In today’s fast paced world where people are constantly on the go, little time is left for our bodies to rest and recover. This often leads to health complications resulting in chronic pain and fatigue. The standard treatment of chronic pain in Western medicine is limited to prescription pain medications, surgical interventions, or a combination of the two. Unfortunately these modalities are not always effective for symptom relief; and often leave the body in a weakened state, further compromising vitality and well-being. Also, pharmaceuticals are a temporary solution to mask pain, leading to increased tolerance of the medications and risks for developing addiction.
Our bodies are intricately designed with self-healing mechanisms built in that can be activated and unlocked to help alleviate pain and disease. Did you know that the body is equipped with its own endogenous opioid system? This system contains three groups of opioid peptides, β-endorphin, met- and leu-enkephalins, dynorphins and three groups of related receptors, μ (MOR), δ (λ, DOR), and κ (KOR). These peptides and their corresponding receptors are widely distributed at selective locations throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. They are particularly found in areas involved in pain modulation, reward, responses to stress, and autonomic control. Opioid medications work on these same receptors providing analgesia but also unwanted side effects.
How does acupuncture work to activate the endogenous opioid system? Acupuncture uses very thin needles to stimulate selected points on the body. The insertion of needles into the acupuncture points creates a micro-trauma. This stimulates a nociceptive pain response, sometimes resulting in an aching or throbbing sensation. This pain response from the peripheral nervous system sends an impulse to the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, which then reaches the brain and sends information back to the area of perceived injury.
Acupuncture enhances the descending inhibitory effect and modulates the feeling of pain, thus modifying central sensitization described as “an amplification of neural signaling within the central nervous system (CNS) that elicits pain hypersensitivity”. There are certain conditions that may increase central sensitization including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, temporomandibular disorders, fibromyalgia, musculoskeletal disorders, tension-type headache, neuropathic pain, complex regional pain syndrome, and post-surgical pain. These conditions are regularly treated at Integrated Neurology Health Services.