Pain Acupuncture Analgesia

Acupuncture involves the brain’s ability to produce opioids (pain-reducing chemicals) that bind to neurons in distinct regions of the brain, and the ability of neurons to produce receptors for these endogenous opioids—specifically, μ-opioid receptors (MORs).This is how Acupuncture Analgesia works on pain.

A new analysis of data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) has found  that most American adults have experienced some level of pain, from brief to more lasting (chronic) pain, and from relatively minor to more severe pain. The analysis helps to unravel the complexities of a Nation in pain. It found that an estimated 25.3 million adults (11.2 percent) experience chronic pain—that is, they had pain every day for the
preceding 3 months. Nearly 40 million adults (17.6 percent) experience severe levels of pain. Those with severe pain are also likely to have worse health status. The analysis was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and was published in The Journal of Pain.

Pain is a signal produced by the brain alerting you that something may be wrong in your body. Your spinal cord and nerves provide the pathway for messages to travel to and from your brain and the other parts of your body.

There are many types of pain from acute pain caused by a burn, accident, cut, rupture of a vital organ, or blockage to blood flow to a part of the body to name a few.

Acute pain needs immediate attention and is best cared for by your primary care doctor or the nearest Emergency room.

Chronic pain can be caused by blockage of blood to a part of the body, compression by a tumor (fibroid) on surrounding nerves, spinal stenosis, sciatic nerve compression, neuropathies, to name a few. Many chronic pain syndromes can be helped with Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Receptor nerve cells called nociceptors are found in and beneath the skin these nociceptors sense heat, cold, light touch, pressure, and pain. You have thousands of these receptor cells and when there is an injury to your body these tiny cells send messages along nerves into your spinal cord and then up to your brain. Pain medicine and Acupuncture blocks these messages or reduces their effect on your brain. You really feel the pain in your brain and perceive the pain at a particular location.

Sometimes pain may be just a nuisance, like a mild headache but at other times pain that does not go away such as after an operation, pain caused by compression of a nerve by a spinal stenosis or tumor that doesn’t go away even after you take pain medicine or after an acupuncture treatment may be a signal that there is a major problem.


Traditional Chinese Medicine describes pain as the blockage of Qi and Blood. In order to relieve the pain it is necessary to get the Qi and Blood to move, once this blockage is removed the pain goes away. TCM pain management targets both the symptoms and the causes of pain, and as such, often achieves immediate and long-term success. Furthermore, TCM pain management is often associated with few or no side effects.

The Bi-syndrome (Bi=Blockage) is a disorder resulting from the obstruction qi & blood flowing in the channels and collaterals. Slowed or reduced circulation of qi and blood can occur after an invasion of a single or combination of external pathogenic influences these are: wind, cold, dampness or heat, and summer heat are summarily characterized by pain, numbness and heaviness of muscles, tendons and joints or swelling, hotness and restricted movement of the joints.

Acute severe pain is best evaluated by an emergency physician at your local emergency room or your primary care physician. After you have been cleared by your doctor and there are no broken bones, lacerations, acute hot swellings associated with the joints, we must rule out any serious condition that may require emergency care then you may consider acupuncture. Acupuncture can be used as an adjunctive method along with western pain care. An Interesting point is if you are taking opiate derived pain medicine acupuncture therapy has less of an effect at pain care. This does not happen with other types of pain killers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

The mechanisms by which acupuncture produces analgesia are still being studied, what we do know is that the insertion of an acupuncture needle causes a cascade of biologically mediated processes associated with the sensation and perception of pain in the brain.

Dr Bruce Pomeranz in his article “Acupuncture Analgesia – Basic Research” States that “AA (Acupuncture Analgesia) is initiated by the stimulation of small diameter nerves in the muscles which send impulses to the spinal cord. Then, three neural centers (spinal cord, midbrain, and pituitary) are activated to release neurotransmitter chemicals (endorphins and monoamines) which block “pain” messages.” His entire article is in the book “Clinical Acupuncture – Scientific Basis”.

New Research Gives Insight into How Acupuncture May Relieve Pain

Acupuncture an ancient healing practice that has shown promise in treating chronic pain typically involves a period of active needle stimulation, followed by a longer period of rest. It appears that the analgesic (pain-relieving) effects of acupuncture may actually peak long after the active stimulation ends. In the first study of its kind, NCCAM-supported researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Logan College of Chiropractic, and Kyunghee University (Korea) evaluated the effects of acupuncture on brain activity following active stimulation.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imagery (fMRI) to monitor brain activity in 15 healthy adults before and after true acupuncture and sham acupuncture. The procedure lasted 150 seconds, and the rest period was 5.5 minutes. They also monitored heart rate and respiration and surveyed the subjects on their perception of pain and other sensations (such as deqi, unique sensations experienced in connection with acupuncture and considered to be signs of its effectiveness).

Analysis of the fMRI images showed that following true acupuncture but not sham there were increased connections among the parts of the brain involved in the perception and memory of pain. The subjects also reported stronger sensations with true acupuncture than with sham. The researchers conclude that acupuncture changes resting-state brain activity in ways that may account for its analgesic and other therapeutic effects.

Reference NCCAM National Institutes of Health  Dhond RP, Yeh C, Park K, et al. Acupuncture modulates resting state connectivity in default and sensorimotor brain networks. Pain. 2008;136(3):407–418.



NIH Analysis Shows Americans Are In Pain

PAIN PubMed National Library of Medicine

Clinical Acupuncture – Scientific Basis, G. Stux, R. Hammerschlad (Editors) Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, Portland OR ©2001

The Treatment of Disease in TCM Volume 7 General Symptoms, by Philippe Sionneau and Lu Gang. Blue Poppy Press ©2000

Acupuncture and the Raison D’Etre for Alternative Medicine Bruce Pomeranz, PhD Interview by Bonnie Horrigan in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine,  Nov. 1996, Vol.2, No.6, p.85-91