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How traditional acupuncture views pain.

Ever been stung by a bee? Touched something too hot? Or that really annoying one of stubbing your toe? Brings tears to the eyes just thinking about it! Pain is as much a part of everyday life as breathing. As much as people hate it, pain protects us by warning us that something is wrong with the body and we need to take notice. Our natural response is to get rid of pain and so pain medication can seem like the best and most logical option available. Pain relief medications garnered the highest sales value of over the counter medications in Great Britain from 2016-2017 reaching 535.2 million pounds with Neurophen sales accounting for 107.5 million pounds as the best selling brand [1,2].

What is pain?
Whilst pain medication certainly is a useful tool as great as it is to be pain free, blocking pain signals can prevent you from understanding your pain and why it is there in the first place. For example, bad posture may exacerbate your injury, however if you are unable to feel the pain you can quite happliy continue slouching and continue with bad habbits oblivious to the increased inflammation it is causing your injury. However once the pain medication has worn off you can be hit by the pain hangover of all pain hangovers. Eeek!

Pain is an unpleasant sensory and very emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.

So how does pain work?

  1. Transduction- Recievers in our skin, bones and deep tissue pick up the message when pain is felt e.g. from a bee sting.
  2. Transmission- The message is transmitted by the peripheral nerves to the spinal cord and the dorsal horn and sorted out. 
  3. Perception- The cerebral cortex describes where the pain is from and measurably references it.
  4. Modulation- The sensory cortex which is located in the front part of the parietal lobe, which is located in the middle area of our brain is the functional location of the message. 
  5. Reaction- Our body reacts as needed. Taking the hand away from the stove burner or hopping up and down trying to hold back expletives from your stubbed toe. 
  6. Pain referral- Over a longer period of time pain and inflammation can spread further to other parts of the body such as pain from compensatory movement. 

How traditional acupuncture view's pain in layman's terms.

Many people have heard of the term qi used in relation to acupuncture and associate it with a mystical power when in fact it is a Chinese translation used to describe the flow and function of blood and body fluids in the body. A far less mystical and more biological term once understood. 

  1. Transduction- Acute pain is felt or chronic pain builds up over time. This pain is seen as a blockage of qi in the channels or meridians called stagnation.
  2. Transmission- The stagnation is transmitted by the related channels or meridians (there are twelve main channels and many cross laterals throughout the body).
  3. Perception- The patient describes where the pain is from and measurably references it e.g. dull, sharp, pins and needles. 
  4. Modulation- The affected channels, tongue and pulse diagnosis during the consultation provide the functional location of the pain message(s).
  5. Reaction- The body reacts to pain or qi stagnation when needed such as an "ouch," "eek" or "ahh!" The body also reacts to the needle by releasing the soft tissue and trigger points encouraging pain relieving hormones.
  6. Pain referral/Chronic pain- A stagnation or blockage in the channels is seen as the beginnings of a traffic jam in the channels. Over time a longer period of stagnation causes this traffic jam to increase and heat and humidity (dampness) from the cars also begins to build. Similar to pain referral and increased inflammation. Acupuncture needles are used to free this stagnation or blockage thus reducing pain and inflammation.

If you are experiencing pain acupuncture can help provide a pain free natural alternative or adjunct to over the counter pain medications. If you have any further questions please feel free to contact the clinic or your local British Acupuncture Council acupuncturist. Alternatively you can now tell the pharmacist that you would like some Neurophen to help with your qi stagnation and count how many grooves you can see in the their flummoxed forehead. 


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  • I was referred to Lorna by my local GP after the re-occurance of problems in my shoulder and neck. The injury was from being hit by a car while out cycling over 18 months ago. Lorna quickly assessed the problem of the damaged muscle area but also correctly predicted the secondary effects on other muscles. Lorna is very professional and dedicated to her work that it makes your treatment less stressful. I would recommend Lorna to anyone, especially sports people looking to clear up injuries in a positive way with long term benefits.

    Peter (39): Acupuncture
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