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How Acupuncture Can Improve Postoperative Pain and Reduce Opioid Use

Apr 18, 2023
How Acupuncture Can Improve Postoperative Pain and Reduce Opioid Use
The ancient Eastern treatment of acupuncture has a very current application in reducing pain following surgery. Acupuncture can relieve pain and other unpleasant post-surgical symptoms, meaning you have less need for opioids. Read on to learn more.

Opioids are commonly prescribed to people following surgery to help manage pain. Research shows, though, that as many as 7% of patients continue to fill their opioid prescriptions three months after surgery — when, for most, pain should have subsided. 

Dependence, constipation, and brain fog are some of the unpleasant side effects of using these pain pills. If you have a history of dependence, or if you can’t tolerate them and want another option for pain relief, acupuncture may be the solution.

The ancient Eastern practice of acupuncture uses fine needles to trigger healing. It stimulates nerve-rich areas to improve circulation and influence functions of the body. It turns out that acupuncture also has a very powerful pain-relieving effect on people who have postoperative pain. 

At Minnesota Integrative Medicine & Acupuncture, Clinical Director and Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, Kierstin Beaman, DACM, LAc, offers acupuncture to treat a variety of ailments and invoke healing. She wants you to understand how acupuncture can be a valid alternative or adjunct to Western treatments. 

Read on to learn more about acupuncture’s unique ability to provide noninvasive, non-addictive pain relief, and how it can help you heal.

How acupuncture works

Acupuncture works with the natural healing capabilities of the body. In traditional Chinese medicine, the treatments help qi — or the life force energy — to flow freely. In Western terms, it involves promoting blood flow and improving nervous system health.

The treatments stimulate the central nervous system, which causes your body to release chemicals such as endorphins into the muscles, brain, and spinal cord. The result is activation of your body’s natural healing abilities and the promotion of physical and emotional well-being. 

Acupuncture and surgical pain relief

Acupuncture has a wide array of applications, including for soft tissue pain, asthma, infertility, and headaches. Add surgical pain relief to this list.

Along with other post-surgical healing strategies, including icing, compression therapy, and physical therapy, acupuncture can adequately reduce pain so you need fewer or no opioids at all.

Acupuncture improves digestion by regulating the digestive system and reducing inflammation; this can alleviate anesthesia-induced nausea and constipation that often follows surgery.

Acupuncture initiates the release of your body’s natural pain killers, called endorphins, eliminating dependence on pharmaceuticals for pain relief. 

After surgery, acupuncture promotes relaxation and reduces stress and anxiety. This reduces the perception of pain and can also help patients who experience chronic pain, depression, or anxiety. Less pain means less need for opioids. You might even seek acupuncture prior to surgery to relieve stress leading up to your upcoming procedure.

The relaxation effect of acupuncture also means better sleep quality for the patient, which, in turn, helps to reduce pain and promote healing. 

Acupuncture can boost your immune system so you’re as healthy as possible going into surgery, which only makes recovery go more smoothly. Following surgery, reduced inflammation from the treatment means you need fewer anti-inflammatory medications, including opioids. 

In addition, acupuncture helps limit swelling and improve joint movement in the days following surgery. This is because acupuncture promotes greater blood flow and oxygenation to the affected area, as well as increasing the production of white blood cells that speed up healing and reduce the risk of complications. 

Proven effects of acupuncture for postoperative pain

Research supports the use of acupuncture for pain relief following surgery. Patients treated with acupuncture reported less pain and used fewer opioids on day one after surgery compared to those who didn’t receive acupuncture. 

Acupuncture has proven effective for pain control following cesarean section deliveries and knee surgeries, too.

Find a qualified acupuncturist

Dr. Beaman has the experience, skills, and training to expertly apply acupuncture to ease surgical pain. She applies acupuncture as a safe and effective treatment for postoperative pain as part of a complete healing treatment plan. 

If you’re ready to learn about the remarkable ways acupuncture can help you reduce pain after surgery and reduce or eliminate the need for opioids, contact Dr. Kierstin Beaman and her team. They can explain the process in more detail and help you decide if it’s right for you. To schedule a consultation, call 651-272-7998 or book an appointment online.