Acupuncture for Pain Relief
Updated: Feb 3, 2019
Acupuncture can treat most any type of pain; from acute injuries like sprains, strains and sports injuries, to chronic issues like back ache, migraines and any other type of pain you can think of. It does this in a few ways. Firstly, by increasing local blood flow. The blood carries all kinds of cells that help the body heal. Often times in injuries there is swelling and a stagnation of blood flow in the affected area. When this happens, new cells cannot get to the injury to heal it properly. By reducing the stagnation of blood and opening up the proper flow, acupuncture can help chronic injuries finally heal or help acute injuries heal faster and better.
Secondly, acupuncture can reduce swelling and inflammation locally and throughout the body. Inflammation impedes the flow of blood, lymph and nerve impulses through an injured area and will also negatively affect the healing process. By reducing inflammation and swelling, we are able to let the body do its job better and quicker. Medications (like ibuprofen) and ice also help to bring down swelling, however both have serious side effects for long term healing that acupuncture does not have. Ice can bring down swelling but can also impede the flow of blood in and through the area; this leads to improper healing and turns an acute injury into a chronic one. NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, have the same problem but with a different mechanism. NSAIDs turn off the body’s inflammation response to an injury and make the body think that the injury has been fixed properly. This is often not the case and can also turn an acute problem into a chronic one, or even make a chronic issue worse over time. NSAIDs cover up pain, they do not fix it.
Not all pain is physical in nature though; some pain can come about because the nervous system is misfiring. This pain too, can be helped by acupuncture. Having worked with a few chiropractors, I like to explain it this way. Chiropractic and massage deal with the hardware of the body, they make sure all the signals are able to get to where they need to be. Putting the body back in alignment often times can help tremendously with the healing process. Acupuncture on the other hand can work more with the software of the body; it can help the nervous system reset itself. Often, the problem is not that the body cannot get the signal where it needs to go (like to shut off a pain response), but that the body sends the wrong signal, or the signal gets garbled and cannot be understood properly.
These are just a few of the ways that acupuncture can help the body heal properly and reduce pain. It is important to note though that this is rarely a quick fix, it can take time for the body to heal properly and will normally take several treatments for the effects to take hold. With time though, acupuncture is a great alternative to surgery or medications for pain relief. It is much easier on the body and can often have positive effects on other areas of your health.