Acupuncture to Lessen Post-Surgical Pain

Acupuncture needles on wet leaf

Acupuncture Provides Another Option for Post-Surgical Pain

Post-surgical pain just may be the worst part of a planned or emergency surgery. Although medication dulls the pain, prescription drugs can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and drowsiness. Acupuncture treatment helps keep pain at bay and doesn't cause any side effects.

How Acupuncture Relieves Pain after Surgery

Injuries and illnesses disrupt the flow of Qi, a life force that flows through your body in a network of pathways called meridians. Qi keeps your body in balance and is crucial for good physical and medical health. When Qi becomes blocked, you may be more likely to experience pain and other symptoms. Acupuncture removes blockages that limit the free flow of Qi, which eases pain and restores balance.

Acupuncture treatments also:

  • Increase Production of Natural Pain Killers. Acupuncture prompts your brain to release serotonin and endorphins, hormones that relieve pain. These hormones also improve your mood and help you feel calm.
  • Interrupt Pain Signals. Treatments may stop pain signals from traveling from the nerves to the brain. If those signals never arrive in the brain, you won't feel pain.
  • Reduce Inflammation. Cutting through tissue during surgery, whether performed with a laser or scalpel, triggers your body's inflammatory response. White blood cells rush to the injured area and begin repairing cells. At the same time, the area becomes red, swollen, and painful. Acupuncture reduces lingering inflammation, improving pain, and comfort. Treatments increase production of adenosine, a chemical that relieves both inflammation and pain. In a study with mice, University of Rochester Medical Center researchers discovered that the amount of adenosine in areas treated with acupuncture was 24 times greater than before treatment.
  • Improve Circulation. Acupuncture improves blood flow, making it easier for oxygen, white blood cells, and nutrients needed for healing to reach the surgical site.
  • Break Up Scar Tissue. Your body repairs an injured area by creating a scar with collagen fibers. Scar tissue can be tight and painful and may even restrict your ability to move a joint in some cases. Inserting acupuncture needles in your skin at precise points breaks up scar tissue in your skin and may even reduce scar tissue in deeper tissues.
  • Treat Many Types of Post-Operative Pain. Acupuncture treatments reduce pain associated with Cesarean births, knee surgery, dental procedures, spinal surgery, and other types of surgeries, including same-day operations.
  • Help You Sleep. Down time is important for healing. During the hours you're asleep, your body repairs injured tissues and cells. Unfortunately, getting a good night's sleep can be difficult if you're in pain. In addition to easing your pain, acupuncture increases melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep/wake cycle and helps you fall asleep at night.

Acupuncture Helps You Avoid Addiction

It's very easy to become addicted to opioids prescribed to treat post-surgical pain. Fortunately, acupuncture may help you avoid ever needing opioids or might reduce the amount of time you need to take narcotic medication. In fact, several research studies have proven that acupuncture offers an effective way to decrease reliance on opioids.

In a systematic review and meta-analysis published in PLoS One, researchers noted that patients who received acupuncture had less pain one day after surgery and needed fewer opioids than those in a control group.

Acupuncture can also help keep pain under control after total knee replacement surgery. Sixty-five percent of patients at the Hospital for Special Surgery who received electroacupuncture didn't need opioids at all or only needed a low dose. Only 9% of patients who didn't receive acupuncture treatment were able to recover without opioids.

    Is a surgical procedure in your future? Acupuncture could help you manage your pain. Give us call if you're ready to schedule an acupuncture treatment.


    University of Rochester Medical Center: Acupuncture’s Molecular Effects Pinned Down, 5/30/2020

    PubMed: Acupuncture Increases Nocturnal Melatonin Secretions and Reduces Insomnia and Anxiety: a Preliminary Stuido, 2004

    NCBI: PLoS One: The Efficacy of Acupuncture in Post-Operative Pain Management: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, 3/9/2016

    American Society of Anesthesiologists: Acupuncture Reduces Pain and Opioid Use for Total Knee Replacement Surgery Patients, 10/10/2021

    JAMA Network: Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Pain Control After Cesarean Delivery: A Randomized Clinical Trial, 2/28/2022


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