It may be hard to believe that the shallow insertion of very thin, disposable, stainless steel needles at selected acupuncture points on the body would actually reduce or eliminate pain. How could this be? The good news is, not only does acupuncture relieve pain, it is healing modality; oftentimes healing injuries and eliminating pain that is associated with them.
According to Dr. Bruce Pomeranz, University of Toronto, “acupuncture stimulates peripheral nerves that send messages to the brain to release endorphins (morphine-like compounds); these endorphins block pain pathways in the brain.” Along with the release of endorphins, another substance called cortisol is simultaneously released. Cortisol is the body’s own natural anti-inflammatory drug. Controlling pain and reducing inflammation helps to promote healing; this seems to explain why acupuncture works so well for joint and structural disorders.
Inflammation is the means by which the body responds to invasion and injury. Acupuncture can have a very positive effect on patients suffering from the inflammatory conditions. Acupuncture works subtly to promote our bodies own ability to heal and reduce inflammation. Oftentimes, patients notice a significant decrease in pain and discomfort within 3-4 treatments.
Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine offers a whole body approach to treating pain. Much like a tree, TCM look at both the branches of the tree (the symptoms) and the root (underlying conditions that effect healing). Each person’s symptoms are different and unique. By addressing the symptoms of the pain itself as well as underlying conditions, TCM promotes whole body healing. As an example, if someone has low back pain, TCM also reviews the various body systems in order to fully understand what may impede maximum healing. If someone has poor digestive health, is not sleeping and no energy, the likelihood of the pain getting better is reduced. By educating patients, TCM looks to bring the whole body to a state of natural and healthy balance.
TCM also takes into consideration the elements of wind, cold, damp and heat. How do they effect the body? Is the pain worse in cold weather, hot weather, damp weather? Does the pain move? (a sign of wind). Does heat make the pain better? Ice? Each treatment plan is customized based upon the specifics uncovered during the evaluation.
Commonly asked acupuncture questions:
q. Does acupuncture hurt?
a. The short answer is no. At insertion, the patient may feel some heaviness, tingling, a slight pinch or sensation. After the needles are inserted, the patient often feels very relaxed and even falls asleep.
q. Are the needles sterile?
a. Yes, all the needles are disposable and are used only one time. After use, they are discarded in a biohazard container.
q. How deep do the needles go?
a. Needle insertion is very shallow. Insertion varies according to the nature
of the problem, the location on the body, and the patient’s size, age and
Acupuncture can assist with reducing pain and inflammation in association with:
- Musculoskeletal injuries
- Acute and Chronic neck and back pain including disc bulges, disc herniations, whiplash trauma, muscle strains and ligament sprains.
- Joint pain
- Sports Injuries from golf, tennis, racquetball and other sports.
- Repetitive use injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tight hip flexor muscles.
Julie Silver, MSW, Dipl. Ac. is a NCCAOM Board Certified Acupuncturist and owner of Acupuncture Healthcare Associates of Michigan, Inc., a full service holistic health clinic in West Bloomfield featuring acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine and naturopathic medicine.