Patients seek acupuncture for relief from pain above all other ailments. Pain is sometimes chronic, as in tight neck and shoulders from sitting at a desk, or from an arthritic joint. Or pain can be acute, such as sciatica flare up, a pulled muscle, or a swollen joint. Whether your symptoms are new or long-standing, Acupuncture seeks to resolve the pain by facilitating healing of the affected area. Treatment approaches vary depending on the cause of pain. Treatment of arthritis has one approach, while a sports injury will have a unique protocol; but most simply, Acupuncture clears obstruction or stagnation of Qi in a given area that the patient experiences as pain.
Researchers from the University of Manitova, Canada, conducted a meta-analysis of 12 trials on the use of acupuncture to treat pain associated with osteoarthritis. The trials consisted of 1763 patients, and each of the 12 trials compared true acupuncture (using real acupuncture points) to sham Acupuncture, as well as conventional treatments and no treatments. The study concluded that Acupuncture was statistically effective in reducing pain levels, and also increased mobility and improved scores for quality of life.
There are some instances when pain is persistent because of an anatomical anomaly that may not be “cured” by Acupuncture, such as spinal stenosis. For these patients, treatments aim to simply manage pain. The effect Acupuncture has on pain perception was tested by researchers at University Hospital in Essen, Germany, using MRI. Pictures were taken of the brain while patients were exposed to external pain stimulus to one ankle, both with and without Acupuncture needles present. An MRI was able to measure small metabolic changes in an active part of the brain, and researchers found that activation of brain areas involved in pain perception were significantly reduced when Acupuncture needles were present.