A Helpful Point in the Right Direction: A Summary of Acupuncture for Pain Management

December 28, 2015

What is Acupuncture?


A form of medicine which utilizes very fine, solid needles to penetrate the skin at specific points on the body to stimulate nerves, blood vessels, glands, and the immune system. Two common styles seen in clinical practice are the traditional Chinese medicine model of meridians and the Western biomedical model (also known as Neurofunctional Acupuncture).


The traditional model recognizes the existence of various channels of energy within the body known as meridians. The points on these channels are still relevant today since as much as 70% share the same locations as regions of muscle tenderness known as trigger points.  


The biomedical model uses a selection of the classical points that scientific principles have demonstrated to be effective for the management of pain and inflammation. To distinguish between the two models, neurofunctional acupuncture is mechanism-based while traditional acupuncture is condition or disease-based.  


How does Acupuncture Work?


Needling promotes the release of growth factors needed for turnover of new healthy tissue. It also helps to decrease the sensitization of nerves. Increased sensitivity results in the excessive release of chemical messengers which shorten muscle (Acetylcholine). The sustained shortening of the muscle cell creates compression of blood vessels effectively starving the muscle of its oxygen supply decreasing its available energy. The decreased energy within the muscle cell does not permit the pumps within the cell to return calcium (used to initiate contraction) back to its storage location.


Acupuncture addresses ongoing muscle tension by promoting relaxation, restoration of circulation to starved tissues and increased healing potential. Acupuncture also works on the nervous system by impacting the brain’s tolerance of pain through the release of endorphins (the body’s natural pain killers).


What Problems/Conditions Can Acupuncture Treat?


Acupuncture can treat a variety of conditions including but not limited to:

  • Headaches and Migraines   

  • Stroke

  • Nerve pain (neuralgia)

  • Some forms of paralysis

  • Poor circulation

  • Swelling and fluid retention

  • Muscle Strains

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Sciatica

  • Low Back Pain

  • Neck Pain

  • Frozen Shoulder

  • Tennis Elbow

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Post-Surgical Scar Tissue Formation

Is Acupuncture Safe? Does it Hurt?


In general acupuncture is very safe and has no side effects to treatment. Insertion points are so minimal that they are often not visible once the needles are removed. If bleeding from a needled point occurs it is often very minimal. Pain is a highly subjective experience and needling may produce discomfort in some regions more than others as well as in some patients more than others. When discomfort is experienced during needling it is most often described as a pinch sensation which dissipates quickly. The discomfort is far less compared to a vaccination which uses a hollowed needle of a much larger gauge.



For more information on whether acupuncture may help meet your health goals or if you have additional questions to ask we offer complimentary 15 minute consultations. 

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