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Acupuncture and Chronic Pain

Persistent (chronic) pain is a widespread problem that affects around 12% of the population. In many cases, chronic pain leads to depression and a change of quality of life.

The International Association for the Study of Pain has defined pain “as an unpleasant sensory or emotional experience resulting from actual or potential tissue damage”. Chronic pain may be defined as pain that lasts beyond the usual course of the acute disease or expected time of healing, and it may continue indefinitely.

Typical chronic pain conditions include: osteoarthritis; rheumatoid arthritis; low back, shoulder and neck pain; headache and migraine; cancer pain; fibromyalgia; neuropathic pain (e.g. sciatica, trigeminal neuralgia, post herpetic neuralgia); chronic overuse conditions (e.g. tendonitis); and chronic visceral pain (e.g. irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis, endometriosis). Read more.

 

How Acupuncture can help with Chronic Pain

At New Leaf Acupuncture, Dublin, the aim of our treatment is 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. Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain, which is responsible for anxiety (Wu 1999).

Acupuncture also helps relieve chronic pain by stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors (e.g. neuropeptide Y, serotonin), and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz 1987, Han 2004, Zhao 2008, Zhou 2008, Lee 2009, Cheng 2009)

  • stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors (e.g. neuropeptide Y, serotonin), and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord
  • increasing the release of adenosine, which has antinociceptive properties
  • modulating the limbic-paralimbic-neocortical network
  • reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors
  • improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility by increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling

 

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