Do you have an area of your body that is in pain? Have you got back pain, neck pain, headaches or even foot pain? Before reaching for the packets of pills why not try something natural like acupuncture. It has been around for thousands of years and has a huge number of studies confirming its efficacy. You can find it being used in private practices, hospitals and rehab centres worldwide. Not only does it relieve pain but it helps with emotional disorders, hormonal imbalances, injuries and stress related conditions.
How does it work?
Acupuncture is a healing modality and has been around for over 2000 years. It is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine. During a typical treatment the practitioner inserts thin needles into specific points throughout the body. Each of these points is associated with a specific vital organ such as your heart and liver. Insertion into these points are claimed to help balance out the flow of energy (http://www.medicinenet.com/acupuncture/article.htm) by activating the body’s meridian points and ease pain in those areas. However, scientifically speaking it is suggested that inserting these needles stimulates the production of adenosine which is an amino acid that speeds up healing and reduces pain. It also increases the pain threshold and triggers a number of biological responses that decrease the perception of pain and accelerate healing. Despite acupuncture using needles, it is usually pain free and comes with minimal side effects when compared to most drugs.
Acupuncture is commonly used as part of Chinese medicine as a treatment for muscle aches, neck pain, knee pain, arthritic pain, headaches and back pain. However it can also be used as an adjacent treatment for sport injuries, stroke rehab, pregnancy, infertility and carpal tunnel. A lot of people just use it as a means to improve their health and wellbeing.
How effective is it for pain relief?
There is a growing body of research that confirms acupuncture can successfully treat pain. One study had experts analyse 29 other studies conducted on a total of 18,000 participants. In these studies pain decreased as much as 50% in the patients that received acupuncture! Another study done in 2012 showed that acupuncture worked for shoulder pain, chronic headaches, osteoarthritis and other painful conditions. If used effectively and by a properly qualified practitioner this modality may reduce the need for medications in the long run. Which is a great thing in itself as many medications come with side effects such as nausea, vomiting, stomach ulcers and drowsiness. Acupuncture has none of these drawbacks and has been shown to be better than placebo.
Acupuncture also has other health benefits than just pain relief. By inserting needles into specific areas the hypothalamus and pituitary gland may be activated which causes changes in secretion of hormones and blood flow which in turn improves blood flow, immune function and relieves stress.
On your first visit to an acupuncturist you will be asked a series of questions about your pain as well as your general health and wellbeing. This is because acupuncture takes into account your whole body not just the area of concern. You will then be taken through the treatment and given advice for what to do at home. The number of treatments you require for pain relief are different for everyone and depend on your condition as well as your lifestyle.
Anne Chalmers is our resident acupuncturist and chinese medicine specialist.