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Acupuncture for Post-op pain

Surgeries can sometimes be a viable way to correct dysfunction in the body and, at times, can be necessary to save your life or an essential body function. However, these surgeries can also cause extreme pain as you recover, called post-operative or post-op pain. Specialized acupuncture for post-op pain can help you manage this pain and discomfort, and even speed healing. 

Acupuncture for Post-Op Pain: What is it? And Can it Help me? 

Post-Op Pain: By the Numbers 

According to the CDC, nearly 100 million surgical procedures were performed in 2010, and this number has increased in recent years. Although surgeries can be very beneficial, they also come with risks and a host of potential ill effects. 

One such effect is post-operative pain. It is estimated that nearly 86% of surgical patients experience moderate to severe pain after their procedures and, depending on the surgery type, may even experience chronic (lasting longer than 6 months) post-op pain (Liu, 2015). Unsatisfactory pain control can reduce quality of life, limit physical activity, prolong recovery time and also increase the risks of post-operative complications such as morbidity and extended hospitalization stays (Liu, 2015). With this many people experiencing post-op pain, there are many different pain management options available. Acupuncture for post-op pain is an option many patients choose instead of medications which are commonly prescribed. 

Common Post-Op Pain Treatment: Painkillers 

The standard treatment of post-operative pain in the U.S. has been analgesic medications, also called painkillers. There are many different types of painkillers. Some are mild, such as ibuprofen, which is used in Advil and Motrin, and may be used for headaches, stomach cramps or muscle aches. When used properly, side-effects for these medicines are also mild. However, post-op pain is often severe and these are generally not enough, or they must be used in high doses. 

In high doses, even mild systemic analgesics can induce a number of side effects. Other, stronger painkillers can induce these side-effects in lower doses. Patients can experience nausea, vomiting, depressive symptoms, urinary retention, constipation, itching skin, and impaired physical or psychological well-being.  

Other medications are stronger and side-effects are more severe. One of the strongest classes of analgesic medications are opioids, such as OxyContin, Percocet, or Vicodin. Though these medications reduce pain, they also come with their own set of side effects. In addition to the side effects of other painkillers, opioids can be highly addictive and should only be used in moderation. When dealing with post-op pain, many patients struggle to manage their use of opioids. In 2015, 2 million Americans over age 12 had a substance abuse problem involving opioids, according to American Society of Addiction Medicine.  

Due to the issues with these painkillers, non-pharmacological approaches have started to gain the attention of the medical community. One such approach acupuncture for post-op pain. 

Acupuncture for Post-Op Pain 

Acupuncture is a form of medicine that has been around for over 4000 years and has been studied extensively for its pain-relieving benefits. Many studies have shown acupuncture to signal the body to release its own natural painkillers and anti-inflammatories. As the body is naturally adapted to deal with pain in this way, it does not upset normal body processes or create any risk of addiction or dependency. These naturally-occurring chemicals in the body promote healthy healing, and help patients feel better without weighing them down with other stressful side-effects. 

For minor procedures, acupuncture for post-op pain can potentially eliminate the need for any medications. In cases of more invasive or major surgeries, acupuncture for post-op pain can reduce the amount of pain medication needed. Acupuncture has also been shown to stimulate your body’s own innate ability to heal and can therefore expedite recovery times and allow for better surgical outcomes after certain procedures. 

There are a number of benefits of acupuncture for post-op pain. Patients can avoid the harmful side-effects of strong painkillers, reduce the medical bills they pay through expensive prescriptions, heal faster, stay healthier, and avoid the risk of a dangerous dependency. For more information on how acupuncture can help you or a loved one suffering from acute of chronic post-op pain. Call to speak with an acupuncture physician near you. 


 Liu, X., Tan, J., Molassiotis, A. (2015) Acupuncture-Point Stimulation for Postoperative Pain Control: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2015/657809/

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