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Pain Relief

About acupuncture for pain relief

Pain relief is now the most common complaint that most acupuncturists treat today. Acupuncture is so good at relieving pain that physiotherapists, doctors and chiropractors use it, but unfortunately after just doing a weekend course.

How quickly does acupuncture work?

You should notice some pain relief straight away. Acupuncture peels back the layers of pain with each session, helping you feel more and more pain free.

How does acupuncture relieve pain?

How long will the effects last for?

Acupuncture is a dose like every form of medicine. It's effects will usually last around 3-4 days and then start to wear off, but it won't bring you back to the start of your problem. It's just time for another session to push the effects forward.

Can I stop taking painkillers?

Once you've had acupuncture, you may not need to take over the counter pain relief as the pain should be a lot less. For people on prescription pain relief, you should also consult with your doctor first before reducing your medication.

Back pain

Back pain can affect anyone at any age and most people will suffer from it at some point in their lives. It is the UK's leading cause of disability and one of the main reasons for work related time off. In western medicine, most lower back pain is caused not by serious damage or disease, but by sprains, muscle strains, minor injuries, or a pinched or irritated nerve. In Chinese medicine, it can be due to these causes too as well as overwork, exposure to cold or a woman's menstrual cycle. It can also occur during pregnancy, or because of stress, viral infection or a kidney infection.

Acupuncture is a great regulator and helps to relieve back pain by getting things moving. Pain can be likened to when water in pipes freezes and bursts, the bursting action is the stabbing pain. Acupuncture moves the blockage thereby relieving the pain. I treat a lot of back pain problems and have found acupuncture to be very successful in relieving pain, so much so, many patients can reduce the dose of their painkiller medication and avoid surgery.


Sciatica normally starts from the lower back (L4) through to the tailbone (S1), buttock and down the side of the leg to foot. This path is the gallbladder channel in acupuncture. Stimulating acupuncture points along this channel helps to relieve pain and tension. If you have sciatica, I would recommend wearing thermals when the temperature is below 10 degrees, as well as sitting on a hot water bottle and avoid driving a manual car. Acupuncture is very effective at treating sciatic pain and I have helped many people with sciatica.

Nerve pain

Neuropathic pain results from damage to, or dysfunction of, the system that normally send pain signals. Neuropathic pain is commonly described as burning, stabbing, stinging, shooting, aching or electric shock-like in quality. The pain may be superficial or deep, intermittent or constant, and can be spontaneous or be triggered by various things.

Acupuncture is at least as beneficial as the drugs that are prescribed to treat nerve pain, but without the side effects. Acupuncture may offer additional benefits, from better sleep to reduced mortality. In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body's homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being.

Joint pain

Joint pains tends to be a part of an arthritic condition. Arthritis is common in the UK, where the damp climate can create or exacerbate arthritic conditions. Joint pain in Chinese medicine is caused by a lack or qi or blood flow to the problem area, for example the knees. This lack of nutritional blood flow to the area not only causes pain but also the disintegration of the joint and surrounding tissues. Acupuncture helps to move the blood to the affected area, thereby allowing the body to heal the surrounding tissues and relieve the pain.


Headache is one of the most frequent reasons for medical consultations, in both general practice and neurology clinics. These occur in up to 80% of the UK adult population, and are more prevalent in women and can be menstrual related.

Tension-type headache is the term used for infrequent and frequent episodic, as well as chronic, tension - type headaches. Tension - type headaches are characterised by pain that is typically mild or moderate in intensity, bilateral, and pressing or tightening in quality, but does not worsen with physical activity. There may be accompanying photophobia or phonophobia, but no nausea. The headaches are daily or very frequent, and last from minutes to days.

The aim of conventional treatment is to reduce the frequency, severity, and duration of the headache, with minimal adverse effects from treatment. Prescribed and over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are taken to alleviate headaches. However, these medications have side effects, for example worsen fertility.


Migraine is a primary headache disorder manifesting as recurring attacks, usually lasting for 4 to 72 hours and involving pain of moderate to severe intensity. Typical characteristics of the headache are unilateral location, pulsating quality, moderate or severe intensity, and aggravation by routine physical activity. Sufferers may also experience auras, photophobia, phonophobia, nausea and vomiting.

Migraine is a common disorder ; a UK follow - up study found the migraine incidence rate to be 3.69 cases per 1,000 person - years, and to be around 2.5 times higher in women than men. Several drugs, such as beta-blockers, amitriptyline or sodium valproate, are used in the prophylaxis of migraine in an attempt to reduce attack frequency, but all these drugs are associated with adverse effects.

There have now been many controlled trials of acupuncture for migraine, with some large, high-quality ones in recent years. The results of the latest reviews are quite consistent: acupuncture is least as effective as prophylactic drug therapy, without the side effects. Acupuncture has been found to be cost-effective. As well as prevention it may also be used to alleviate symptoms during acute attacks. There is preliminary qualitative evidence from patients that acupuncture can increase coping mechanisms as well as relieve migraine symptoms. I have helped many people suffering from migraines.

Pain research

Research has shown that acupuncture is better than morphine with less side effects and more effective and faster pain relief. It appears to be particularly useful as an adjunct to conventional care, for patients with more severe symptoms and for those wishing to avoid analgesic drugs. It may help back pain in pregnancy and work-related back pain, with fewer work-days lost.

Acupuncture has in some meta-analyses been found superior to sham acupuncture while in others the advantage was not statistically significant. The sham interventions are not inactive placebos, but effectively different versions of acupuncture, so their value in evaluating treatment efficacy is highly questionable.

Acupuncture can help back pain by:

  • providing pain relief – by stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, acupuncture leads to the release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord
  • reducing inflammation – by promoting the release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors
  • improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility – by increasing local microcirculation, which aids dispersal of swelling and bruising, reducing the use of medication for back complaints
  • providing a more cost-effective treatment over a longer period of time
  • improving the outcome when added to conventional treatments such as rehabilitation exercises