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At Merge Health, we specialise in chronic fatigue treatment; but what exactly is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is an individualised experience with multifactorial aetiology. It can cause unexpectedly prolonged suffering when, for example, an initial injury evolves into a complex disease state. A short-lived ankle sprain may turn into a complex regional pain syndrome lasting anywhere from months to years; or a week-long episode of shingles may cause post-herpetic neuralgia with disabling pain for months or years.

Moreover, chronic pain can be an accompanying symptom of largely irreversible underlying diseases, such as degenerative arthritis (osteoarthritis), spinal stenosis, or compression fracture resulting from osteoporosis in older people. Chronic pain can also be a primary complaint of clinical conditions such as fibromyalgia and trigeminal neuralgia, for which neither the cause nor mechanism is currently well understood (1).

What type of pain can acupuncture help with?

Thus, I start by ensuring realistic expectations. Acupuncture is effective for some but not all types of pain (2). Chronic pain can be debilitating, interfering with the ability to sleep, work, and enjoy life. It can aggravate other health conditions and lead to depression and anxiety symptoms. From this perspective, acupuncture can be hugely beneficial in the management of chronic pain.

What happens to your body when you are in pain

When pain is perceived as stress in the body, the sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive, resulting in poor circulation to muscles and organs, leaving them with less blood and oxygen. In this deprived state, muscles contract, resulting in constriction of blood/lymph vessels and nerves. At the same time, the pituitary gland releases vasopressin, resulting in angiotensin being released from the kidneys. This further constricts blood vessels, causing more pain. The sustained sympathetic nervous system causes sleep disturbances, increased blood pressure, elevated glucose, fatigue and a compromised immune system, inducing more stress along the way.

Acupuncture supports your nervous system

Acupuncture can influence reaction areas, having neuro-physical effects that correct and heal the body through manipulation of the peripheral and central nervous system by affecting the neuro-axis, the actual anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology of the body, thus alleviating much pain associated symptoms, including mental and overall wellbeing.

Pain-Free and Relaxing

Acupuncture can be a very relaxing and pain-free experience. It may also be used in conjunction with analgesic drugs or alone to make patients more comfortable.

How often is acupuncture needed for chronic pain? 

This needs to be advised by your acupuncturist and assessed case by case. Book your initial consultation with Merge Health, which includes a comprehensive intake and a treatment plan discussed.  Initially, you will most likely need weekly treatments and as improvement is noted you may gradually space treatments further apart.

By Jo Riley 

References:

  1. BMJ 2017356 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j741 (Published 17 February 2017)Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j741
  2. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine. March 2011, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 187–189. Acupuncture for Pain: An overview of Cochrane reviews. Authors: Myeong Soo Lee, Edzard Ernst
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