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  • Writer's pictureKasie Carlson

Does Acupuncture work for pain?

Updated: Dec 4, 2019

Can Acupuncture really help with pain?

Chronic pain is the most common thing that I see in my Acupuncture practice. I get phone messages about it, emails, and direct questions daily about whether or not acupuncture can help with knee pain, back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, ankle pain, and even “all over” pain. The short answer is, yes, of course Acupuncture can relieve your pain, I see its success every day, but there is more to the story if we are talking about long term relief.

My recent success with Acupuncture for my own back pain! 

I’ll tell you a personal story of mine, from last week. Now, know that I have chronic low back pain but I’ve been using natural therapies to treat it for over 20 years, so I’m pretty far along in the process of natural healing, but at first, it took some time. Here’s my latest story, I was treating a patient, leaning over her, as I often do in my practice and I felt an intense pain in my low back, I was honestly afraid that wouldn’t be able to stand back up. I did. I straightened up, kept a straight face and a smile and continued working, finishing out my shift. I was in a lot of pain, I’d say it was an 8 on the 1 -10 pain scale. Now, understand, I’ve broken my tail bone twice and I have some permanent damage to my lumber spine. If I were the average American,  I would have gone to the Western Doctor, or the ER, for the pain, it was “that bad.” At the ER they would do an MRI and tell me that I have some damage to my lumbar spine, duh, I just said that and I already know. They would write me a script for a narcotic and a some muscle relaxers and send me home. I can tell you that if I took those narcotics and muscles relaxers and laid around a few days, my back would be better, maybe a 5 on the pain scale but it would still hurt and it would still hinder my life. Instead of this route, I called an acupuncturist friend of mine ( I can’t stick needles in my back by myself) and I asked him to come to my clinic the following day and treat my back. The following morning, I had trouble getting in and out of the car, the pain was severe. When I got to the clinic, I happily climbed onto the massage table, ready for my treatment. The acupuncturist treated my low back with needles and followed it with cupping. Needless to say, and I kid you not, my pain was GONE after the treatment. I’ve worked everyday since then and I am back to normal. Just a little plug from me, but honestly, I see this EVERY DAY. It really is this good. Head over to my facebook and read some of my reviews!

Understand that not all “pain” is the same

Not all pain is the same. Some people have chronic pain in one area, due to a past trauma or injury, like neck pain that is the result of damage to the cervical spine from a car accident. There could be chronic pain in one spot, like the elbow or the thumb, from repetitive motion, like playing tennis or typing all day, every day. Then, there are people who have widespread pain that has no apparent cause or diagnosis.  There is pain from arthritis and pain from chronic inflammation. Some people experience pain from muscle tension alone, but there is no injury to their joints. Others have the opposite, inflammation in their joints or their tendons, but the muscles are just fine.

One of the things that first attracted me to Chinese Medical theory and acupuncture is that instead of giving everyone the same remedy for “pain,” Chinese Medical theory encourages us to diagnose the pain, find out why it’s there, before you chose the treatment plan. Chinese medical theory offers more than 12 different pathological reasons for pain, and with those different diagnosis come different treatment protocols.

One thing I like to remind new patients of is how long they’ve had the pain they are in. Like me, I’ve had my pain for 12 years but I’ve been using acupuncture for 20, so my body is used to this therapy and responds very quickly to it. If you’ve never had acupuncture before, it may not be as fast for you.  If your pain has been chronic for years, it make take time for you to get relief.

Each type of pain is treated differently in Chinese Medicine, different points, different ways of doing those points, utilization of heat in the therapy, or cupping. Acute pain and new injuries have the best results with acupuncture, chronic pain often takes more than one treatment. Acupuncture is not a one size fits all therapy.

Acupuncture alone isn’t always a miracle

Acupuncture alone is amazing for increasing blood flow to an area that is in pain, for arthritis in one joint, it can work like a miracle. However, if there is structural damage to an area, like the spine, one acupuncture treatment can relieve the pain for a few days, but it cannot change the structure of the bones, therefor, the pain is likely to return. For muscle spasms, acupuncture, followed by cupping, is almost always a sure fix, with long term relief.

I often see patients who are suffering with wide spread pain all over their bodies. They may or may not have been diagnosed with an auto immune disease or fibromyalgia.  Acupuncture is a wonderful therapy for wide spread pain and often patients feel like the pain relief is “miraculous.” However, with these systemic issues, where the pain is wide spread and chronic, there is more to getting relief than just one acupuncture treatment. We often see better results if we pair the acupuncture with some diet changes and supplementation of specific minerals and vitamins.

Should you take turmeric or other random herbs for pain?

One question I often hear regarding chronic pain is “does turmeric work for pain?” If not turmeric, other supplements, I’ve heard everything from cayenne pepper to willow bark to oregano. People buy hundreds of dollars worth of essential oils that are known to relieve pain! Honestly, the desperation and chronic suffering cloud our judgement and we spend unnecessary money any glimmer of hope.  When considering natural remedies, it’s the same philosophy, not all pain is the same. Many of these natural supplements have anti-inflammatory properties. However, if the patient is suffering from chronic inflammation while eating a diet high in inflammatory foods, taking turmeric is a waste of their time and money. If there is structural damage that cannot be changed, turmeric or cayenne pepper are not going to be strong enough to combat that pain. That said, if the problem is chronic inflammation and the patient is eating an anti-inflammatory diet, and is focused on all around good health practices, then any of these natural anti inflammatory supplements could be a great addition to your pain relieving therapies. Here’s my favorite turmeric supplement, be cautious, they are not all equal! They have different sources, different additives, and different dosages. It’s always best to ask a professional, preferably a licensed Acupuncture Physician, Naturopath or Functional Medicine Doc.

I’d love to work with you!

If you’d like more information on utilizing natural supplements for pain, trying acupuncture, or getting some guidance on how to start an anti inflammatory diet plan, please email me! I’d love to work with you and help you get started on a path towards managing your pain naturally!

My email is

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1 Comment

Tammy McGeehan
Tammy McGeehan
Jan 10

How about peripheral neuropathy?

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