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In the case of pain where the origin is unexplained or the usual remedies are troublesome or ineffective in the long term, alternative pain relief is often a worthwhile supplement.

If the pain has no apparent cause or the usual strategies to treat it are unsatisfactory, the situation for the sufferer is particularly demoralising. Since the 1970s, Western medicine has studied acupuncture in depth in conjunction with pain relief. For some types of pain, such as knee osteoarthritis or back pain, its effect has meanwhile been proven in clinical trials (especially the GERAC trials). As a result of these trials, some health insurers also pay for acupuncture as treatment for pain relief (unfortunately, however, only when administered by a physician). A study by the Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in China recently concluded that acupuncture treatment over the course of a month reduces the frequency of migraine attacks.

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  • Michael Haake, Hans-Helge Müller, Carmen Schade-Brittinger; et al.: German Acupuncture Trials (Gerac) For Chronic Low Back Pain. Randomized, Multicenter, Blinded, Parallel-Group Trial With 3 Groups, Arch Intern Med. 2007; 167(17):1892-1898. doi:10.1001/Archinte.167.17.1892
  • Hanns-Peter Scharf, Ulrich Mansmann, Konrad Streitberger, Steffen Witte, Jürgen Krämer, Christoph Maier, Hans-Joachim Trampisch, Norbert Victor: Acupuncture and Knee Osteoarthritis: A Three-Armed Randomized Trial, in: Annals of internal medicine 4.7.2006
  • Ling Zhao et al.: The Long-term Effect of Acupuncture for Migraine Prophylaxis, JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(4):508-515.doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.9378;

How you benefit:

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine also takes your personal situation and emotional stress into consideration as possible causes for pain.
  • Especially for chronic pain, the causes often lie deeper. If you suffer from moisture in the joints, for example, watching your diet can help. 
  • You can do something for your health every day in the shape of your own individual programme of qigong exercises.

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How acupuncture works at physiological level is not so far understood. However, a recent study on the carpal tunnel syndrome shows that measurable and lasting changes occur in the brain (somatosensory cortex) following acupuncture.

Yumi Maeda et al.: Rewiring the primary somatosensory cortex in carpal tunnel syndrome with acupuncture, in: Brain (2017) 140 (4): 914-927. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awx015
Karpaltunnelsyndrom: Wie Akupunktur im Gehirn wirkt, in: Deutsches Ärzteblatt, 6.3.2017

Pain from the standpoint of Traditional Chinese Medicine

From the standpoint of Chinese medicine, pain occurs at the point where blood flow or flow of qi (alternative spelling: chi) is blocked. Thanks to my many years of training in qigong and kung fu, qi flow has become a real physical experience for me. I have learnt to apply acupuncture within the construct of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which for me is coherent. Chinese medicine distinguishes not only between acute and chronic pain but also between inner and outer pathogenic factors that can cause this pain: Wind, cold, heat, damp. That is why I ask a series of questions when making my differential diagnosis:

  • Where is the pain? (Its location in relation to the meridians is relevant here.)
  • What triggered the pain?
  • How long have you had the pain?
  • How would you describe the pain? Is it dull, stabbing, tugging, wandering, cramp-like? 
  • What relieves and what worsens the pain?

In the case of chronic pain, treating deeper lying imbalances in the organ system over a longer period is usually necessary. In this context, it is also important that the patient cooperates, especially through regular exercises (e.g. gentle qigong exercises). In some cases, changes to diet and lifestyle might be required.