Chronic Pain

Treating Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is one of the most common reasons that people seek acupuncture and other traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) modalities. Whether your neck hurts from looking at a computer all day or you have an old injury that never stopped hurting, you’re not alone.

According to one study, approximately 25.3 million US adults (over 11%) have chronic pain, or pain that persisted daily for the at least three months.

According to TCM, pain is the result of a blockage or disturbance in the qi and blood circulation. Your qi and blood are vital substances that must flow smoothly if they are to reach and nourish every tissue and organ in your body.

Ideally, your qi and blood can move throughout your body with ease. When they become stuck in various areas of your body—which happens with our modern society—chronic pain is one of the most common side effects.

Below are some of the many things that might cause your qi and blood to become blocked, resulting in chronic pain and inflammation.

Physical Trauma or Injury

Emotional Stress

Poor Posture

Infection and Disease

Overuse of a Particular Joint or Muscle

Focusing on the Whole Body

TCM is a holistic approach to treatment. Rather than the Western way of treating symptoms, acupuncture treats the cause. Meaning that it addresses your whole body to bring your health into balance.

Your acupuncturist will work alongside you to identify the underlying origin of your chronic pain. Whether it’s physical, emotional, or pathogenic, they’ll then begin treating your condition at the innermost level, right at the root cause.

A Scientific Viewpoint on TCM from Chronic Pain

The scientific community does not deny that acupuncture can aid with chronic pain relief. It has even been discussed as a potential solution to the opioid crisis, and informed doctors typically don’t object to their patients trying it.

“The results confirm and strengthen previous key findings that acupuncture has a clinically relevant effect compared with no acupuncture control,” wrote the authors of one study. They continued to note that the effects persisted, on average, for at least 12 months after treatment.

Many scientists believe that acupuncture works by stimulating your body’s inherent healing powers. Acupuncture can:


Impact your nervous system and how your brain perceives pain signals


Relax your muscles


Reduce inflammation


Release endorphins, which are natural opioid painkillers


Improve circulation


Reduce emotional stress

How Does TCM Work for Chronic Pain?

Have you ever seen a clogged river with debris and dirt building up behind it? Because it’s unable to flow away, the trash continues to build up until someone removes the blockage. Your body’s energy pathways are like the blocked river, and debris will continue to build up until they’re able to flow freely.

Acupuncture works with the insertion of thin needles in specific points (acupoints) along your energy pathways, also known as meridians. By stimulating your acupoints, the practitioner adjusts and balances the flow of energy to restore your body’s health. As you get more treatments, the flow will continue to improve, gradually reducing the stagnation and relieving pain.

Your practitioner may also prescribe herbs, cupping, and other modalities depending on your specific condition. These are intended to help you feel better faster.