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  • Writer's pictureDr. Ni Li

Acupuncture for Pain Management: A Time-Tested Healing Art

Updated: Nov 17, 2023


Pain is a universal human experience, and for centuries, people have sought various methods to alleviate it. One such method that has stood the test of time and continues to gain popularity is acupuncture. Originating in ancient China over 2,500 years ago, acupuncture is a holistic approach to pain management that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body. In this blog, we will explore the world of acupuncture for pain management, its history, principles, and effectiveness.

A Brief History of Acupuncture

Acupuncture's roots can be traced back to ancient Chinese medicine, where it was first documented around 200 BCE. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners believe that the body's vital energy, known as Qi (pronounced "chee"), flows through meridians or pathways in the body. When this energy flow is disrupted or blocked, it can lead to various health problems, including pain.

Acupuncture was developed as a means to restore the balance of Qi by stimulating specific points along these meridians. Over time, it spread to other parts of Asia and, eventually, the Western world. Today, acupuncture has evolved and gained recognition as a complementary therapy for pain management.

Principles of Acupuncture

Acupuncture is based on several fundamental principles:

● Qi Flow: Central to acupuncture is the concept of Qi, the life force energy that flows through the body along meridians. Acupuncture practitioners believe that pain and illness occur when Qi is disrupted or blocked. Acupuncture aims to restore the balanced flow of Qi.

● Meridians and Acupoints: The human body contains numerous meridians, each associated with specific organs and bodily functions. Acupuncturists identify key acupoints along these meridians, which can be stimulated to address various health issues, including pain.

● Needling Techniques: Acupuncture involves inserting fine, sterile needles into acupoints. The needles are typically left in place for a short period, and the depth and angle of insertion vary depending on the condition being treated.

Sensations During Acupuncture

A patient may experience a set of sensations during or after the insertion of acupuncture needles, which are referring to “De Qi” or “arrival of Qi” sensations. These sensations include:

● Dull Ache or Heaviness: Aching or heaviness at or around the needle insertion site.

● Warmth or Heat: A warm sensation felt at the needle site or along the meridian.

● Tingling or Numbness Sensations: Mild tingling, electric-like, or numbness sensations.

● Pressure or Distention: A feeling of pressure or expansion around the needle.

● Qi Sensation: A sense of energy or movement, often associated with Qi flow.

These sensations are considered part of the therapeutic process and indicate that acupuncture points are being correctly stimulated. While not all patients experience them, De Qi sensations are believed to contribute to acupuncture's effectiveness by promoting Qi flow and may be linked to the release of pain-relieving chemicals.

Effectiveness of Acupuncture in Pain Management

Acupuncture has gained recognition for its effectiveness in managing various types of pain, both acute and chronic. Numerous studies and clinical trials have shown that acupuncture can provide relief from conditions such as:

● Chronic Pain: Conditions like osteoarthritis, chronic lower back pain, and fibromyalgia have shown improvements with acupuncture treatment.

● Headaches and Migraines: Acupuncture has been found to reduce the frequency and severity of tension headaches and migraines.

● Postoperative Pain: Acupuncture can help manage pain and reduce the need for pain medications following surgery.

● Musculoskeletal Pain: Sports injuries, muscle strains, and joint pain can benefit from acupuncture's analgesic effects.

● Neuropathic Pain: Conditions like diabetic neuropathy and sciatica may see reduced pain with acupuncture.

The exact mechanisms through which acupuncture works are still being researched, but it's believed to involve the release of endorphins (natural pain-relieving chemicals) and modulation of the central nervous system.


Acupuncture, with its rich history and principles rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine, has emerged as a valuable tool in pain management. Its effectiveness in addressing a wide range of pain conditions has garnered the attention and respect of both patients and healthcare professionals. As our understanding of this ancient practice continues to grow, acupuncture is likely to remain a valuable and accessible option for those seeking relief from pain and improved overall well-being.


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