How does Acupuncture Relieve Pain?

Written by: DrTonyWillcox | May 1, 2024

Relieving pain with Acupuncture is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)

Acupuncture and the relief of pain involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to alleviate pain and promote healing. Despite its ancient origins, acupuncture has gained recognition in modern medical practice for its effectiveness in pain management. So how does Acupuncture relieve pain? The mechanism behind acupuncture’s ability to reduce pain involves complex interactions between the nervous system, brain chemistry, and the body’s natural healing processes.

Here are the many ways that acupuncture can have an effect in relieving pain.

Does Acupuncture Relieve Pain?

Dr. Tony uses Acupuncture needles to relieve pain in Delray Beach.

Neurotransmitter Release: One proposed mechanism is that acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals. Endorphins act on the opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, reducing the perception of pain. Research has shown that acupuncture can increase levels of endorphins in cerebrospinal fluid, providing a physiological basis for its analgesic effects (Han, J.S., 2004).

Modulation of Neurotransmitters: Acupuncture has been found to influence the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and noradrenaline, which play a role in pain perception and mood regulation. By altering the balance of these neurotransmitters, acupuncture can impact pain signaling pathways (Zhao, Z.Q., 2008).

Gate Control Theory: According to the gate control theory of pain, acupuncture may modulate pain signals by stimulating large nerve fibers that inhibit the transmission of pain signals in the spinal cord. This theory suggests that acupuncture can “close the gate” to pain perception by activating these inhibitory pathways (Melzack, R. and Wall, P.D., 1965).

Anti-inflammatory Effects: Acupuncture has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and promoting the release of anti-inflammatory substances. By reducing inflammation, acupuncture can contribute to pain relief, particularly in conditions involving inflammation (Zijlstra, F.J., et al., 2003).

Regulation of Autonomic Nervous System: Acupuncture has been demonstrated to influence the autonomic nervous system, promoting a balanced state between the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) systems. This modulation can have indirect effects on pain perception and overall well-being (Huang, C., et al., 2013).

In summary, acupuncture’s ability to reduce pain is mediated through multiple physiological mechanisms involving the nervous system, neurotransmitter regulation, and anti-inflammatory effects. The intricacies of acupuncture’s effects and clinical studies consistently support its efficacy in managing various types of pain, including chronic pain conditions. Integrating acupuncture with conventional medical approaches can offer patients a holistic and comprehensive treatment strategy for pain management.

At Acupuncture Zen, Dr. Tony Willcox has been using the benefits of Acupuncture and his training in Anhui, China, and Shanghai, China to provide relief for his patients in Delray Beach, Florida.


– Han, J.S. (2004). Acupuncture and endorphins. Neuroscience Letters, 361(1-3), 258-261.

– Zhao, Z.Q. (2008). Neural mechanism underlying acupuncture analgesia. Progress in Neurobiology, 85(4), 355-375.

– Melzack, R., & Wall, P.D. (1965). Pain mechanisms: A new theory. Science, 150(3699), 971-979.

– Zijlstra, F.J., et al. (2003). Anti-inflammatory actions of acupuncture. Mediators of Inflammation, 12(2), 59-69.

– Huang, C., et al. (2013). Modulation effects of acupuncture on functional connectivity of the autonomic nervous system. Neuroscience Letters, 558, 114-119.

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