Acupuncture for pain

The body is signaling us that something is wrong by using pain as its communication tool.

by Annie Porter — 

It is not so difficult with our busy lives to ignore aches and pains or to seek ongoing distraction from them. These nagging discomforts could have come on quickly or may have been slow to develop and may be dull, achy, sharp or stabbing. Certain pains might feel better with movement.

These are all warning signs. The body is signaling us that something is wrong by using pain as its communication tool.

Our habitual reaction to anything that feels uncomfortable is to mitigate it. We use painkillers to suppress pain, or corticosteroids to relieve the inflammation and swelling that is often part of the picture. These methods work temporarily, but they come with side effects that are sometimes harmful.

Many acupuncturists and herbalists trained in Chinese medicine work very effectively with people who have arthritic pain. However, instead of suppressing symptoms, they look for the root of the pain so that they can correct the imbalances and re-establish harmony.

When you make an appointment with an acupuncturist/herbalist, she will ask questions, such as: What exacerbates the pain? What makes it feel better? Does the pain occur at specific times? How long has the pain been present? In addition to learning your medical history, the acupuncturist will use tongue and pulse diagnosis to determine your pattern of disharmony.

In Chinese medicine, symptoms are not suppressed to temporarily alleviate pain. The goal is to harmonize the functioning of the body to produce pain relief and to provide lasting results without harmful side effects.

According to Chinese medicine, pain occurs because of a blockage of energy also known as “qi.” Energy blockages occur for a variety of reasons, including repressed emotions, stress, poor dietary habits, trauma or a combination of these factors.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body to unblock the flow of stuck qi and to restore equilibrium to relieve pain. Acupuncture is relatively painless and deeply relaxing.

People who are needle-phobic will be happy to know that there are alternative therapies to promote energy flow, including tailored herbal formulas, cupping, guasha and Chinese massage.

The question people often ask is: “How many treatments will I need?” The frequency of treatments is dependent on many factors. Typically, for chronic pain lasting six months or more, a fair estimate would be 10 treatments. For acute conditions lasting three months, three to five treatments may be necessary. Initially, it is best to be treated twice per week until there is some relief. After that, treatments can be tapered off to individual need.


Annie Porter, L.Ac, Dipl. C.H., is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist at Spirit Tree Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine in Scottsdale, Ariz. She is also trained in acu-detox treatments. 480-359-7389.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 31, Number 2, April/May 2012.

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