Being in pain sucks. Let’s face it: nobody likes hurting for any longer than they have to. Unfortunately for some chronic pain is an ongoing fact of life, with limited treatment options. Fear not, painful people! Maybe there’s another way – acupuncture for pain management.
Chronic pain can be caused by many different things. Normal aging of the bones and joints can be compounded by injury or other factors. Nerve damage, inflammation and old injuries healing poorly can be other contributing factors.
Common treatment for pain includes various medicines. They include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen; corticosteroids, or opiates, among others. Each have their own particular applications and side effects, and some can be taken for longer periods of time.*
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) diagnoses pain as qi stasis. Qi (pronounced “chee”) is the energy that flows through your body along particular pathways, known as “channels” or “meridians”. When the qi flows smoothly, just like it’s supposed to, then it’s all smiles. When it gets stuck, it hurts.
Qi stasis can be caused by several things, most commonly physical trauma (when you get hit hard by something, it hurts, right?), but there can be some other causes, like scar tissue (there’s those injuries that haven’t healed properly).
Some TCM theories about pain refer to an invasion of the channels by pathogenic qi (right at the start of a cold or flu and you’re getting all head-achey? Yep, your qi is getting stuck by external pathogens overcoming your immune system).
Further TCM ideas of painful diseases are bi syndrome (that’s like all gout and arthritis type stuff) or blood stasis (this could include endometriosis and painful periods in women).
The aim of acupuncture for pain management is relatively simple: get the qi moving again, nice and smoothly. This may be accomplished by needling corresponding channels or acupuncture points that have particular properties that govern the free-flow of qi.
Acupuncture for pain management is relatively risk-free when applied by a qualified, registered acupuncturist. Next time you’re in pain, acupuncture may be able to help.
* Speak to your doctor if you think you need medication for pain. Read the labels on all medication and follow the directions there. Some medications have addictive qualities or risk of overdose, so don’t go getting all experimental with them, OK?
For some further reading, check out this review that found acupuncture effective for various types of musculoskeletal pain:
MacPherson H, Vickers A, Bland M, et al. Acupuncture for chronic pain and depression in primary care: a programme of research. Programme Grants Appl Res 2017;5(3).