Anyone experiencing chronic pain deserves to know that acupuncture is an effective treatment option for pain management available at a relatively low cost. Whether you’re trying to avoid unpronounceable ingredients, the possibility of addiction, or if you’re just curious about what an alternative treatment can offer you, acupuncture is an important tool in our pain management arsenal and should be used as a first-line resource, particularly for those with chronic pain issues. Don’t let fear of needles stop you. Acupuncture may be exactly what you need to ease your pain
What Can Acupuncture Do For Pain?
1. Reduce Perception of Pain
Research into acupunctures mechanisms is still in its infancy and some theories controversial. But it has been shown to promote the release of mood enhancing hormones – serotonin and endorphins. An interesting study by University of York in 2008 scanned brains of patients whilst having acupuncture. It showed a deactivation of areas within the brain that are associated with the processing of pain.
2. Improve Range of Movement
Where movement is restricted by muscular inhibition, needling into tight bands of muscle or near nerves that feed into these muscles can improve range of movement. In muscular based pain, needling into the tight band of muscle can release tension, reducing pressure on nerves and reducing pain.
3. Improve Blood Circulation
In Chinese Medicine health depends on the ability to generate and effectively move nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood around the body. Disease and aging results from degradation of this vasular system. A study in Evidence Based Alternative medicine “Evaluation of the Effects of Acupuncture on Blood Flow in Humans…” shows that acupuncture can improve blood flow.
4. Reduce Inflammation
Adenosine is thought to be a powerful anti-inflammatory. Animal studies have shown that after an acupuncture session, concentrations of adenosine rise to 24 times baseline. [See Science Illustrated “The Secret Behind Acupuncture”]
5. Improve Sense of Well-Being
Numerous studies have been carried out that correlate anxiety, stress or depression with increased perception of pain. It makes sense. If your body is in a heightened state of awareness it turns up the volume on the inputs coming from the nervous system. Acupuncture releases the feel good hormone, serotonin, which helps to regulate anxiety and depression, and also aids in wound healing, digestion and bowel movements.
The Danger of Opioid Based Medication
Opioid medication such as codeine, co-codamol, tramadol, oxycodone and fentanyl is derived from the opium poppy. It is thought to work by creating a surge of dopamine which induces relaxation. As the effects of the medication wear off it can make the patient feel terrible. Fight of flight response takes over from the feelings of relaxation so the patient is then eager for their next dose. This can make it difficult to ascertain whether the patient is feeling bad due to withdrawal symptoms or because the pain is returning.
Opioid based pain killers are addictive and must be aproached with care. Different people have different tolerances to the toxins in any medication. If you find this hard to believe, consider coffee. Why is it that one person can drink 8 cups of coffee and feel fine, yet another can drink 1 cup and end up feeling jittery and light-headed? The answer lies in the ability to metabolise toxins. Some people can metabolise them well, others can’t. Thats why when taking any medication you have to take care – you may be the one who can’t metabolise it well and suffer an adverse reaction.
This isn’t unusual. According to a study at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital (RLUH) over 6 months in 2005 14% percent of patients suffered an adverse reaction to their medication. Of these half were potentially avoidable through better practice, the other half were not. The likelihood of an adverse reaction increased as the number of medications taken increased. The study listed opioid medication as one of the top 3 most likely to cause an adverse reaction (the other two were diuretics and anticoagulants).
Opioids & The Pharmaceutical Industry
Before 1990’s opioids were only prescribed for acute pain, palliative care and for cancer patients. It was not indicated for chronic pain. Following extensive marketing by pharmaceutical companies to convince doctors that opioids were safe, non-addictive and suitable for chronic pain, prescriptions quadrupled from 1999 to 2010 in USA. Pharmaceutical companies promoted opioids with scant proof of their claims. One of the culprits, Purdue Pharma was fined $600m for misleading the public about the addictive nature of the drug.
Former Medical Director at New York City Health Department, Andrew Kolodny, raised the alarm on over-prescription of opioids in 2004. At considerable personal cost he fought the might of the pharmaceuticals and the estimated $1bn they have spent on lobbying in the US. (If you’d like to read more – there’s a great article about Andrew Kolodny’s fight against opioid prescriptions in New Scientist, 13 Jan 2018)
What My patients Say
“…Back pains from a training accident when I was young. Suffered 25 years. Tried creams, physio etc. None worked for me. 2 sessions with Tim and I can surely say I am pain free finally in the area I had issues.
Cannot believe how good this actually worked being a bit skeptical about it. Hearing friends saying about it I gave it a go. Well worth every penny spent …
“Thank you Tim after 4 treatments I am much better, and am able to walk pain free. Would thoroughly recommend.”
“Highly recommended. I have been struggling with lower back pain for the last 4 years. Every time I have been advised painkillers and physio! Thought I give acupuncture a go as I was fed up and it was affecting my every day activities. I can honestly say it been the best decision I made. After 2 sessions with Tim the pain had eased and after the 3 sessions the pain had gone I could get back to light excerise. Very happy with Tim and treatment he gave me.”
“If I could rate Tim at Gower acupuncture higher than a 5 star I would. I’ve spent the last 14 months trying to get a diagnosis for a muscle problem that I have, I’ve spent money going to private consultants, numerous trips to the doctors, hospital and physiotherapists and nobody could give me even a hint at what it could be. I thought I would give acupuncture a try as I didn’t know what else I could try and within one consultation and treatment with Tim he had managed to give me a diagnosis that described my problem to a tee. I would highly recommend him.”
See more testimonials here…
Having never even considered acupuncture before, I can say I am very impressed with the results, Tim as a therapist is so thorough and treated areas that I didn’t even mention in consultation, very intuitive. Tim has also really helped me in offering advice on exercise to suit my injuries and build strength and reassurance. A really positive experience which I would thourougly recommend.
What To expect From Treatment
Firstly I’ll take a full history, when and how the pain started, the nature of the pain, what aggravates it or alleviates it, details of any other investigations. From there I’ll look at range of movement of the affected area, strength of the surrounding musculature and sensitivity to palpation. Chronic pain never resolves in a single treatment. Typically I need to see patients anywhere between 3 to 8 sessions at weekly or sometimes twice weekly intervals.
My Acupuncture Styles
I use two main styles of acupuncture when working with pain. Distal acupuncture (Dr Tan and Master Tung) and motor point or trigger point acupuncture. Where there is significant muscular dysfunction I use motor and trigger point acupuncture directly into the affected muscle to release tension and improve range of movement.
Where the pain is more neuropathic in nature I tend to use Dr Tan and Master Tung acupuncture where the needles are placed in relevant points away from the site of pain. This style tends to work well for acute pain. The type of pain that is extremely sensitive to pressure and sharp in nature. This style also tends to be very effective for headaches and migraine. The interesting thing about this style is that it gets immediate results. If this is the most suitable style for you the pain subsides on the treatment couch.
I don’t just use acupuncture. I also have a small arsenal of other Chinese medicine tools effective at reducing pain; electro-acupuncture, gua sha, cupping, tui na and moxa. Click here to see video demonstrations of these styles on one of my patients.