An ancient, fact-based way to relieve chronic pain

An ancient, fact-based way to relieve chronic pain

If medications, therapies and surgeries have been unsuccessful in treating your chronic pain, you may be on the desperate search for another method to try. The 2,500-year-old ancient healing practice of acupuncture may be just the relief you need.

Despite gaining traction over the years, you may still not quite understand how the practice works. Heather Peterman, an acupuncturist at Aurora Health Care, answers a few questions you may have:

How does it work?

Acupuncture works by inserting hair-thin needles into acupuncture points where there is a higher density of sensory nerves. This sends messages to the spinal cord and brain where the release of endogenous hormones, neurotransmitters and opioid occur. The release of these substances reduces pain, decreases inflammation and increases circulation.

Acupuncture can also affect your nervous system. Many acupuncture points activate the vagus nerve, essentially removing you from fight or flight mode, caused by chronic stress. This can promote rest, healing and recovery.

What conditions can it improve?

Acupuncture can effectively reduce a wide variety of symptoms, including back pain, sciatica, arthritis, migraines, insomnia, anxiety and depression.

Lesser-known conditions that may be relieved with acupuncture include side effects from cancer treatments, irregular and painful periods, infertility, allergies and even common cold symptoms.

How long does it take to experience results?

You may experience an immediate sense of calm resulting from tension leaving your body during or immediately after your session. There often is a reduction in pain or some degree of relief from your primary symptom within a few hours after treatment.

One way acupuncture works is by training the nervous system to respond to pain. Usually a course of frequent treatments (most commonly twice a week for 8-12 weeks) is needed for long term pain relief. Some chronic conditions might take 4-8 session before you notice a difference.

What age can you start?

The treatment is a safe, effective and evidence-based nonpharmacological treatment for people of all ages when performed by a licensed acupuncturist. Even children as small as a few days old can benefit from acupuncture.

Is it different from dry needling?

Dry needling is recognized as a form of acupuncture. It involves placing acupuncture needles into areas of tight muscle bands, scar tissue or muscular adhesions to release trigger points that cause pain.

Acupuncturists are highly qualified to offer both a comprehensive acupuncture treatment and musculoskeletal-specific dry needling therapy.

Like most treatments, acupuncture is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Consult with your doctor to learn if the healing treatment is right for you. Also, insurance coverage can vary. Check with your carrier directly for more information.

Are you having back or neck problems? Take a free online quiz to learn more.

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About the Author

Anna Kohler
Anna Kohler

Anna Kohler, health enews contributor, is a public affairs specialist for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She received her Bachelor of Science in public relations from Illinois State University and has worked in healthcare public relations and content marketing for over five years. In her free time, she enjoys working out, exploring new places with her friends and family, and keeping up with the latest social media trends.