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Acupuncture & Photobiomodulation Therapy Treats Pain

Both acupuncture and photobiomodulation therapy have been shown to be effective for alleviating pain and inflammation. At Bethesda Acupuncture & Wellness Medicine, we integrate these regenerative therapies into our treatment plans to improve healing results and achieve greater patient outcomes.

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Recent studies have surfaced a more nuanced scientific understanding of the relationship between pain and healing. Research shows the risk of acute pain turning into chronic pain increases when nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)—such as Ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, Aspirin—are used in the acute stage of pain. These findings suggest that the body's inflammatory response is directly integral to its ability to physically heal itself and interrupting this inflammatory response with NSAIDs may inhibit the necessary immune response for healing.

An increasing number of studies are challenging the conventional wisdom that inflammation should be suppressed. They show that pain is a complex and multifaceted experience involving both physical and emotional components, each with its own unique characteristics and underlying causes. This shift in scientific understanding emphasizes a deeper need for exploring complementary approaches to pain management through whole person health modalities such as acupuncture.

Studies indicate acupuncture provides comparable pain relieving effects to NSAIDs without the associated side effects. Instead, acupuncture has been shown to decrease pain while increasing the body's ability to heal. A 2017 clinical trial compared the effects of acupuncture to Ibuprofen (a common NSAID) for pain management. Patients were randomly assigned to one of three groups undergoing different treatments:

  • Group 1: acupuncture with a placebo tablet.

  • Group 2: sham acupuncture with a placebo tablet.

  • Group 3: sham acupuncture with ibuprofen.

After 48 hours of treatment, the results were as follows:

  • Group 1: 60.78% of patients had no pain, 37.26% had mild pain, 1.97% had moderate pain, and 0% had severe pain.

  • Group 2: 16.67% had no pain, 43.75% had mild pain, 29.17% had moderate pain, and 8.30% had severe pain.

  • Group 3: 14.89% had no pain, 34.04% had mild pain, 40.42% had moderate pain, and 8.51% had severe pain.

The study showed that acupuncture is a better approach for pain management compared to Ibuprofen. Comparing NSAIDs to acupuncture, it is evident that both acupuncture and NSAIDs reduce inflammation, however only acupuncture promotes healing which is why this integrative approach has been seen to produce faster and greater long-term outcomes.

Photobiomodulation Therapy

In addition to acupuncture, studies show that Photobiomodulation Therapy (PBMT)— also known as Red Light Therapy or Low-level Laser Light Therapy (LLLT)— is also a safe and effective method of reducing pain. This noninvasive and natural therapy targets the source of the pain by increasing growth factors involved in cell proliferation, which play a vital role in wound healing. Furthermore, PBMT triggers the release of endorphins (natural painkillers produced by the body) to help relieve pain.

Achieving Better Results by Integrating Therapies

We focus on safely integrating multiple modalities of healing to offer our patients greater and more durable results in less time. If you are experiencing acute or chronic pain-related symptoms, please give our office a call at 301.880.3232 and it would be our pleasure to schedule a comprehensive evaluation for you.



Langevin, Helene . “Asking the Right Questions on Pain.” NCCIH, 18 Nov. 2022, Accessed 26 Apr. 2023.

Acupuncture: What You Need To Know. (2022, October). NCCIH.

Dompe, Claudia, et al. “Photobiomodulation—Underlying Mechanism and Clinical Applications.” Journal of Clinical Medicine, vol. 9, no. 6, 1 June 2020, p. 1724,,

Murugesan, Haneesh, et al. “Comparison of Acupuncture with Ibuprofen for Pain Management in Patients with Symptomatic Irreversible Pulpitis: A Randomized Double-Blind Clinical Trial.” Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, vol. 10, no. 6, Dec. 2017, pp. 396–401,

Vickers, A. J., Cronin, A. M., Maschino, A. C., Lewith, G., MacPherson, H., Foster, N. E., Sherman, K. J., Witt, C. M., Linde, K., & Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaboration, for the. (2012). Acupuncture for Chronic Pain. Archives of Internal Medicine, 172(19), 1444.



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