How Acupuncture Steps Down Pain – Concord Center Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine

How Acupuncture Steps Down Pain

Acupuncture is a process. Like physical therapy or chiropractic care, it is very rare for acupuncture to be able to resolve a problem with just one treatment—it can happen, but it is not common. Most patients will require a course of treatment, rather than a single treatment, to reduce symptoms and maintain that improvement. With acupuncture, you are retraining your body to function properly.

How you will respond to acupuncture is not known until you get started with treatment. Every person is different. Usually the longer you have had a condition, the longer it will take to treat. We work diligently to get to the root of what is causing your pain and discomfort as quickly as possible. We never use cookie cutter or one-size-fits-all methods. We use our diagnostic skills, acupuncture and over 17 years of clinical experience to problem solve and determine the best way to address your particular pain condition. Sometimes, depending on your unique presentation, we will also recommend exercises or will refer you to other complementary modes of therapy in order to better help resolve the root of your particular condition.

Acupuncture works cumulatively, building over time, to improve circulation, reduce swelling, relax muscles, reduce inflammation and reduce pain.

Progress is rarely ever a steady or straight line. Below is a graph representing the response of one of our patient’s pain levels during their initial 12 treatments. We find that this response to acupuncture is common enough that it can be used as an example of how acupuncture works to reduce pain over time. However, every person is different and we cannot guarantee that your treatment results will exactly match those shown in this case study.

pain reduction with acupuncture treatment


Case Study: Jenna's Back Pain

Jenna came to us with 8/10 chronic back pain that was radiating to her hips. In this example 0/10 is no pain and 10/10 is the highest pain. Her pain was inhibiting her ability to exercise, work and sleep. She was taking pain medication 2-3 times per day and had already tried a round of physical therapy, which was recommended by her primary care doctor.

During her first acupuncture appointment her back pain was reduced by more than 50%. The pain went from an 8/10 to a 3/10 on the pain scale. She left her first appointment feeling very encouraged by this quick improvement. When she came back for her next treatment, 3 days later, she reported that her pain had gone back up to a 9/10 the day after her first appointment, higher than when she started and she was discouraged. During this follow-up consult, Jenna reported that she had felt so good, after her first treatment, that she went home and started working on her neglected "to-do" list. Her tasks included some house cleaning and bringing her patio furniture in from the porch for the winter. That night she didn’t take her pain medication because she was still feeling good. She woke up the next morning and felt terrible.

So what happened?

One treatment was not enough for Jenna to get back to her full work load and fully eliminate her pain medication. She was counseled to give acupuncture more time and to reduced her activity. She was also advised to work with her doctor to taper her pain medication only once she was sustaining a much lower level of pain for several days at a time.

Over time, acupuncture helped step her pain down and eliminate the need for pain medication. You can see, from the graph, that her pain levels went down with each acupuncture treatment. However, you can also see that in between treatments, her pain would increase again, but usually not to levels that she experienced prior to starting acupuncture. As the series of treatments progressed over time, her pain relief from acupuncture was greater and her highest pain levels began to decrease. There were some not-so-great days in the middle, but overall the pain tapered down over time—not in a straight line, but in a saw-toothed or stepped pattern.

Consistent regular treatments, especially in the first weeks are an essential part of achieving lasting pain relief. Intermittent treatments with long gaps in between are not ideal and typically yield slower and less than optimal results. How often you need to come for treatment will be determined by how much relief you get from your treatments and how long that relief lasts. The hope is that you will be able to come in for follow-up acupuncture treatments before your pain or symptoms has risen back up to where they were before you began getting acupuncture.

We can safely say that if you do not come in often enough or long enough, acupuncture probably won’t work for you because you won’t be able to experience this stepping down of the pain or symptoms.

After her first set of 12 treatments, Jenna came for an additional set of 12 treatments, at which point she had no pain and no limitations. We were grateful that she followed our treatment plan and gave acupuncture a chance to work. While she was coming in for back pain, she discovered that acupuncture was also profoundly relaxing. She now gets regular monthly acupuncture treatments to manage stress and maintain her health.

Acupuncture works in this way for many different types of pain and symptoms, from migraines, arthritis, injuries and nerve pain to digestive problems, hot flashesmenstrual problems, anxiety, allergies and much more.  If you are unsure if acupuncture can help your particular health issue, call us to schedule a free consultation.

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