Acupuncture has become well known in the West for treating pain, and for good reason – it often works! More often than not, when I get a call from a prospective patient, it is because they are in PAIN and they need relief NOW. Being in pain, whether acute or chronic, can drastically affect a person’s quality of life. Thankfully, acupuncture can help.

How does gently placing very fine needles in specific parts of the body work to reduce pain?

There are several modalities by which acupuncture works:

  • Acupuncture reduces inflammation via stimulating and/or regulating the immune system. When the body becomes injured, it creates an inflammatory response, which stimulates the immune system to repair the injured site. We’ve all experienced this with a situation like a cut or bruise – first comes the inflammation and pain, then the healing process. Sometimes the inflammatory “switch” in one’s body gets stuck in the “on” position, making it difficult to effectively manage pain. Acupuncture stimulates the immune system, essentially “reminding” the body where it needs to spend a little more time repairing and mending tissue, and thus, reducing inflammation and pain.
  • Acupuncture promotes a parasympathetic response from the nervous system. Most of us have heard of the “fight or flight & rest/digest” modes, referring to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Pain, stress, and fear an all stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, or “fight mode.” The sympathetic mode is necessary over short periods of time (like when you need to run from a bear). However, over long periods of time, pain can cause someone to be in a sustained sympathetic state, which can lead to a wide variety of health problems, and prevent the body from fully being able to heal itself. Acupuncture stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest and digest” mode, which allows us to relax, breathe deeply, and heal.
  • Acupuncture promotes circulation.  Problems with circulation can be a contributing factor for chronic pain including arthritis, chronic low back pain, and cold and stiff fingers and toes. Acupuncture can stimulate blood vessel dilatation and increased blood flow and can be can be especially effective in the periphery of the body.
  • Acupuncture releases endorphins. Ahhhh, the feel-good hormone. Endorphins are a natural hormone produced by the body and can help promote feelings of happiness and reduce pain. In fact, endorphins are one of the ways that the body manages pain naturally. Stimulation of acupuncture points causes the release of this natural pain relieving substance. When natural endorphins are released, they circulate throughout the body assisting in pain relief and accelerating the body’s natural healing process. Unlike pharmaceutical medications, which often can become addictive, naturally released endorphins are not addictive, but instead are the body’s innate way of treating chronic pain.

Acupuncture can be used to treat many kinds of pain including:

  • Back and neck pain
  • Knee pin
  • Hip pain
  • Arthritis and joint pain
  • Nerve pain
  • Headaches
  • Menstrual pain
  • Sciatica
  • Much more
A thermogram demonstrating how acupuncture reduced inflammation in knee injury over course of 1 treatment. Courtesy of Psy-Tek Labs

Thermography (a type of imaging which detects heat and inflammation) demonstrates how an acupuncture treatment may affect pain. Here, acupuncture was performed for a knee injury. These images were taken over the course of about 30 minutes. You can see how the inflammation has reduced in the knee. Courtesy of Psy-Tek labs.

I hope this provided some clarity for you on how acupuncture can help you manage your pain safely and effectively. For more questions, please reach out through the website, or call 760-452-0987. Now accepting insurance! Call to confirm benefits.

In good health,

Merritt Jones, LAc, MS, CNC