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Acupuncture for pain relief

On this page

  1. Overview
  2. How does it work?
  3. What types of pain can acupuncture treat?
  4. How long does it take to work
  5. Can I stop taking painkillers
  6. Self-care
  7. Common questions

1. Overview

Acupuncture is an alternative medicine that is a part of traditional Chinese medicine. It works by regulating qi pronounced "chee", our life force. When qi doesn't move, it causes pain. It also aids in blood flow as when there is blood stasis, there is also pain. Therefore, it is not a physical therapy.

2. How acupuncture relieves pain

Research suggests that when specific acupuncture points are stimulated with a fine needle for 30 minutes, it elicits a healing response and regulates qi in that area, causing the nerve signals to move correctly and relieve pain.

Watch my animated video below, which explains how acupuncture is able to relieve pain.

3. The different types of pain that can be treated

There are many different types of pain that can be releived using acupuncture treatments:

4. The length of time it takes to work

Acupuncture is a dose like every form of treatment or medicine.

The chronic pain relief effects of acupuncture usually last around 3-4 days and then start to wear off. However, the pain won't return to its original level.

Having acupuncture treatment peels off layers of pain. Each session building upon the previous one. Meta-analysis studies available from national institute showed that acupuncture versus sham acupuncture was beneficial for people who experience pain.

It is worth continuing with acupuncture treatment until all the pain and tension in the body has gone. Not just when the pain is gone. Pain is like the tip of the iceberg showing above the water, the bulk of the problem is often hidden beneath the surface and still needs continuous treatment.

Once you've had acupuncture treatment you should notice an instant reduction in your level of pain as it works on the nervous system. You should also notice less tension in your muscles and an improvement in your overall well-being.

In chronic conditions, there may be a worsening of symptoms the next day with a subsequent overall improvement the days afterwards. It depends on the problem acupuncture is treating

With subsequent acupuncture sessions, the level of pain relief will improve, usually to around 70-90%.

5. Painkillers

Once you start having acupuncture, you will notice that your pain is less.

As your pain is reduced, you may no longer need to take over the counter painkillers. This is fine as over the counter pain relief meds are self-medicating.

For people on prescription pain relief medication, you should always consult with your doctor first before reducing your medication.

6. Self-care

To maintain reduced levels of pain, a person must make changes to their lifestyle and diet.

In acupuncture theory, pain is caused by stagnation. Stagnation can be caused by stress, being sedentary, or from the weather, wind and damp, which has been scientifically proven.

For example, stress causes frustration which leads to muscle tension and pain. Being sedentary (sitting down too much) increases stagnation in the body which causes pain. There's a great saying "Motion is lotion". We sit down far too much, in the car, train, bus, at home and at work.


Schultz, D.M., A.L. Beukenhorst, B.B. Yimer, L. Cook, H.L. Pisaniello, T. House, C. Gamble, J.C. Sergeant, J. McBeth, and W.G. Dixon, 2020: Weather Patterns Associated with Pain in Chronic-Pain Sufferers. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 101, E555-E566,