Acupuncture and Pain

Acupuncture needles

Acupuncture and Pain

I see many people who want acupuncture to mitigate their pain, and often the first question I get is, ‘does it hurt?’. After all, it seems counterintuitive for someone wanting to decrease their pain by putting needles into them. 

The first thing I say is, ‘No! It does not!’ – they are extremely thin, and you can put up to ten of these acupuncture needles into the tip of a hypodermic needle. Which leads us the second question of ‘How can acupuncture help with my pain?’.

Well, that would depend on the type. If it’s local muscular pain and soreness, the insertion and retention of these needles within the tissue causes a chain reaction in the body. The body ‘investigates’ why there is a foreign object within the muscle and sends more blood into the area – blood which is rich in oxygen and helps to lower inflammation, swelling, and pain. 

We should acknowledge that the body has amazing healing capabilities, and we are hardwired to deal with pain. Did you know that we have a much higher density of touch receptors versus pain receptors in our bodies? And not only that, but most of our touch receptors also have nerves that are myelinated (has a fatty sheathe around it) compared to the chronic pain receptors which have nerves that are un-myelinated. Think of a wire that carries electrical signals, an insulated one can carry a current longer and faster than one that is un-insulated. 

Acupuncture takes advantage of our innate biology in this way. By stimulating touch receptors within our skin and muscle with the needles, we can create a ‘traffic jam’ of signals reaching our spinal cord and brains to help negate our sensation of pain. Not only this, but there have been many studies of hormonal effects from acupuncture on the body. What did these studies find? That endorphin (also known as our ‘feel good’ hormones) are released at a much higher rate after needling – very much like after a workout.  With endorphins being produced at a higher rate in our bodies, we are better able to deal with pain. 

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