Acupuncture for Painful Conditions

It is a popular misconception that acupuncture influences the symptoms of pain only. This is perhaps due to the research which has linked acupuncture with the release of certain “pain killing” endorphins. However, the short term benefit of endorphin release cannot account for the long term relief that many patients feel from a course of acupuncture treatment. As a source of primary healthcare in China for centuries, acupuncture has long been used for many painful conditions.

In Chinese medicine, pain occurs when there is a blockage to the flow of qi or blood through the meridians. In treating painful conditions your acupuncturist will take a detailed history before employing one or more techniques to restore the flow of qi and blood through the meridians to stimulate the body’s own repair processes and alleviate pain.

Modern research is still struggling to understand the exact mechanism by which acupuncture works. What is becoming clear in the current research is that acupuncture is beneficial in the treatment of many painful conditions.

What does the research say?

There are many examples where research has found acupuncture to be safe and effective in the treatment of pain.

  • A recent analysis of available research, Acupuncture for Chronic Pain Individual Patient Data Meta-analysis, has concluded that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain. It also concludes that the effect is not placebo and suggests that doctors should be referring patients suffering chronic pain for acupuncture treatment.
  • Acupuncture is show to be cost-effective in the treatment of chronic low back pain in a report on the Cost Effectiveness of Complementary Medicines by Access Economics. According to the report, there is clear evidence that acupuncture treatment for chronic low back pain can result indirect health savings of $3,066,302 per disability adjusted life year (DALY) when used as adjunct to standard care.  It is important to note that the report did not include indirect costs, such as loss of productivity at work, indicating that the full savings are expected to be even higher.
  • For chronic lower back pain, a 2007 German study of 1162 participants found that the effectiveness of acupuncture after six months was almost twice that of conventional therapy (drugs, physical therapy and exercise). A 2009 American study of 638 people found similar results.
  • A 2009 Cochrane review into acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis found that patients receiving acupuncture tended to report more improvement and fewer side effects and that migraine patients benefit from acupuncture.
  • A 2009 Cochrane review into acupuncture for tension-type headache found that the available evidence suggests that acupuncture could be a valuable option for patients suffering from frequent tension-type headache.
  • Most recently, a 2012 study showed that reduces the pain and complications caused by total hip replacement surgery by reducing postoperative pain and preventing complications such as nausea and vomiting. The research also concludes that acupuncture improves the outcome of the surgery by improving hip joint function.

I prefer to take a holistic approach when dealing with painful conditions. In particular chronic conditions are sometimes best approached using a combination of acupuncture, remedial massage, nutritional supplements and Chinese herbal medicine. Some chronic conditions such as arthritis will also respond well to changes in diet and lifestyle.

It is not unusual to see a wide variety of painful conditions in our clinic including arthritis, shingles, shin splints, headache, menstrual pain, knee pain and neck pain.

We also provide specific approaches for:

  • Acute low back pain.
  • Chronic low back pain.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Plantar faciitis (heel pain).
  • Greater trochanteric bursitis.
  • Achilles midportion tendinopathy (Achilles pain).
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome.

If you would like to know a little more about pain there is a very entertaining video taken from TEDx Adelaide by Lorimer Moseley called Why Things Hurt.


Vickers AJ. et al. Acupuncture for Chronic Pain Individual Patient Data Meta-analysis. Available at: Viewed September 13th 2012.

The National Institute for Complementary Medicine. Cost Effectiveness of Complementary Medicine. Available at: Accessed August 27th, 2012.

Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, Manheimer E, Vickers A, White AR, Acupuncture for Migraine Prophylaxis. Available from: Accessed August 27th, 2012.

Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, Manheimer E, Vickers A, White AR, Acupuncture for Tension-type Headache. Available from: Accessed August 27th, 2012.

Wang JF, Bao HX, Cai YH, Zhang JH, Tong PJ. Zhejiang. Case-control study on application of auricular acupuncture for the treatment of analgesia during perioperative period in total hip arthroplasty. Available from: . Accessed August 27th, 2012.