PAIN

The latest BBC survey suggest that “a quarter of people in the UK are living with chronic pain”, “it affects between 20-50% of the UK – and the prevalence may be even higher in older age groups” and “a quarter of those who live with chronic pain are currently taking opioids”.

As of April 2021 the UK National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have recommended Acupuncture for management of pain. Why not try? Acupuncturists use subtle diagnostic techniques that have been developed and refined for thousands of years. We treat pain as well as underlying causes of it.

In this post I want to share some existing research and evidence on how current research thinks about effectiveness of acupuncture on muscular skeletal, chronic, gynaecological or digestive pain. You can see full list of evidence based research on effictiveness of acupuncture on BAcC website.

Acupuncture can help back pain by: 

  • providing pain relief – by stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, acupuncture leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz 1987; Zhao 2008).
  • reducing inflammation – by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kim 2008, Kavoussi 2007; Zijlstra 2003).
  • improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility – by increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling and bruising.
  • reducing the use of medication for back complaints (Thomas 2006).
  • providing a more cost-effective treatment over a longer period of time (Radcliffe 2006; Witt 2006).
  • improving the outcome when added to conventional treatments such as rehabilitation exercises (Ammendolia 2008; Yuan 2008).

Acupuncture may help relieve chronic pain by:stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors (e.g. neuropeptide Y, serotonin), and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz 1987, Han 2004, Zhao 2008, Zhou 2008, Lee 2009, Cheng 2009);

  • stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors (e.g. neuropeptide Y, serotonin), and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz 1987, Han 2004, Zhao 2008, Zhou 2008, Lee 2009, Cheng 2009);
  • increasing the release of adenosine, which has antinociceptive properties (Goldman 2010);
  • modulating the limbic-paralimbic-neocortical network (Hui 2009);
  • reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kavoussi 2007, Zijlstra 2003);
  • improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility by increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling.

Acupuncture may help reduce symptoms of dysmenorrhoea or period pain by:

  • regulating neuroendocrine activities and the related receptor expression of the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovary axis (Liu 2009; Yang 2008)
  • increasing nitric oxide levels, which relaxes smooth muscle and hence may inhibit uterine contractions (Wang 2009)
  • increasing relaxation and reducing tension (Samuels 2008). Acupuncture can alter the brain’s mood chemistry, reducing serotonin levels  (Zhou 2008) and increasing endorphins (Han, 2004) and neuropeptide Y levels (Lee 2009), which can help to combat negative affective states
  • stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors, and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz, 1987; Zijlstra 2003; Cheng 2009);
  • reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors
  • (Zijlstra 2003; Kavoussi 2007)

Acupuncture may help to relieve tension-type headaches by:

  • increasing endorphins (Han 2004) and neuropeptide Y levels (Lee 2009), which can help to combat negative affective states;
  • stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors, and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz, 1987; Zhao 2008; Cheng 2009);
  • reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Zijlstra 2003; Kavoussi 2007);
  • increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling.

Acupuncture can help relieve back pain and sciatica by:

  • stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors, and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz 1987, Zhao 2008).
  • reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kavoussi 2007, Zijlstra 2003).
  • improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility by increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling.
  • causing a transient change in sciatic nerve blood flow, including circulation to the cauda equine and nerve root. This response is eliminated or attenuated by administration of atropine, indicating that it occurs mainly via cholinergic nerves (Inoue 2008).
  • influencing the neurotrophic factor signalling system, which is important in neuropathic pain (Dong 2006).
  • increasing levels of serotonin and noradrenaline, which can help reduce pain and speed nerve repair (Wang 2005).
  • improving the conductive parameters of the sciatic nerve (Zhang 2005).
  • promoting regeneration of the sciatic nerve (La 2005)

Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may benefit IBS symptoms by:

  • Providing pain relief (Pomeranz 1987).
  • Regulating the motility of the digestive tract (Yin 2010, Chen 2008).
  • Raising the sensory threshold of the gut. Various possible mechanisms have been identified, involving spinal nerves and NMDA receptors and a range of neurotransmitters (Xu 2009, Ma 2009, Tian 2008, Tian 2006, Xing 2004). A lowered threshold to bowel pain and distention are hallmarks of IBS.
  • Increasing parasympathetic tone (Schneider 2007b). Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, which can stimulate colon spasms, resulting in abdominal discomfort. In people with IBS, the colon can be oversensitive to the smallest amount of conflict or stress. Acupuncture activates the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates the relaxation or ‘rest and digest’ response.
  • Reducing anxiety and depression (Samuels 2008). The distress provoked by IBS symptoms can lead to a vicious cycle of anxiety-pain-anxiety, while the embarrassing nature of the condition can lead to feelings of depression. Acupuncture can alter the brain’s mood chemistry, increases production of serotonin and endorphins (Han 2004), helping to combat these negative affective states.

No one should live in a pain.

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