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Treating Stubborn Pain With Chinese Medicine

Last updated: 12 February, 2018
by Jane Ferguson, General Practice

There is a saying in Chinese medicine that when there is free flow, there is no pain and when there is pain, there is no free flow. We are talking about the flow of qi and blood, but what does this actually mean?

When it comes to chronic pain, around 90% is neurological. The nerves that carry pain signals to the brain are continually firing but the body’s own pain-relieving response is failing. This can continue on and on in a chronic pain cycle. The good news is that this type of pain responds well to acupuncture treatment, sometimes without even touching the painful area. The pain reduction can be almost immediate and with the right number of sessions, long-term.

The situation is something like this: an initial injury has caused the body to ‘guard’ against the potential spread of infection by restricting local blood flow to the area. The sensory nerves that transmit pain signals are firing just fine, but another type of nerve, the proprioceptive nerve, is underfiring. The result is a failure of the brain to release its own painkiller chemicals. The area is in lockdown and as anyone with chronic pain knows, the pain signals continue to fire away, calling for help from an unresponsive brain. As long as the pain continues there is guarding and the area is starved of nutrients by the restricted blood flow, preventing healing and rejuvenation.

Acupuncture allows us to re-establish proper nerve function and stimulate the release of pain-relieving chemicals. Fine needles are inserted into distal sites away from the painful area, and the painful area is left alone. The trained practitioner knows what areas of the body share the same connection to the midbrain and by needling these other sites it is possible to achieve pain relief without even touching the painful area. The results can be felt within seconds. Once pain reduction or elimination is achieved, the brain opens up the blood vessels to the area and blood flow is restored.

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