Acupuncture is an ancient healing technique in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) aimed at treating common health issues. Since then, this alternative approach has become incredibly popular in modern healthcare, providing numerous benefits to patients struggling with pain and discomfort.
In this blog, we will focus on acupuncture for pain relief, elaborating on its benefits, areas of application, and the various precautions to consider. Come with us as we explore this fascinating technique of helping millions of patients worldwide!
What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an integrative healing approach tailored to relieve pain through skin penetration. This delicate procedure involves the insertion of thin sterilized needles in certain body areas to tackle skin receptors and perpetuate natural body reactions.
The acupuncture treatment is closely related to the energy flow within the body, known as “qi.” Although not scientifically proven, traditional Chinese medical professionals believe that the disruption of energy flow causes sickness; thus, harmonizing energy flow is crucial to improving health.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the human body consists of around two thousand acupuncture points, each related to specific bodily functions and systems. The trained professional, otherwise known as an acupuncturist, places the needles on these points to promote balance in the body. These needles stimulate nerves, triggering the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
However, the needle placement depends on the patient’s problems. Major acupuncture points include LI4 (for aches and pain conditions), ST36 (immune system), SP6 (reproductive and digestive system), HT7 (heart and mental health, and sleep disorders), GV20 (central nervous system), KD3 (kidney function and reproductive health), PC6 (cardiovascular health), etc.
Acupuncture stands out for its diverse techniques. Besides traditional acupuncture with needles, this treatment is also performed with additional electrodes attached to needles, known as electroacupuncture. Other influential methods are acupressure and cupping therapy.
Benefits of Acupuncture for Pain Relief
Acupuncture is recognized as an effective alternative for treating various kinds of pain. Some acupuncture benefits include:
– Reduction in chronic pain, such as osteoarthritis, chronic lower back pain, and migraines.
– Anti-inflammatory effects, which can be advantageous for conditions involving inflammation and pain, such as arthritis.
– Improved blood circulation, thus promoting healing and reducing pain associated with poor blood flow.
– Muscle relaxation by reducing tension and alleviating pain associated with muscle spasms and stiffness.
– Enhanced well-being by stimulating the release of endorphins that can help reduce pain perception.
Though it is generally considered safe when performed by qualified practitioners, acupuncture has minimal side effects, typically fever, mild bruising, fatigue, and a low risk of infection.
Types of Pains that Acupuncture Can Relieve
The acupuncture benefits in relieving pain and promoting well-being are evident. Acupuncture can be used to navigate various psychological disorders and physical discomforts. Here is a list of when acupuncture for pain relief is mainly applied.
Acupuncture is often used as a holistic approach to reducing stress and general anxiety disorders. During sessions of acupuncture for anxiety, points such as HT7 (Shenmen) and PC6 (Neiguan) are commonly targeted to enhance energy flow and induce a feeling of calmness. You will also feel more relaxed due to an increased level of serotonin and dopamine – commonly known as the “happy hormones.”
Neuropathic pain, a result of nerve damage or dysfunction, can be challenging to manage. However, acupuncture for neuropathy is thought to regulate pain signals in the nervous system, offering relief from neuropathic pain. Specific acupuncture points, such as ST36 (Zusanli) and GB34 (Yanglingquan), can mitigate numbness in certain body parts, treat muscle weakness, and change blood pressure, all of which are crucial for improving nerve function.
Acupuncture is often used to address knee pain due to injuries or external factors such as dampness, cold, or heat. Acupuncture points around the knee, such as SP9 (Yinlingquan) and ST35 (Dubi), can supplement the balance of “qi,” reduce inflammation, and modulate blood flow around knee joints. Acupuncture for knee pain can also help improve joint function and support the surrounding musculature.
Shoulder pain can be properly managed with acupuncture. Inserting fine needles in specific points like LI4 (Hegu) and GB21 (Jianjing) is thought to reduce muscle tension, stimulate the release of endorphins, and improve blood flow. Acupuncture may also enhance the range of motion and decrease inflammation in the shoulder joint.
Lower back pain
Back pain is a common condition caused by muscle strain, disc issues, or poor posture. The critical targets for alleviating lower back pain in acupuncture are BL23 (Shenshu) and GB30 (Huantiao). Applying needles in these areas helps improve blood circulation, reduce inflammation, and relax tight muscles.
Tennis elbow is an injury of the elbow tissue commonly resulting from repetitive wrist and arm motions. As believed in TCM, tennis elbow is moreover an effect of “qi” stagnation; specific acupuncture points LI11 (Quchi) and LI10 (Shousanli) are stimulated to restore the flow of energy and blood in affected areas. Acupuncture for tennis elbow may also address underlying imbalances contributing to the development of this issue.
Combating discomfort caused by muscle tightness and knots is possible with acupuncture. Local and peripheral acupuncture points near muscle knots, regarded as “Ah Shi points,” are selected to target inflammation and reduce tension in an attempt to foster muscle relaxation. Acupuncture for muscle knots mitigates risks and underlying causes, thus contributing to preventing muscle knots.
As an alternative approach to drug therapy, acupuncture is highly effective in treating migraines, which are characterized by throbbing pain in some regions of the head. Acupuncture points such as GB20 (Fengchi) and LI4 (Hegu) may be stimulated to regulate blood flow and alleviate pain and tension, thus reducing the intensity and frequency of migraines.
Important Considerations and Precautions
Notwithstanding its legitimacy, patients considering acupuncture for pain relief should carefully consider the precautions and emphasize some factors to ensure a safe and effective procedure. Here is what you should keep in mind:
- Qualified professional: Learning about the acupuncturist before starting therapy is vital. Check their credentials to see if they are qualified and licensed.
- Pregnancy: Although acupuncture won’t affect pregnancy, patients should let the acupuncturist know about their pregnancy so that specific triggering points are avoided.
- Bleeding disorders: Acupuncture causes minor bleeding. So, if you’re dealing with bleeding disorders or using blood-thinning medication, make sure to inform your healthcare provider.
- Chronic medical conditions: Those dealing with various medical conditions, such as diabetes, should be aware that acupuncture may have an impact on blood sugar levels. This rule also applies to individuals experiencing epilepsy or cardiovascular issues.
- Expectations and goals: Clearly understand your expectations and treatment goals. Discuss these with the acupuncturist to ensure realistic expectations and a personalized treatment plan.
While acupuncture has its origins in traditional Chinese medicine, it is widely regarded as an alternative approach to pain management. This procedure is applied for treating anxiety, neuropathic pain, back and shoulder pain, muscle knots, and migraines. Regardless of some minimal adverse effects, acupuncture for pain relief is a safe procedure; however, patients interested in acupuncture must take all the necessary precautions to avoid potential risks.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
How many acupuncture treatments are needed for chronic pain?
While the frequency may vary, most patients experiencing chronic pain typically undergo six to twelve acupuncture treatment sessions to achieve the desired effect.
Does acupuncture have side effects?
Acupuncture has minimal side effects. It is usually characterized by minor bleeding, fatigue, soreness, and dizziness.
How effective is acupuncture for pain relief?
Acupuncture for pain relief effectively alleviates discomfort, provides blood and energy balance, and improves overall well-being.