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The Role of Acupuncture in Pain Management

Abstract

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese practice of medicine that has gained popularity in Western culture and around the world. It involves the insertion of thin needles into the skin to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissues throughout the body with the goal of alleviating pain, tension, and stress. More broadly, acupuncture is actually a family of different procedures. Conceptually, it is believed to stimulate the body’s meridians, or energy-carrying channels, in an attempt to correct imbalances and to restore health. These benefits are thought to be derived from the proximity of acupoints with nerves through intracellular calcium ions. This lesson outlines a brief history of acupuncture and how it may be used to treat various types of physical and emotional pain and specific conditions, including overactive bladder and psoriasis. Acupuncture has been demonstrated to enhance endogenous opiates, such as dynorphin, endorphin, encephalin, and release corticosteroids, relieving pain and enhancing the healing process. There are associated risks; however, serious side effects are rare. When compared to traditional methods of pain management, more studies are warranted in order to establish the efficacy of acupuncture and its place in pain management.

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Correspondence to Alan David Kaye.

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Shilpadevi Patil, Sudipta Sen, Matthew Bral, Shanthi Reddy, Kevin K. Bradley, Elyse M. Cornett, Charles J. Fox, and Alan David Kaye declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Other Pain

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Patil, S., Sen, S., Bral, M. et al. The Role of Acupuncture in Pain Management. Curr Pain Headache Rep 20, 22 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11916-016-0552-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11916-016-0552-1

Keywords

  • Acupuncture
  • Analgesia
  • Pain management
  • Alternative therapy
  • Pain relief