There is a famous saying in Chinese medicine: “Tong Ze Bu Tong; Bu Tong Ze Tong” which translates to mean, “when there is no free flow, there is pain.” Basically, any musculoskeletal pain in the body is a result of qi and blood that has become blocked and stagnant.
Chronic pain is a complicated state in the body where there is no logical stimulus for the body to be in pain, but the brain is still firing a message throughout the body thinking it is in pain. Over time in order to protect itself, the body will send less blood and fluids to areas of chronic pain just in case that injury might pose a threat to the rest of the body (remember that we have only been using antibiotics for a short period of time, and the body has needed to survive for thousands of years). This can often result in areas of chronic pain becoming increasingly dry, stiff, creaky and sore.
Acupuncture at a very basic level aims to open up the flow of qi and blood in the body to bring the body back to a state of free flow. Acupuncture can help the brain to understand that the pain signals are firing incorrectly, and that these chronic areas of pain need access to good blood supply and fluids.
Sometimes patients will literally feel a spread of warmth through their areas of pain which is indicative of increased circulation. Blood equates to healing when it comes to repairing soft tissues. Unblocking and smoothing the flow of qi and blood is therefore paramount to pain reduction and pain management.
Depending on the history of the pain, a person will likely need multiple sessions of acupuncture to create sustainable change to their chronic pain. There may also be some lifestyle factors such as movement, diet, and hydration that will need to be moderated to support the best possible outcomes of the acupuncture treatments.