acupuncture needles artfully displayed

Natural Pain Relief

Most people have now heard about the opioid epidemic that is plaguing the country. Doctors have been prescribing these dangerous drugs liberally over the past few decades, leading to massive problems with dependence, side effects, and overdose.

However, one of the biggest problems with opioids is not their dangerous and addictive nature. It is that they are not even effective for many patients with chronic pain conditions. Therefore, it is no surprise that more and more people are seeking safer, more natural alternatives.

Fortunately, Chinese medicine offers several options when it comes to natural pain relief. These include acupuncture, cupping, massage, herbal medicine, and more. Here are some of the most popular therapies and how they could help:


Acupuncture is one of the best-known forms of Chinese medicine. It involves placing ultra-fine needles into the skin at specific points known as acupoints. This has several effects on the body, including relieving pain.

Acupuncture relieves pain by altering signals in the central nervous system. It also stimulates the release of chemicals called endorphins. These work in a similar way to the opioid morphine. However, because they are naturally produced by the body, there is no risk of harmful side effects, addiction, or overdose.

Acupuncture also relieves inflammation, a major cause of chronic pain conditions such as arthritis. It relaxes the muscles and improves local blood flow to aid the healing process.

From a traditional viewpoint, acupuncture relieves pain by improving the flow of vital substances like qi and blood around the body. This removes stagnation, which acupuncturists see as a leading cause of pain.


Aside from acupuncture, cupping (check out this link for a video demonstration!) is one of the most famous Chinese remedies for pain. Many people have become familiar with cupping thanks to the tell-tale marks that it leaves on the body. These marks have appeared more and more frequently in recent years. They often adorn the skin of professional athletes during competitions such as the Olympics.

During a cupping session, glass or plastic ‘cups,’ are stuck onto the skin using a vacuum. This ruptures the tiny blood vessels under the surface and causes a bruise to form. However, the bruises that cupping creates do not feel tender like normal bruises. They usually aren’t painful at all.

Cupping helps to release tense muscles and encourage better circulation. It can be especially useful for conditions like back pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, and neck pain.

Gua Sha

Gua sha works similarly to cupping. However, instead of using cups, it requires a smooth tool which is used to massage the skin. Gua sha massage is quite firm. It breaks up the small blood vessels under the skin to improve the circulation. It is also great for relaxing tight muscles and relieving tension.

Acupressure Massage

Acupressure massage, sometimes known as tui na, is another effective form of natural pain relief. In fact, you could consider it the most natural form as it does not require needles or any other tools.

In acupressure massage, the practitioner uses their hands to perform a variety of different movements such as pressing, rolling, and rubbing. These techniques help to relieve tension, stiffness, and pain. It can be used alone or combined with acupuncture, cupping, or other therapies.

One of the biggest advantages of acupressure massage is that anyone can learn to do it. While it may not be as effective as a professional massage, patients can easily learn a few basic techniques to use at home. This can help with managing symptoms between appointments and enhance the effects of acupuncture treatment.


Moxibustion is a kind of external herbal medicine. It uses an herb called moxa, which comes from the common mugwort plant. This herb can be burnt close to the skin to provide warming relief from aches and pains. It especially helpful if you have pain that is worse in cold or damp weather.

Moxa can be made into small cones that are burnt directly on acupoints, or into a larger stick that is held just above the skin. It can also be placed on the end of acupuncture needles to perform something known as ‘warm acupuncture.’

In China, moxibustion is so popular that it makes up half of the name for acupuncture, zhen jiu. This name literally translates as needle-moxibustion!

Herbal Medicine

City Acupuncture and Kamwo HerbsAnother effective form of natural pain relief is herbal medicine. Several Chinese herbs are usually combined into a formula which can be adapted to suit each patients’ needs.

The most common method of taking these herbs is by mouth. This could mean drinking them as a tea or taking pills or powders.

However, Chinese herbs may also be applied topically for pain. This means that they are made into creams or balms to rub into the uncomfortable area. This is a convenient and effective way of using herbal medicine for pain. It bypasses the digestive system and allows the medicine to get straight to where it is needed most.

You can also use herbal medicine safely alongside acupuncture and other therapies.


Exercise is one of the best natural remedies for pain, and Chinese medicine has some great options. Tai chi and qi gong are two gentle forms of exercise which are popular among acupuncturists and their patients.

They help you to remain flexible without putting too much pressure on the joints. They can also help to improve strength and balance. An added bonus of tai chi and qi gong is that they are also extremely relaxing. Therefore, they may help to relieve emotional stress as well as physical tension.

For more information on acupuncture, cupping, massage, and these other forms of natural pain relief, get in touch with your local City Acupuncture clinic. We will be happy to discuss the options and how they may benefit you.

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