Pain, an unpleasant sensation that occurs in response to tissue injury, is a normal protective process that lets us know when something is wrong.
Our nervous system is made up of the central (brain and spinal cord) and peripheral (nerve fibers, nerve endings, receptors) nervous systems, which work together, transmitting signals to and from the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the body via nerve fibers. There are three categories of nerve fibers, each responsible for different sensations: A-delta fiber (sharp localized pain), B fiber and C fiber (generalized aching).
Gate Control And Endorphins
If the spinal cord is overloaded with various signals transmitted by A-delta fibers, areas of our spinal cord can act as a gate, blocking the transmission of pain signals via C-fibers, thus diminishing or eliminating pain. Furthermore, our brain and spinal cord is capable of producing endorphins, a morphine-like substance, or other neurotransmitters, which can further block pain signals to the brain.
Acupuncture And Pain Relief
Acupuncture, which originated in China nearly five thousand years ago, is a treatment for pain and illness in which thin needles are positioned under the surface of the skin at specific points on the body. It spiked interest in the United States in the 1970's following reports of the use of acupuncture as the sole analgesia during major surgeries.
Many studies have suggested that the majority of acupuncture points are located over the peripheral nerves, near nerve endings or tender points. Due to our better understanding of pain, we realize that needle stimulation via acupuncture can close the gate and block the stimulation of pain signal within A-delta fibers located in or just under the skin or muscle.
Acupuncture can also activate the release of endorphins (our body's own natural pain killers) within our central nervous system to further reduce the transmission of pain signals.
Therefore acupuncture is rapidly becoming a very popular, cost-effective, and drug-free alternative in managing severe and chronic pains of all kind.