Acupuncture has come a long way since its Chinese origin more than 2000 years ago. Acupuncture is now a mainstream treatment for a variety of medical conditions if performed by a licensed professional who has had the proper training.

Acupuncture consists of inserting hair-fine needles into the skin. These needles are strategically inserted at specific spots around the body. It was originally said that by inserting these needles into the skin, you are manipulating any imbalance of energy inside the body.

Today through modern medicine, the theory is that acupuncture therapy is able to ease symptoms of certain ailments by having an effect on hormone levels within the body, on the body’s immune system, and by acting on neurotransmitters.

The fact is that many therapies, acupuncture included, are often geared towards assisting the body in self- healing. The human body, for the most part is designed to heal itself. Under normal circumstances the body would go through the necessary motions to repair itself. For example, a broken bone will be painful until treated and given time to heal, at which point the pain will dissipate.

In the case of chronic pain, the body may have been able to heal some aspects of the initial damage but in this case, the body is not capable of complete healing, which in turn leads to chronic, ongoing pain. The idea behind acupuncture for chronic pain is that acupuncture therapy would promote the body to self-heal because of the stimulation to the body that acupuncture does offer. This can lead to some degree of pain relief although it may not be long term relief. Many who take part in acupuncture therapy view it as a way to manage pain as opposed to curing the pain.

A 2012 study found that those who suffer specifically from back and neck pain, chronic headaches, shoulder pain and pain related to osteoarthritis had some pain relief versus those who did not participate in acupuncture treatment.

While studies are still being done around the benefits of acupuncture treatment for a variety of symptoms, more and more patients are seeking acupuncture therapy every day.

Acupuncture is being offered to cancer patients who are receiving treatments such as radiation therapy. It is thought that acupuncture can help cancer patients who are undergoing treatment by minimizing the nausea and vomiting that can often result from cancer treatment, as well as easing some of the related pain.

Acupuncture is also being offered as a treatment for chronic stress, anxiety and depression that can also be associated with chronic pain syndrome.

If you are considering acupuncture therapy for your chronic pain, there are a few simple yet very important points you should keep in mind.

First, remember that for most people, acupuncture is safe as long as it is done by a licensed professional, in a safe and clean environment.

Second, acupuncture is not suitable for everyone. If your immune system is compromised, if you are at an increased risk of infection, if you suffer from a serious skin condition or if you are taking certain medications, acupuncture may not be for you. For this reason, it is imperative that you first speak with your primary care physician before starting any acupuncture treatments. You primary care physician can help set you on the right path and perhaps may even be able to refer you to a reliable treatment center.

And lastly, if you have been given the okay by your primary care physician to take part in acupuncture therapy, it is important that you remember that while acupuncture alone likely will not relieve you of your pain all together, under the right circumstances, acupuncture can be a useful tool during your journey to a better quality of life in spite of your chronic pain.