Evidence-Based Health Care For Optimal Health & Functioning

Acupuncture for Pain Relief

Acupuncture is a great tool for treating pain but most people want to know exactly how it works. This is quite a complicated process but I’ll try my best to simplify it. In order to do this I’ll first explain exactly what is pain and how it is felt.

The World Health Organisation defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory or emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage”. Pain is initiated at a site of insult/injury (lets say the low back muscles in this case) and those nerve impulses travel to and synapse (connect) onto the spinal cord. This impulse then travels up the spinal cord and synapses in the brain, specifically the thalamus, for processing. The processed information is finally sent to the cortex to signal the feeling of pain.

The suppression of pain via acupuncture is described by what is known at the Gate Control Theory of Pain. When an acupuncture needle is applied to the area of insult/injury (the low back in this case if you forgot 🙂 ), it too sends a neurological impulse to the spinal cord. This impulse is different, however, as it is not painful in origin. There are now 2 impulses (painful from the insult/injury and non-painful from the acupuncture needle) being fed to the same area of the spinal cord and must now compete to synapse there(competitive inhibition). This causes over crowding or jamming at the gate which then “closes” and there is no painful impulse allowed to pass through and go on to the brain as previously described. If no impulse gets to the brain, there is no information to be processed as pain and therefore no pain is experienced.

Acupuncture also has longer lasting effects in that is promotes the release of endorphins and enkephalins to circulate in the the system and produce analgesic/pain-killing effects. Studies  have shown that if a rabbit was acupunctured its pain threshold is found to rise. If the cerebrospinal fluid is drawn from that rabbit and circulated into a non-acupunctured rabbit, the pain threshold of the second rabbit also rises!

Electro-acupuncture @FIT_Clinic on a professional baseball player's sprained ankle

Electro-acupuncture @FIT_Clinic on a professional baseball player’s sprained ankle


Posted on August 7th, 2013 [active lifestyle, Activity, Chiropractic, Clinic, Cycling, Exercise, Fitness, Golf, Health and Wellness, Injury, Pain, Running, Sports]