Pain Management

For the treatment of pain, acupuncture has been shown to be more effective than placebo, indicating that there is a physiologic mechanism present. It is postulated that the penetration of the acupuncture needle stimulates small diameter nerves in muscles, which then send impulses to the spinal cord.

These impulses activate three centers – the spinal cord, midbrain, and pituitary – to release endorphins and the monoamines serotonin and norepinephrine, which act to suppress pain transmission to the cortex at multiple synaptic levels. Further, at the level of the pituitary gland, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is released in eqimolar amounts to endorphin, thus stimulating cortisol production by the adrenal cortex. This may explain why acupuncture has been found to be helpful in the relief of bronchospasm in asthma and inflammation of arthritis.

The World Health Organization recognizes more than 40 conditions for which acupuncture may be useful. Areas of active research regarding acupuncture treatment efficacy include addiction, stroke rehabilitation, hypertension, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and major depressive disorder. North-Americans most commonly seek acupuncture treatment for the relief of chronic pain, particularly for arthritis and low back pain.

Clinical studies have demonstrated efficacy in chemotherapy- and anesthesia-induced nausea, and for postsurgical dental pain. In some cases it has been found that the combination of acupuncture and standard pharmaceutical treatment is superior to either modality used singly. Preliminary research suggests effectiveness in acupuncture treatment of fibromyalgia, the correction of breech presentation in primigravidas, and painful rheumatologic conditions including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.