Living with chronic and/or untreated pain leads to a poor quality of life and actually increases our perception of pain.
The sooner the pain cycle is interrupted, the sooner quality of life returns. Treating pain early typically results in faster pain relief than if left until the pain level is more uncomfortable and longer endured. It’s instructive that acupuncture for pain relief was one of the first treatments that insurance companies determined would be reimbursed, because of its effectiveness. Most health plans that reimburse for acupuncture typically reimburse for pain relief (although you must verify your individual plan benefits first).
Everything your body needs to heal (oxygen, natural pain-killers, anti-inflammatories, hormones) is contained in your blood. Acupuncture theory holds that stagnation or the lack of movement of Qi and Blood (which is essentially oxygen and blood circulation) is what gives rise to pain. Creating movement of these vital substances leads to pain relief. So acupuncture helps the body maintain effective communication with all the related structures and systems.
Some people will experience relief immediately, others will feel better hours after treatment or the next day. Some will even feel worse for a short time after treatment, and then much better. After nearly 20 years in practice, it’s hard to predict individual response, but those are the general types of response I’ve seen.
Question: How many treatments will I need? It all depends on what kind of pain you are experiencing and how long you’ve suffered with it. A common course of treatment is more frequent sessions in the beginning, then tapering off to less frequent sessions.
Question: How does acupuncture work to relieve pain?
Research has shown that the needles help release endorphins and norepinephrine (among other substances) that can be more powerful than morphine by several magnitudes.
Acupuncture relaxes your shortened muscles, which takes pressure off your joints and can relax muscle spasms.
Acupuncture impacts areas of your brain, which results in a reduction of your perception of pain. A recent study using functional MRI imaging showed that acupuncture had a dampening effect on not only the perception of pain, but an expectation of it as well. So it reduces both the intensity of and perception of chronic pain.
Acupuncture stimulates your body’s built-in healing mechanisms. A needle insertion is considered a micro-injury; at the point of insertion, the healing mechanisms of the body are mobilized to heal the new injury and in the process “clean up” some of the old injury as well.