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  • Writer's pictureCraig Amrine L.Ac.

Unlocking the Mystery: How Acupuncture Reduces Pain

Acupuncture is famous for reducing pain. Countless studies both on animals AND humans have proven that acupuncture’s action in reducing pain FAR outweighs any possible placebo effect. In our clinic we use it to to tackle ALL varieties of pain ranging from injury pain to migraines. So how does acupuncture REALLY work in to decrease pain? The two ways it does this is by 1) reducing inflammation…which we have covered in other posts… and 2) Inducing a flood of our natural pain killers in our body.

In our bodies we have a collection of natural pain-killers called ENDOGENOUS OPIOIDS. These are released in high-stress states to ultimately calm our nervous system to bring it back to a low-stress and balanced system. Specifically, there are 3 groups of natural peptides that we label as ENDOGENOUS OPIOIDS: Beta-endorphins, Enkaphilins, and Dynorphins. They are produced in various parts of the brain and serve to regulate pain, affect reward and stress responses, motivation, and even drug addiction. Acupuncture has been shown to stimulate the release of large amounts of these peptides. An interesting electro-acupuncture study from 2012 showed that different frequencies stimulated different amounts of opioid release.

Part of this same study confirmed that these opioids were indeed the reason for stopping pain by giving the patients NARCAN (Nalaxone) after the acupuncture treatment. This opioid blocker eliminated ALL pain relieving benefits of the acupuncture. Narcan is been in the news lately as the first response to stop overdoses from opioids like Fentanyl.

Acupuncture has a huge range of health benefits. The use of Narcan to counter the pain relieving benefits proves that acupuncture has a strong influence on our natural (endogenous) opioids.


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