Freedom from Pain with Acupuncture

freedom from pain

Acupuncture: the natural alternative to painkillers

Some kind of pain is common to us all, and its the reason people take over-the-counter and prescription medicines.  But there are problems with such painkillers. So, is Acupuncture an effective form of alternative medicine? Can treatment for pain with Acupuncture help you avoid, reduce or even come off painkillers?

Yes, Acupuncture is generally excellent for pain, being just as effective or more effective than conventional drug treatment and without the addictive side effects and serious risks, according to analysis of the latest, high quality, research.  Besides being effective for the more common causes of pain (outlined below), a recent comparison of research has found that acupuncture is a safe, cost-effective and evidence-based treatment for cancer pain.

How does Acupuncture work for pain?

Acupuncture is thought to relieve pain by several different mechanisms.  The hypotheses include theories that Acupuncture:

  • increases concentrations of naturally occurring pain killing (opiate) substances in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
  • initiates a pain blocking mechanism between the site of pain and the brain (an action like trans-cutaneous electrical nerve stimulation – TENS – which is often used by physiotherapists to treat painful muscular skeletal conditions).
  • stimulates the vascular and immuno-modulatory systems, including those that treat local inflammation, releasing natural (or endogenous) corticosteroids. In other words, it engages body’s immune system to respond the way it does to something like a cut or other form of infection.
  • relaxes “stuck” strands of cell tissue within the tissue planes of muscles.
  • increases blood flow to the area surrounding the site of needle insertion.
  • causes disturbed pain-modulation pathways (between an area in the midbrain to the nucleus accumbens in the limbic system) to be ‘re-booted’.

(Source: The British Journal of Anaesthesia)

How much treatment will be needed?

  1. Acute pain. Pain of recent onset is easier to treat with Acupuncture, and it should reduce your perception of pain dramatically as soon as the needles go in. However, you usually need to be treated more than once per week in order to get on top of acute pain.  As little as 3-4 needles may be needed and it isn’t necessary to work on the area of your body which is in pain.
  2. Chronic pain. Where pain is longstanding and severe a longer course of treatment with Acupuncture is generally required, with additional traditional techniques such as Tuina massage, cupping and moxibustion.

Acupuncture for Pain Relief – the Pros and Cons

The benefits of Acupuncture for pain relief are:

  • its natural/drug free
  • there are no side effects
  • it isn’t addictive
  • several different complaints can often be resolved at the same time (e.g. treatment for headaches will often address neck and shoulder pain and tension, poor sleep and irritability)
  • it works well with physiotherapy
  • it can be used alongside drugs to improve results
  • if you have health insurance your Acupuncture treatments will normally be recognised and you will receive some reimbursement

The disadvantages of Acupuncture for pain relief are:

  • while individual treatment costs are comparable with other therapies and visits to GPs, these can mount up over a longer course of treatment
  • if you don’t like needles, this is not the treatment for you
  • it can be time consuming to attend for one or more treatments per week

What kinds of Pain respond to treatment with Acupuncture?

The main kinds of pain treated in my Clinic are outlined below.

Acupuncture for Low Back Pain

  • Back pain is the most common reason for people visiting their GP between the ages of 19 and 45.  There are several possible causes. A history of falls or accidents, postural issues and muscle weakness (often caused by sedentary occupations like office work or driving) are extremely common. And as people age, it becomes more common to experience pain from what doctors call “wear and tear” or degeneration of the bones and cartilage in the spine. Other physical/mechanical/structural causes of pain include pregnancy and excess weight.
  • Symptoms include: localised mild-moderate-severe pain, restricted mobility and range of movement, radiation of pain to groin and abdomen.
  • Conventional treatment includes: painkilling medications, referral for physiotherapy or pilates instruction, surgery.
  • Acupuncture can be effective for low back pain relief and enhanced functioning, according to research.

Acupuncture for Sciatica

  • Sciatica is defined as compression or inflammation of the nerve root emerging from the lumber or sacral segments of the spine.  It is often associated with low back pain.
  • Symptoms include: numbness, tingling, burning or loss of sensation and pain in the buttocks, thighs, lower legs and feet.
  • Conventional treatment includes: painkilling medications, muscle relaxants, steroids, referral for physiotherapy, surgery.
  • Acupuncture can be effective for relief of pain from sciatica, according to research.

Acupuncture for Neck and Shoulder Pain 

  • Neck and shoulder pain/tension is a common condition often caused by postural issues (e.g. sedentary occupations like office work or driving), and stress.  Other causes include traumas such as whiplash from car accidents, falls and sporting injuries.  With age, degeneration of the cervical vertebrae and cartilage also becomes a factor.
  • Symptoms include: pain, restricted movement, headaches, radiation of pain and numbness into the face/head, arm and hands.
  • Conventional treatment includes: painkilling medications, muscle relaxants, botox/nerve blocking injections, steroids, referral for physiotherapy, surgery.
  • Acupuncture can be effective for relief from neck pain and enhanced functioning, according to research.

 Acupuncture for Migraines and Headaches

  • Migraine is a very common condition, affecting both men and women although it is three times more common in women than in men, indicating a strong association with hormonal fluctuations. Headaches, while having some similar symptoms to migraines, are generally regarded as a less severe form of pain in the head.
  • Symptoms include: mild, moderate and severe to debilitating pain, visual disturbances, sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting.
  • Conventional treatment includes: pain killing medication for acute situations, preventative pain medications, nerve blockers and botox.
  • Acupuncture treatment for migraines and tension type headaches can be effective at relieving pain, according to research, and is recommended for migraine and tension type headache by the UK’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence.

Acupuncture for Sports Injuries (Trauma)

  • Sports injuries and trauma can give rises to every possible kind of pain from broken bones to muscle, tendon and ligament sprains, strains and tears, and tendonitis.
  • Symptoms include: pain, swelling, numbness, restricted movement and mobility, loss of function.
  • Conventional treatment includes: painkilling medications, muscle relaxants, botox/nerve blocking injections, steroids, referral for physiotherapy, surgery.
  • Acupuncture can be effective for relief of pain from sports injuries and other forms of trauma, and enhance functioning, according to research.

Acupuncture for Osteoarthritis

  • (Osteo)Arthritis is a disease that affects the joints, principally the fingers, knees and spine.  It is more common in women up until age 65, thereafter being equally common in men and women.
  • Symptoms include: pain, swelling, loss of range of movement and mobility.
  • Conventional treatments include: painkilling medications, lifestyle measures (weight loss) and adaptions, and joint replacement surgery.
  • Acupuncture can be effective for relief of pain from osteoarthritis and enhance functioning, according to research, with specific evidence to suggest it is one of the more effective physical treatments for knee osteoarthritis.

Acupuncture for Rheumatoid Arthritis  

  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an progressive, auto-immune disease causing inflammation and pain in the joints. It goes through periods of flare ups and remission.
  • Symptoms include: mild-moderate-severe-debilitating pain, swelling, joint deformation, loss of muscle, and loss function and range of motion.
  • Conventional treatments include: painkilling medications including corticosteroids for inflammation, disease modifying drugs to slow the progression, and biologic drugs to neutralise the immune system’s over-reaction.
  • Acupuncture can be effective for pain relief and enhanced functioning in Rheumatoid Arthritis, according to research.

Acupuncture for Frozen Shoulder

  • Frozen Shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) tends to occur in people, more often women, around the age of 50 years old. It may initially appear similar to the onset of arthritis.  However, uniquely, the condition doesn’t last more than 2–3 years and goes through three distinct phases: gradually increasing stiffness and pronounced pain, especially at night; pronounced stiffness but no increase or reduced pain; and, gradual reduction in both stiffness and pain.
  • Symptoms include: pain, inflammation, stiffness, loss of function and muscle loss.
  • Conventional treatment includes: painkiller, steroid injections, physiotherapy.
  • Acupuncture can be effective for pain relief and enhanced functioning in cases of Frozen Shoulder, especially if combined with physiotherapy, according to research.

Any questions?
Contact Mairi Caughey
Dip Ac, CAc, Lic Ac (Nanjing)
087 2888096

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