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Chronic and acute pain: acupuncture, a completely natural solution

According to a report from the Spanish Pain Society (Sociedad Española del Dolor), one in every six Spaniards (17%) suffers from chronic pain and this has a detrimental effect on their quality of life. The Spanish Health care system offers at present several therapies and pharmacological treatment for chronic pain.

Unfortunately not all these treatments are effective for all kinds of pain and there is a need for alternative strategies to improve this situation. In the Chinese health care system acupuncture and herbal medicine are often used along main-stream medicine to complete the offer of possible solutions for pain disorders. This ancient medical system consists of inserting hair-thin needles in various parts of the body to restore the body’s balance and alleviate pain in a completely natural way, using the body’s own resources.

What is acupuncture and where does is come from? 

Acupuncture, along with herbal medicine, is one of the pillars of Chinese medicine. It’s an ancient therapeutic technique which uses hair-thin needles to stimulate certain parts of the body to induce a beneficial effect. Acupuncture has evolved over 3000 years based on efficacy and energetic theories. According to Chinese medicine physiology, acupuncture stimulates points along parts of the body called meridians or vessels which adjust the energy flow in the body and produce a healing and restorative effect.

From a biomedical point of view, the meridians are a map of our vascular and nervous system. Through its stimulation the brain releases substances called endorphins and neurotransmitters which are natural hormones that have analgesic, anti-inflammatory effects and restore homeostasis.

Does acupuncture hurt? 

Patients perceive a variety of sensations when they have an acupuncture treatment. Thanks to the hair-thin needles we use and gentle techniques we apply, sensations experienced by patients vary from mild tingling, pulsating, warming, a dull ache, a small pinch that dissipates quickly or nothing at all. Acupuncture is foremost a very calmingexperience and some patients reach such a deep level of relaxation that they are able to fall asleep during the treatment.

How to prepare for an acupuncture treatment? 

In order to benefit the most from your acupuncture appointment we suggest:

  • to eat a light meal before the treatment
  • dress comfortably, most of the time the needles will be placed in arms and legs so there is no need to undress
  • avoid doing strenuous exercise, eating heavy meals, drinking coffee or alcohol
  • rest after the treatment
  • remember the feelings and sensations you experience during and after the treatment and share them with your therapist during the following appointment

What kind of problems can acupuncture help with? 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published a list of conditions for which acupuncture has been proven to be an effective treatment through controlled clinical trials. Among the conditions we find all kinds of pains such as:

  • low back pain
  • neck pain
  • headaches
  • shoulder pain
  • menstrual pain
  • abdominal pain
  • sciatic pain
  • colic pain
  • traumatic or postoperative pain
  • toothache
  • elbow and knee pain, etc.

Equally acupuncture can be an effective treatment in alleviating the symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, infertility, hypertension, cardiovascular problems, respiratory and digestive problems.

How many treatments are needed? How frequent should they be? 

This will vary a lot between individuals and depend on on the health of the person, their age and how long the problem has been going on for. Generally speaking if the problem has become chronic then the number of treatments needed tends to be more. Acupuncture resolves acute issues quicker than chronic issues. The majority of people will experience changes within 4-6 treatments. The effects of acupuncture are cumulative, therefore in order to achieve a quicker therapeutic effect, we suggest to have a few sessions closer togetherwithin the first week.

Once the problem is solved, we suggest to start regular maintenance sessions to avoid possible relapses.

How many needles are used during an acupuncture treatment? 

This will depend on how each individual responds to treatment. Generally 10 to 25 needles are used in one session. Single-use, sterile needles are used to guarantee maximum hygiene and the patients’ safety.

When is the best time to start treatment? 

The sooner the better. When symptoms start to appear we suggest that you commence treatment right away. The sooner treatment starts, the quicker the problem can be solved.

Are there any risks or contraindications? 

Generally speaking there aren’t any major risks nor contraindications. It is important though that your therapist has undergone formal training consisting in a university degree or similar that includes 1000+ clinically supervised hours and belongs to a professional health organisation. Possible problems that can arise during or after a treatment are slight discomfort, bruising or a mild fatigue or drowsiness that is the result of the therapeutic process initiating in the body.

What other problems can acupuncture help with?

Acupuncture is effective for lots of other problems. According to the WHO acupuncture can be an effective treatment to alleviate problems such as depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, gynaecological issues, infertility, hypertension, and cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive problems.