease or a decline in health. Practitioners believe that applying pressure to the right acupuncture points can help get the energy flowing correctly again, which can then correct the health problem. These points are stimulated once the needles are inserted and the practitioner activates them through specific, gentle movements with their hands. Electrical stimulation can also be applied.
Acupuncture for pain management
While practitioners in Asia have used acupuncture as a pain killer for centuries, modern studies in the West also show that this practice is valid when it comes to managing chronic pain. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center performed a study over six years that involved almost 18,000 people to see if acupuncture had a pain-relieving effect. The results of the study proved that acupuncture is a safe and effective way to treat many kinds of pain.
While people feel pain in different parts of the body, acupuncture is shown to be safe and effective for treating these kinds of pains:
Traditional Chinese medicine believes that acupuncture works by restoring the body’s proper flow of energy. Modern Western medicine believes that acupuncture for pain management works by stimulating your nervous system. Research published in the Journal Anesthesia and Analgesia reports that when the needles are placed at the correct acupuncture points, signals are sent to the brain to let out endorphins. These are the hormones that make us feel good and can lower our pain perception.
What to expect
Many people opt for treating pain with acupuncture over medication since it is safe and low-risk. Certain pain medications can become addictive over time. With acupuncture, there aren’t really any risks involved as long as you go to a qualified and certified practitioner. Today, acupuncturists use single-use needles that are disposed of after use.
Each acupuncturist has their own techniques and approach. When it comes to treating pain with acupuncture, your practitioner will ask you some questions to decide on the best approach. To get started, they will ask you about your pain and the areas of your body that hurt. They will also ask you about any other symptoms you have and your lifestyle and behaviors. Traditional Chinese medicine is about overall health and well-being. Things like stress and an unbalanced lifestyle could be contributing to your pain.
Your first acupuncture treatment may last up to an hour. While many people feel pain relief during the first treatment, not everybody does. Because of this, acupuncture for pain relief usually runs for six to ten sessions depending on the severity of your pain. The following sessions will most likely be about a half-hour in length.
Benefits and results
Many different studies have proven that acupuncture is an effective way to manage pain. According to the National Institute of Health, acupuncture is actually the best option for people trying to manage chronic pain since there are little to no side effects. This is especially true for people with neck pain, back pain, and certain kinds of severe arthritis.
While acupuncture as a pain killer is proven to be quite effective, this treatment has several other benefits. Research suggests that acupuncture may also:
- Improve and promote better sleep.
- Reduce stress levels.
- Increase energy levels.
- Promote better mental clarity.
- Increase your pain tolerance.
- Reduce pain perception.
Keep in mind that even though acupuncture has proven to be effective, so have simulation techniques. These techniques appear to work for pain just as well as real acupuncture does. Some research suggests that acupuncture works best for people who believe that it works, like a placebo effect.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Allina Health: "Easing your pain with acupuncture."
Beaumont: "Benefits of Acupuncture for Pain Management."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Acupuncture."
Mayo Clinic: "Acupuncture."
Samaritan Health Services: “Struggling with Chronic Pain? Acupuncture May Help."
University of Minnesota: “Acupuncture for Pain Relief."