Acupuncture for Chronic Pain

I recently saw a bunch of my friends at a lovely cocktail party in Marina Vallarta. These families or individuals came to Puerto Vallarta looking for something, love, money, whatever. 

We built careers, marriages, and businesses and watched our kids grow up together. I noticed prevalent physical pain in many of my buddies, now in their 50s and 60s. What happened in the last twenty years or so?

Chronic pain is a common condition impacting millions, one-third of whom describe their pain as severe and disabling. Pain is usually brought on by inflammation, and our body tells us there is an imbalance somewhere that needs to be addressed.

In a recent analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers concluded that acupuncture has a definite effect in reducing chronic pain, such as back pain and headaches – more so than standard pain treatment.

Effects of Acupuncture
The researchers also went the extra mile by retrieving the raw data on self-reported pain. By standardizing the various study participants’ responses, they were able to assess and compare them as a whole more accurately. 

The team discovered a ‘clear and robust’ effect of acupuncture in the treatment of:
Back pain
Joint pain such as hips, knees, and shoulders
Neck pain

The effects of acupuncture are statistically significant and different from those of sham or placebo treatments. We conclude that the effects aren’t merely due to the placebo effect.(Asians have been practicing acupuncture for more than 5 thousand years…ya think they had a placebo effect?)

What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice with roots that go back thousands of years. According to the Eastern mindset, your body is a cohesive unit, or whole – a complex system where everything within it is interconnected and where each part affects all other parts. A major component is the acceptance of an invisible flow of chi (or ki). This chi can be translated as energy or life force, which circulates through meridians in your body, much like electricity lines in your home. 

When energetic blocks or deficiencies occur within a meridian, the energy pools or stagnates, causing pain, inflammation, and an imbalance that causes a ripple effect of physical symptoms. 

Needles inserted into specific points along the meridians can stimulate sluggish chi, disperse blocks, or otherwise manipulate the flow of energy.

The main difference between Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) and Western allopathic industrialized medicine is that TCM does not treat symptoms but seeks to find the origin of the imbalance that produced the symptoms in the first place. 

Another significant difference is that acupuncture, which is part of TCM, is remarkably safe with few adverse side effects, so it certainly doesn’t hurt to try.

Other Alternative Pain Treatments

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): Few people want to be told that their pain is psychological or emotional in origin, but quite a bit of evidence backs this up. Underlying emotional issues and unresolved trauma can have a massive influence on your health, particularly as it relates to physical pain.

Chiropractic adjustments: According to a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and funded by the National Institutes of Health, patients with neck pain who used a chiropractor and/or exercise were more than twice as likely to be pain-free in 12 weeks compared to those who took medication.

Massage releases endorphins, which help induce relaxation, relieve pain, and reduce stress chemicals such as cortisol and noradrenaline. This reverses the damaging effects of stress by slowing heart rate, respiration, and metabolism and lowering raised blood pressure. Massage is a particularly effective therapy for stress-related tension, which experts believe accounts for as much as 80 to 90 percent of disease.

More Natural Solutions for Pain
The first line of defense is to Alkaline your body by what you put into your mouth, not by what you add by supplements or additional foods.

Tomatoes (use cucumbers with lime instead)
Orange juice
Sugar in any form or sugar substitutes (this includes wine and beer)
Wheat products (yes, wholewheat is wheat; so is pasta)

Other Stuff you can do:
If you have chronic pain of any kind, there are safe and effective alternatives to prescription and over-the-counter painkillers, though they may require some patience. 

Among the best are:
Start taking a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat like krill oil. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. (That is how anti-inflammatory painkillers work; they positively influence prostaglandins.) The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA contained in krill oil have also been found in many animal and clinical studies to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Ginger: This herb is anti-inflammatory and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.

Curcumin: Curcumin is the primary therapeutic compound identified in the spice turmeric. In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility. In fact, curcumin has been shown in over 50 clinical studies to have potent anti-inflammatory activity, and it has demonstrated the ability in four studies to reduce Tylenol-associated adverse health effects.
Bromelain: This protein-digesting enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapple may also be helpful.
CetylMyristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a joint lubricant and an anti-inflammatory.
Evening Primrose, Black Currant, and Borage Oils contain the fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
CBD Oil: Full spectrum, local, and pure is best. It really takes the full spectrum of all the cannabinoids to activate the medicinal benefits.


  • Krystal Frost

    Krystal earned a degree in Asian Medicine from the University of Guadalajara, then Bastyr University for an acupuncture specialty, and has served our community since 2004. She has written a health column for the Mirror for over 20 years. Many thanks to my readers over two decades!

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