What Is Involved in Using Acupuncture for Pain?

Jami Yontz

Many people use acupuncture for pain because the insertion of thin needles directed at certain sensory points can release natural painkillers in the body. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that has been adopted in many other countries by natural health practitioners and healers. It is thought that the use of acupuncture will help to balance a person’s chi, also known as qi, which is the person’s energy or life force. Acupuncture for pain is used by many people to treat various types of neck, back and knee pain. This practice can also be effective at reducing the pain associated with headaches or migraines, fibromyalgia, arthritis and dental procedures. 

The purpose of acupuncture is to stimulate the flow of vital energy, also known as qi.
The purpose of acupuncture is to stimulate the flow of vital energy, also known as qi.

During a treatment using acupuncture for pain, as few as one or as many as 20 needles are inserted in the person’s body at specific locations. The needles usually are left in place for 15-60 minutes, and the practitioner might twist or turn the needles during the procedure. Depending on the person’s pain, the needles might by be heated by sending electronic pulses through them. People rarely experience much pain during or after the procedure. Acupuncture is based on the idea that there are 20 meridians that run throughout the body, and there are 2,000 points on these meridians that an acupuncturist will target to reduce pain by balancing the person’s natural energy flow through the meridians. 

Acupuncture can help reduce pain in specific places of the body, such as the knee.
Acupuncture can help reduce pain in specific places of the body, such as the knee.

The insertion of the acupuncture needles is thought to release endorphins in the body. These endorphins decrease or block the pain signals to the brain. One treatment of acupuncture for pain is usually not sufficient for results. A treatment plan might include bi-weekly visits for a period of four to eight weeks, depending upon the person’s injury or amount of pain.

A pregnant women should consult a doctor before considering acupuncture for their back pain.
A pregnant women should consult a doctor before considering acupuncture for their back pain.

Many physicians have begun recommending acupuncture for pain treatment plans for patients who experience pain in the lower back, neck or knee. There has been a fair amount of research conducted on the use of this type of traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of pain in  these three areas of the body, and the studies have shown promising results. Some research has shown that many people have found more relief from acupuncture than from medications, physical therapy and other traditional methods. Acupuncture also has been used to treat people who have carpal tunnel syndrome, menstrual cramps, spastic colon and shingles-related pain. 

Back pain is one reason why physicians recommend acupuncture.
Back pain is one reason why physicians recommend acupuncture.

One should consult a physician before beginning a treatment plan that uses acupuncture for pain. He or she should ensure that the acupuncturist is licensed and in good standing with a licensing board. Needles also should be disposed of properly after treatment. Anyone who is pregnant, takes blood thinners or has other medical conditions should consult a physician to ask whether acupuncture poses a risk to his or her health.

Chinese healers have long used acupuncture techniques to reduce chronic pain.
Chinese healers have long used acupuncture techniques to reduce chronic pain.
Acupuncture for pain may be done to relieve neck discomfort.
Acupuncture for pain may be done to relieve neck discomfort.

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