Acupuncture is getting some well-deserved recognition as a legitimate way to reduce the symptoms of chronic pain. It is no longer a foreign “alternative” treatment option, as millions of people are using acupuncture these days to relieve their pain. In fact, a recent study showed that around 3 million Americans use acupuncture every year and the number seems to be growing. Although the true benefits of acupuncture in treating pain is still up for debate, all research that has been conducted shows an improvement in condition when acupuncture is applied, compared to when it is not. Here we take a look at how acupuncture works and how it is used to treat chronic pain.
Acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. This influences the body's homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being. Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress. It also promotes relaxation and deactivates the parts of the brain that are responsible for anxiety
Acupuncture has long been recognized as an effective treatment for chronic pain and a recent study in 2012 found acupuncture was better than no acupuncture, and that the treatment helped reduce the symptoms of those experiencing back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, and headaches/migraines. The acupuncture process stimulates the nerves located in muscles and other tissues and this leads to the release of endorphins and other things like neuropeptide Y and serotonin. Acupuncture changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord, and changes the way we experience the pain. Acupuncture is also said to increase the amount of adenosine we release in our bodies, which helps reduce the sensation of pain. It also reduces inflammation by opening up blood vessels and promotes vascular function. It also is said to reduce muscle stiffness and improve joint mobility by increasing circulation in specific areas of the body.
The seriousness of acupuncture as a treatment for chronic pain is increasing, as researchers are discovering the ultimate benefits of the process. In 1996, the FDA gave acupuncture its first U.S. seal of approval, classifying acupuncture needles as “medical devices.” Since then, the studies that have been conducted over the efficacy of acupuncture have all show in to improve painful conditions and reduce pain altogether.
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