How Does Acupuncture Help Pain?

How Does Acupuncture Help Pain? 

First, a quick story...


I recently relocated from Sonoma County, California to Sarasota, Florida. As most of us know, the process of any transition can be stressful and exhausting. Mine was no exception. Somewhere between selling my previous practice, studying for a major exam, getting licensed in Florida, packing up my life, driving across the country with a new puppy and starting my new practice...I began to experience lots of pain. My tailbone "went out" of alignment and the joint jammed up. I have never really known a pain like this, and it certainly humbled and stopped me in my tracks. It's known that stress can bring on all kinds of things, including pain. So that, coupled with too much sitting during months of studying and a cross-country drive, landed me in my own pain crisis. I treated myself with acupuncture and worked with several other practitioners. While recovering, I thought about the patients I've helped with pain. Now I know how exhausting, debilitating, frustrating and depressing this can be. Now I can not only help; I can relate. 

In honor of transitions and pain, and all of the many ways that acupuncture can help, I dedicate this blog post to an understanding of how acupuncture helps with pain.

Acupuncture has been used in Asia for centuries to treat many conditions and relieve pain. It's now being used in the United States and other Western countries to ease everything from low back pain, to nerve pain (such as painful shingles rashes), to headaches, fibromyalgia, and menstrual cramps — and more.

Traditional Chinese acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely fine needles into the skin at specific points. There are many theories about how this helps to relieve pain. Here are a few:

Acupuncture may relieve pain by releasing beta-endorphins, the body's natural pain-killing chemicals, and by affecting the part of the brain that governs serotonin, a brain chemical involved with mood.

In the Gate Control theory, signals being sent to the brain are interrupted by a new electromagnetic message created with placement of the acupuncture needles.

Another theory proposes acupuncture changes cells in connective tissue around the pressure points in lasting ways that lead to less pain.

There is also evidence that stimulating the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain stem to the colon, may lower inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is closely tied to chronic pain.

What I know to be true is that in all of the years of treating patients, I have never given anyone a guarantee that I can help. What I also know to be true is that almost everyone has improved and most have recovered completely. 

I am honored to practice this medicine. I am thankful for all alternative medicine modalities, and use many myself as I navigate through the twists and turns of life. 

If you or anyone you know is in pain, please let them know there are options. I would love to help.




Tessa Nagel