Most people have or will experience pain at some point in their lives. Pain in any form can be debilitating, affecting all aspect of one’s life. Pain is most often categorised as being either acute or chronic.
Acute pain typically comes on suddenly from a specific cause. When the cause of the pain has been removed, the pain typically dissipates, and life goes back to normal. However, chronic pain is ongoing lasting more than 6 months. It typically continues even after the cause, such as an injury or illness has healed or gone away. Some people suffer with chronic pain even though there is no known cause, or injury, as is the case for many suffering from Fibromyalgia, or Migraines.
The most common Western Medical treatment prescriptions for both kinds of pain are painkillers, such as NSAID’s and Opiates. Both of which have terrible side effects with long-term use.
NSAID’s are a type of anti-inflammatory drug that are easily accessible over the counter, under names such as Ibuprofen, Panadol, Aspirin, etc. NSAID’s are well known to cause stomach bleeding and digestive tract ulceration, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and are associated with higher risks of Renal Failure by increasing fluid retention and over working the kidneys. Some people are highly allergic to NSAID’s, especially Asthma sufferers. Additionally, the use of aspirin by children and teenagers with the flu or chickenpox has been linked to the development of Reye’s syndrome, which can cause liver and brain damage.
The risks associated with opioids such as Morphine, Codeine, and Oxyconton are more widely known. Opioids are used widely for both severe acute pain, and chronic pain. Risks associated with opioids include accidental overdose and death, as well as drowsiness, breathing and heart problems, physical dependence, sleep disorders, constipation and bowel dysfunction, low libido, increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures, dry mouth and tooth decay. In some instances opioids can actually induce hyperalgesia, which is a condition where the medication creates more pain than relief.
Acupuncture is an extremely safe and effective alternative. There have been several studies showing the remarkable effectiveness of Acupuncture in treating both acute and chronic pain. One such recent study conducted in Emergency Rooms by Grissa M.H, et al. showed Acupuncture to be significantly more effective than Morphine in both immediacy and degree of relief. Acupuncture was shown to be 92% effective vs. 78% for intravenously injected morphine!
Acupuncture works directly on the nervous system, it causes vasodilation, oxygenating body tissue, and improving blood circulation. Blood flow is extremely important for health and healing illness and pain. Blood carries analgesics, naturally producing painkillers, hormones, nutrients, oxygen, immune cells and carries away waste.
Pain in particular is reported to the brain through sensory nerves. One group of nerves registers the pain (Nociceptors), the other type tells the brain where the pain is located (Proprioceptors), so it can create a guarding reflex in the muscles around that area to prevent further injury and protect itself. The brain then restricts blood flow to the area, in case the pain is a poison, or infection, because the brain wants to protect the vital organs for survival over the injured area. Once, inflammation has reduced, and immune cells have started the initial healing process, the brain releases chemicals to kill the pain in the effected area, and relaxes the guarding reflex, dilates the blood vessels - increasing blood flow to the healing area.
Chronic pain typically occurs when there is a problem with the Proprioceptors, the brain does not reduce inflammation or is unable to, because it cannot pinpoint the exact location of the pain. If it cannot pinpoint the exact location of the pain, it cannot send the signal that it is ok, to release pain killing chemicals, and increased blood flow.
Acupuncture stimulates nerve nodes, which “reboot” the proprioceptor nerve pathways. This stimulates the brain to release endorphins, and encephalin painkillers, improve blood circulation and range of motion to the painful areas. This results in immediate pain relief, relaxes the tendons, and muscles, and improves all the factors required for cellular and tissue repair.
After a period of time, which can last a few hours up to a few days after an acupuncture treatment, the proprioceptors weaken, and the central nervous system needs to be rebooted once again, to re-activate hormone secretion and blood circulation. Just like fitness exercise, or physical therapy, a patient will typically need to have an acupuncture treatment 2 to 3 times per week, and gradually reduce treatment frequency until the improvements stabilise. Regular acupuncture trains and exercises the nervous system, to increase blood flow, and eventually the body remembers, and re-establishes normal function, and the pain disappears for good.
There are many styles of acupuncture, but I prefer to use distal needling techniques, where needles are not inserted in to the painful area itself, but into particular places further away so as not to aggravate an already inflamed, and irritated area. I find that this style of Acupuncture also has the strongest affect on the central nervous system resulting in the most effective and immediate pain relief, with long term results.
Alchemy Wellness Centre is located in Byron Bay, NSW Australia
RJ Singer is a registered Acupuncturist, and Chinese Medicine Doctor with AHPRA and AACMA. He is also a highly regarded QiGong Healer and Teacher, and Feng Shui Consultant. RJ’s area of special interest is in the treatment of stubborn and difficult chronic disease, and all types of painful conditions.
Katrina Hillis is a Kinergetics Kinesiologist, and a registered Remedial & Relaxation Massage Therapist with AMT, who specialises in helping people overcome emotional issues and life transitions working holistically to balance the body, mind and spirit.