Acupuncture is known to have a number of benefits on the body, but how does it fare against chronic pain? In this article we provide an overview of the use of acupuncture for chronic pain, its benefits, and how acupuncture stacks up against western medicine for chronic pain conditions.
Which Types of Chronic Pain Can Acupuncture Help With?
Acupuncture can help to treat and manage a great deal of conditions. However, a recent study concluded that acupuncture is effective in treating chronic pain, and is therefore a reasonable treatment and pain management option. Similarly, recently updated NICE guidelines now recommend acupuncture as a treatment option for chronic pain conditions such as:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Knee pain
- Chronic headaches
How Does Acupuncture Help Chronic Pain?
Western healthcare professionals have various hypotheses as to how acupuncture actually works, however it is generally thought that stimulation of the nerves throughout the body sends signals to the brain, which then releases chemicals such as endorphins which can make the patient feel anything from euphoria to pain relief.
A study from 2011 in Practical Pain Management found that pain relief associated with acupuncture comes from inactivating the source of pain by modulating endorphin levels, as well as influencing important areas of the brain that interpret threat perception.
How Often Should Acupuncture be Performed to Alleviate Chronic Pain?
Whilst most conditions require only 1 or 2 visits to be effective, chronic pain conditions can require 6 or more visits. However, those with long-standing chronic pain may feel the benefit of acupuncture after just 1 session, although further treatment is required for long-lasting pain relief.
Are There Any Risks Associated with Acupuncture for Chronic Pain?
There are no reported risks associated with acupuncture for chronic pain specifically; however, there are some risks associated with acupuncture for patients with certain conditions:
- Pregnant women
- Those with unstable medical conditions
- Those with blood disorders
- Those taking anticoagulant medication
Anyone falling into one of these groups that wishes to undergo acupuncture should first consult their GP to determine suitability, and ensure to tell their acupuncture practitioner of their condition before proceeding with treatment.
Side effects associated with acupuncture generally tend to be rare and mild. Some people report mild pain, bleeding and bruising at the site of needle insertion, and some report feeling faint or dizzy post-treatment. Providing that a patient isn’t in an at-risk group outlined above, these side effects are usually nothing to worry about.
Click here to view our Resources page with various studies regarding acupuncture safety and at-risk patient groups.
How Does Acupuncture for Chronic Pain Compare to Western Medical Treatments?
Whilst there are many western medications available to help treat and manage chronic pain, painkillers often have associated side effects, especially when they are being used long-term, as with chronic pain.
Additionally, when painkillers are used to manage chronic pain, patients also run the risk of developing addictions.
Acupuncture, on the other hand, has very minimal risks and side effects, and according to recent studies, is an effective treatment option for chronic pain. Whilst it shouldn’t be used as sole treatment, it is considered to be a great option to incorporate into a patient’s care plan.
What Else Can Acupuncture Be Used For?
Acupuncture is used for a wide range of both physical and mental health problems with some success. These include:
- Joint pain
- Dental pain
- Menopausal symptoms
- Menstrual cramps
- Chemotherapy induced nausea
- Post-operative pain and nausea
Acupuncture Courses for Healthcare Professionals
Breeze Academy offers a variety of acupuncture and dry needling courses for healthcare professionals. Learn more about acupuncture for chronic pain and level up your medical practice. View our acupuncture and dry needling courses here.