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Acupuncture is emerging as the predominant method for alleviating pain

Pain is an inevitable part of life that can significantly impact one's quality of life. When we experience pain, it is transformed into a nerve signal that travels to the brain, where the sensation and response to pain are produced through integration and processing. Various neurotransmitters, such as opioid peptides, γ-aminobutyric acid, norepinephrine, 5-hydroxytryptamine, and glutamate, have been found to play a role in pain modulation.

While painkillers have traditionally been effective in managing pain, they come with the risk of addiction, drowsiness, and other side effects that cannot be ignored. The misuse of painkillers can also lead to serious damage to brain function.

One notable advantage of acupuncture is its minimal side effects. Acupuncture has been gaining popularity worldwide and is now considered a mainstay treatment for pain management. Originating from China, acupuncture has long been recognized for its effectiveness in relieving pain. Today, numerous studies have confirmed its positive analgesic effect. Clinical trials have shown that acupuncture can effectively control pain and inflammation associated with various diseases. It has shown excellent curative effects in alleviating conditions such as headaches, neuropathic pain, back pain, and knee osteoarthritis. Several international clinical guidelines even suggest that acupuncture's pain-relieving effect is on par with traditional pharmacology or interventional technology. Due to its positive effects and superior safety profile, acupuncture is increasingly accepted by the general population.

In 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) officially acknowledged the pain-alleviating effects of acupuncture. Modern research has shed light on how acupuncture stimulates specific acupoints, modulates neurotransmitters, and produces analgesic effects.

A recent research paper analyzed the progress and research trends in acupuncture analgesia over the past ten years (2011-2021). The study examined a total of 4,781 English articles through bibliometric analysis. The publication of acupuncture analgesia research has more than doubled during this period, increasing from 304 articles in 2011 to 687 articles in 2020. These articles were sourced from 1,043 journals, with Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine publishing the highest number of articles (7.8%), followed by Medicine (4.8%), and Acupuncture in Medicine (4.8%). Notably, 91 countries have contributed publications on acupuncture treatment for pain, with 32 countries publishing over 20 articles. The top five countries in terms of publication volume were China (1,577 articles), the United States (1,205 articles), South Korea (465 articles), England (330 articles), and Germany (258 articles).

The growing body of research and publications on acupuncture as a treatment for pain reflects the increasing recognition of its efficacy and benefits. As more studies and clinical trials are conducted, acupuncture's role in pain management will continue to be refined and further solidified. With its minimal side effects and positive analgesic effects, acupuncture is poised to play an essential role in the future of pain relief, offering a viable alternative to traditional pharmacological approaches.

Here are some ways in which acupuncture can benefit individuals experiencing pain:

Pain Relief: Acupuncture helps relieve pain by promoting the release of endorphins, which can reduce discomfort and provide a sense of well-being.

Reduced Inflammation: Inflammation often accompanies pain. Acupuncture has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects, helping to reduce swelling and improve joint mobility. By addressing the underlying inflammation, acupuncture can contribute to long-term pain management.

Improved Blood Circulation: Acupuncture enhances blood circulation, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the affected area. This improved circulation aids in tissue repair, reduces muscle tension, and accelerates the healing process.

Muscle Relaxation: Tense or tight muscles can contribute to pain. Acupuncture can help relax muscles and alleviate tension, promoting better flexibility and range of motion.

Holistic Approach: Acupuncture takes a holistic approach to healing, considering the interconnectedness of the body, mind, and emotions. By addressing the underlying imbalances and promoting overall well-being, acupuncture can have positive effects on both the physical and mental aspects of pain management.


Menglong Zhang, et al Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2022; 2022: 1451342.

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