Acupuncture for Pain Management

Linda M. Rapson, MD, CAFCI; Robert Banner, MD, CCFP, FRCP(C)


Geriatrics and Aging. 2008;11(2):93-97. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Acupuncture, an ancient form of medicine that originated in China several thousand years ago, has been used by Canadian physicians since the 1970s. Research on the neurophysiology of acupuncture analgesia supports the theory that it is mediated primarily via the selective release in the central nervous system of neuropeptides. Evidence of its anti-inflammatory effects is emerging. Meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials provide evidence for acupuncture's effectiveness in treating back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis. Applications of electroacupuncture using transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation can provide good pain relief via home treatment and make management of cancer pain using acupuncture knowledge realistic.

Acupuncture has probably been used in Canada since the first Chinese immigrants arrived in the 19th century. However, most Canadians had not heard of this ancient oriental medicine until U.S. President Richard Nixon made his famous trip to China in 1972. James Reston of the New York Times had an emergency appendectomy on that trip and apparently developed paralytic ileus. Instead of passing a nasogastric tube, the Chinese physician inserted a needle (probably in his leg); Reston passed his gas, and the rest is history. Soon photographs and films were seen around the world of awake individuals undergoing surgery in apparent comfort with only acupuncture needles to prevent pain. Within 4 years, research conducted at the University of Toronto in the laboratory of Professor Bruce Pomeranz began the long process toward acceptance of this ancient medical treatment in the West.[1]


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