Many people are looking for relief from chronic pain these days. There are so many types of treatments and practitioners out there, but the longest standing method to this day is acupuncture. At the office or out-and-about, the most common question I get asked is, “What do you treat?”. I would guess around 80-85% of the time, I am treating chronic pain. Chronic pain can take many forms, such as autoimmune conditions, back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, etc. These conditions can really affect the quality of peoples’ lives. Folks are looking for more natural alternatives as opposed to drugs. So, how does acupuncture help with the relief of pain?
I could explain to you how acupuncture works from a “woo-woo” perspective, but I’ll spare you that for another time…New research has been published by Dr. Morry Silberstein shows that the insertion of an acupuncture needle into the skin disrupts the branching point of nerves called C fibers. These C fibers transmit low-grade sensory information, aka pain. These C fibers actually branch exactly at acupuncture points. This bundle of nerves exists to maintain arousal or wakefulness, and acupuncture needles disrupt the circuit and numbs our sensitivity to pain.
Lijun Bai and Lixing Lao determined that acupuncture can cause your brain to release neuropeptides, which are molecules that allow neurons and effector cells to communicate into the central nervous system. In turn, this can help relieve pain and stimulate your body’s “self-healing” process. Part of this “self-healing” process is the release of your body’s own chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins are, in a nutshell, your body’s own opioids. Because they are your body’s own opioids, there are no negative side effects, as opposed to over the counter or prescribed drugs.
Another way acupuncture works is related to blood flow. Sae Uchida and Harumi Hotta demonstrated in a research study that acupuncture constricts blood vessels, and releases vasodilators, which causes the blood vessels to relax. This effect helps reduce both cerebral blood pressure and high blood pressure in your body. According to a 2013 study published in the journal of Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, acupuncture has clinical efficacy on various autonomic nerve-related disorders, such as anxiety. What that means is that acupuncture stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, or the opposite of fight-or-flight.
So, if you want the nutshell of how acupuncture works…here it is: When you insert needles into the body, you get a release of endorphins/pain killers. Those pain killers float around the body with an increase in blood flow and allow the body to start healing itself. If you are suffering from chronic pain, then maybe acupuncture could be your answer to get relief!