Pain informs us of an injury. The goal of acupuncture is to stimulate the inherent self-healing mechanisms through the nervous system. In doing this, the practitioner and the patient collaborate in healing the injury and relieving the pain.
Acupuncture points are located in skin and muscle. These points are in close proximity to peripheral nerves (the nerves in our body that aren’t part of the brain and spinal cord). The pathway of “pain-sensing” neurons course through peripheral nerves sending pain signals to the brain. The proximity of acupuncture points to these neurons is partly why it is effective in treating pain.
By stimulating these points with hair thin needles, we send signals to the self-regulating area of the brain to trigger a physiological, homeostatic, self-regulating response that can potentially reduce inflammation and improve circulation of blood that transports vital nutrients and oxygen to the injured area and promotes healing.
Numerous studies have shown that acupuncture signals the brain to churn out natural pain-relieving molecules called endorphins. Furthermore, in May 2010 a publication called Nature Neuroscience released a study that provides information about yet another physical mechanism through which acupuncture reduces pain in the body. This study informs us of acupuncture’s potential to promote the release of adenosine, another natural painkiller that becomes active in the skin and in the deeper tissues affected by fine needle stimulation. As pain is relieved and stress is reduced, healing is optimized.
The efficacy of acupuncture depends on the level of severity and complexity of the disease and on the self-healing potential of the individual receiving treatment. Therefore, acupuncture effectiveness varies from person to person and case to case.
Nevertheless, it is a significant treatment option that can prove to be safe and effective.
Article contributed by Edsel Tan, L.Ac., Dipl.O.M. He is the resident practitioner in the third Tao of Wellness clinic in Pasadena,CA. Edsel provides acupuncture, bodywork, and herbal therapy and works closely with Drs. Dao and Mao to continue developing an integrative healthcare model for pain management, physical rehabilitation and other health conditions. For more information about Edsel and Tao of Wellness, visit www.taoofwellness.com or call 626-397-1000.
Note from PMIR: Acupuncture is a safe and effective therapy for the treatment of chronic pain. At PMIR, we work closely with local acupuncturists like Dr. Tan, and other acupuncturists from his practice, Tao of Wellness. Before pursuing the help of a licensed acupuncturist or other complimentary specialist, it is important have your pain diagnosed by a physician specializing in chronic pain to ensure that your pain is not the symptom of a more serious underlying condition.