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Acupuncture for Chronic Pain

Acupuncture for Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain


In 2021 NICE, (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommended acupuncture for chronic pain alongside other therapies like psychological interventions, exercise, and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). Acupuncture offers relief for various types of chronic pain, including shoulder and neck pain, back pain, sciatica, migraines, headaches, fibromyalgia, and plantar fasciitis.

While antidepressants are sometimes prescribed for chronic pain to alleviate symptoms like pain, poor sleep, and psychological distress, their side effects and suitability for all patients have to be considered.

In chronic pain conditions, nerve signals persist even after the initial injury has healed. This ongoing signalling may be due to nerve damage or dysfunctions in how the brain processes sensory information, as suggested by recent research.

Sleep disturbances are also common among those with chronic pain, exacerbating their suffering in a frustrating cycle. Acupuncture addresses this by easing muscle tension and tackling underlying stress and emotional factors often intertwined with chronic pain experiences.

Acupuncture Research for Chronic Pain

In a comprehensive study focusing on chronic pain, involving 454,920 patients treated for conditions such as headache, lower back pain, and osteoarthritis, remarkable results emerged. As reported by 8,727 treating physicians, 76% of cases saw marked or moderate effectiveness following acupuncture treatment. Furthermore, a 2-year retrospective survey involving over 89,000 patients, conducted in 2016, revealed that 93% of individuals reported successful treatment of their musculoskeletal pain by their acupuncturists


A meta-analysis encompassing 17,922 patients from randomized trials corroborated these findings, concluding that "Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option." Notably, significant disparities between true and sham acupuncture groups indicated that acupuncture's efficacy extends beyond mere placebo effects.

A subsequent study examining long-term pain relief demonstrated that the benefits of acupuncture persisted even 12 months after the conclusion of treatment, underscoring its potential as a lasting solution for chronic pain management.

How does acupuncture for pain work?

Acupuncture's mechanism of action in pain relief is multifaceted, involving the activation of the body's endogenous opioids and enhancing the brain's responsiveness to them. Additionally, acupuncture modulates several other biochemical pathways implicated in pain reduction.

One key aspect is the activation of the body's own opioids, natural pain-relieving compounds. Acupuncture prompts the release of these opioids, augmenting their effectiveness in dampening pain signals.


Moreover, acupuncture regulates the release and activity of various other biochemicals involved in pain modulation. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and its breakdown product adenosine play crucial roles in pain perception, with acupuncture promoting their release or regulation. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter known for its calming effects, is also influenced by acupuncture, contributing to pain relief.

Additionally, acupuncture affects substance P, a neuropeptide involved in transmitting pain signals. By modulating substance P levels, acupuncture helps regulate pain perception and transmission.

Overall, acupuncture's ability to engage multiple biochemical pathways underscores its effectiveness in alleviating pain and promoting overall well-being.

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