Pain relief

Pain of any origin is a symptom which may compromise one’s quality of life severely . The prevention and management of pain is a priority of health care.

More and more patients — and their physicians — have been finding acupuncture a useful tool to alleviate pain.

According to the US National Institute of Health (NIH), a number of studies suggest that acupuncture works particularly well on chronic pain such as back and neck pain; osteoarthritis/knee pain; and headache. It often reduces the incidence and severity of tension headaches and may prevent migraines. “Therefore,” the NIH concludes, “acupuncture appears to be a reasonable option for people with chronic pain to consider.”

Acupuncture also shows promise as a complementary therapy to control symptoms in the treatment of cancer.  In fact, many oncology wards around the world use acupuncture alongside Western medicine, to treat the pain, fatigue, nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.

A review article that appeared in Practical Pain Management found that pain relief with acupuncture comes from inactivating the source of pain by modulating endorphin levels. But other mechanisms, such as cellular changes and activation of specific brain centres were also shown to play a role in pain management using acupuncture.

Interestingly, the use of acupuncture on animals is increasing to remedy specific medical conditions. These conditions are commonly related to neurological dysfunction or orthopedic pain. This negates the claim that “acupuncture is only placebo effect”.

Although acupuncture is not always “the magic cure”, in my experience, the responsible use of acupuncture (and other related therapies, such as moxibustion, cupping and electro-acupuncture) by a professional practitioner, can many times reduce pain to a manageable level.