Acupuncture and Passive Treatments
Updated: Jul 6, 2020
Acupuncture, and other aggressive/invasive treatments like deep tissue massage are not physiologically improving your injury state, but merely suppressing the pain perceived by the brain, hence why you feel great after, then have to re-book again in a weeks time, because “it helped me so much last week!”. Did it? If you have to go back again next week?
Treatments like this stimulate a large release of endogenous opioids (endorphins). Endorphins work by blocking pain receptors temporarily in response to a stressor or acute pain (a needle or an aggressive treatment). Small amounts of opioids can benefit if you are looking for acute pain relief, but they will never correct an issue, and sometimes too much endorphins can mess with your sexual and reproductive health.
This hypothesis was proved by a subtraction experiment whereby scientists prescribed a drug to patients that impaired the effect of opioids to work on pain receptors (so essentially the endorphins couldn’t block the pain). When these receptors were blocked due to intervention, acupuncture no longer reduced the sensation of pain/injury.
Stress releases opioids, the beta-endorphins from the pituitary gland. Which explains the placebo effect of pain relief. The placebo effect is when a persons health seems to improve, or an assessment of their health is improved purely because they think a medical procedure has been carried out on them. The thought that someone has had a medical intervention releases endogenous opioids and pain perception is blunted.
Acupuncture, aggressive ‘deep tissue’ work and other treatments like these WILL NOT mechanically improve your injury and help with your rehabilitation (potentially on a psychological level) but may actually hinder the recovery progress overall.
Pain perception is necessary and helpful, this will be an essential factor in addressing and improving injury.
Luke French | Health Coach