Consistent, chronic pain is a condition that has severe negative effects on people’s quality of life – from causing physical disability to exacerbating psychological conditions. Pain management acupuncture is a specialized form of this ancient practice that has long been used to treat acute and chronic pain conditions.
So what, exactly, can it help with? How effective is it at treating different types of pain? How long do the effects last? This is what will be discussed in this article – how real acupuncture can treat and manage different conditions that cause chronic pain.
The Long-Term Effectiveness of Pain Management Acupuncture
One of the long-term benefits of acupuncture is how it can help with chronic pain, as has been proven by numerous studies. A meta-analysis, published in the prestigious Journal of Pain, examined clinical trials that dealt with four types of chronic pain conditions: 1. musculoskeletal pain, 2. osteoarthritis, 3. chronic headache, and 4. shoulder pain.
The analysis encompassed 20,827 patients from 39 trials and found that the effects of acupuncture persist over time with a slight drop off after one year – approximately 15%. Just as importantly, the side effects of acupuncture are minor, mostly some bleeding or bruising at the needling spots. Thus, if the effects do wear off, there is no harm in getting more acupuncture sessions.
So how does pain management acupuncture accomplish this?
How Does Acupuncture Help with Pain Relief?
Traditional acupuncture is the ancient Chinese practice of inserting and manipulating long, thin needles into acupoints – specific locations of your body that act as the body’s focal points. The exact mechanism of how pain relief is accomplished is very complex, but, in simple terms, stimulating the correct acupoints allows the free flow of energy, triggers the production and release of pain-relief hormones like endorphins, and improves blood flow and oxygenation to your tissue, thereby relaxing your muscles, bringing in nutrients, and reducing inflammation.
Acupuncture for Specific Types of Aches and Pains
We have talked in general terms about how acupuncture for pain management helps with chronic pain, so let’s get more specific and talk about how it can help you with different types of pain, namely:
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Headaches and migraines
- Nerve pain
- Menstrual pains
Musculoskeletal pain can be classified as any type of pain that affects your bones, muscles, ligaments, or tendons. A systemic review of medical literature that focused on eight conditions, such as shoulder, lower back and neck pain, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, and other types of chronic musculoskeletal pain, was published in 2016.
The review included 63 trials, only taking into account randomized clinical trials, and encompassed 6,382 patients, in total. It confirmed what individual trials had shown before – that pain management acupuncture had a beneficial effect on pain intensity. Additionally, and unsurprisingly, it could also help with disabilities that were pain-related.
When it comes to musculoskeletal pain, osteoarthritis is one of the most common types. It’s often called ‘wear and tear’ arthritis because it develops over time as the cartilage within joints breaks down. It manifests as consistent joint pain and short-term stiffness after periods of rest, most often in the knees, hands, and hips.
In 2019, which is the latest data we have, it was found that 528 million people worldwide suffered from this clinical condition; even more worryingly, this was an increase of 113% from 1990. The good news is that acupuncture for pain relief can help manage this condition. A meta-analysis that included 12 trials and 1,763 participants found that acupuncture for arthritis can reduce pain intensity and improve functional mobility and health-related quality of life.
Headaches and Migraines
Another condition that pain management acupuncture can help with is migraines. Typically, these are treated with pharmaceuticals like ergotamines and triptans, however, these drugs have many undesirable adverse effects, such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, and nausea. Studies have shown that acupuncture is an effective and safe treatment that can reduce the frequency and degree of headaches, with none of the side effects associated with the use of pharmaceuticals.
Nerve pain is one of the hardest pains to manage and often manifests as a spontaneous shooting or burning sensation. It is caused by lesions, either due to injury or disease, of the somatosensory system, a subset of the sensory nervous system. Unfortunately, regular treatments are not very effective due to limited knowledge of the underlying mechanisms that cause neuropathic pain. On the bright side, a very recent study has found that acupuncture for nerve pain can be complementary or alternative therapy for neuropathic pain conditions.
Finally, let’s deal with specific pain that women experience regularly – menstrual pain. One of the benefits of acupuncture for women’s health is how it helps with common menstrual symptoms, like lower back and breast pain and cramping. While many women have simply learned how to live with these, there is no reason to suffer in silence – acupuncture treatments are safe and can be used as therapy for managing menstrual pains.
Acupuncture as Primary or Complementary Therapy for Pain Relief
Pain management acupuncture can bring pain relief, but as each patient is unique, so, too, does the treatment need to be. In some cases, it should be primary and, in others, supplemental therapy. Your chosen acupuncturists should take a holistic approach and consult with your primary care provider before proposing a treatment plan.
This is the fundamental principle that BH Acuhealth Clinic operates on. We are a licensed acupuncture clinic in Beverly Hills that provides pain management acupuncture services and will tailor the treatments to your specific needs. You will be cared for with the compassion you deserve and consulted every step of the way. Make an appointment and let’s work on finding a way to improve your quality of life.