Postoperative Pain

In many cases, surgical intervention can be an essential life-saving procedure. With it, many difficult problems can be treated and various types of pain and other symptoms can be alleviated. After an operation, many patients no longer have the pain that they had prior to the procedure. In some cases, however, even though the damaged tissues have been healed and no mistakes were made in the operation, prolonged postoperative pain can occur.

Postoperative pain, minor or severe, is one of the main complaints associated with surgical procedures. It can continue anything from a few hours to a few years after the operation, even to the end of life in the worst case. About 75% of patients experience moderate or severe pain following surgery [1]. Opioids analgesics remain the mainstay for postoperative pain control, but they are associated with undesirable side-effects.

Effective relief of such post-operative pain is vital. A number of clinical studies have shown the efficacy of acupuncture and related methods as supplemental treatments for postoperative analgesia [2]. At our practice, your pain issue will be treated with a course of Traditional Japanese Acupuncture (TJA) and Rolfing® manipulation designed for your specific condition.

Treatment with Traditional Japanese Medicine

Traditional Japanese Medicine (TJM) takes a holistic approach to health and illness. The basic statement about pain formed almost 2000 years ago is: “If there is free flow, there will be no pain; if there is a lack of free flow, there will be pain.” Here “free flow” refers to the free flow of Qi and blood in the organs, tissues and meridians. During an operation, some healthy tissue can be cut and damaged, along with the diseased or injured tissue targeted by the procedure. This, in turn, results in blockage of the normal Qi and blood circulation, and postoperative pain occurs.

TJA treats postoperative pain based on the fundamental TJM philosophy that there should be a proper balance between Yin and Yang, and a smooth circulation of Qi and blood throughout the system.  TJA for postoperative pain has been shown to accelerate the patient’s recovery and brings a range of benefits with no harmful effects.  (It must be stressed, however, that this is designed to assist patients to eliminate or mitigate their pain as part of an overall treatment plan. The use of acupuncture is not meant to replace necessary support from the patient’s surgical team and regular doctor.)

From a western biomedical viewpoint, acupuncture is believed to facilitate the release of specific neuropeptides in the central nervous system, eliciting profound physiological effects. Various endogenous neuropeptides act in the brain’s central processing system to create an analgesic effect. Acupuncture analgesia affects the peripheral and central pain pathways and can even activate the body’s self-healing mechanisms.[3,4 and 5]

Postoperative Pain Treatments

Case 1

A 40-year-old woman visited me for treatment, complaining of post-operative pain that had lasted more than 4 months along with related breathing and digestive difficulties. Since she had undergone urology operations twice, her digestion and urination had been stagnant and uncomfortable. In her case, I mainly used a Rolfing modality. After 5 sessions, her symptoms were mostly in remission and she started feeling vitality in her life again.

Case 2

A 55-year-old woman visited me for treatment, complaining of post-operative pain that had lasted more than 6 months, along with related digestive difficulties, discomfort in the upper abdominal region and fatigue. She had undergone an incisional hernia operation and also had an untreated ribcage fracture. Due to both these things, her digestion had been stagnant and her autonomic nervous function wasn’t working properly. For her, I used a combination of TJA and Rolfing modalities. After 3 sessions, her symptoms were largely in remission.

After an operation, there can be scar formation that may last for some period of time or may even be permanent.  This scar formation can be either deep or superficial, both of which could easily block the free flow of Qi and blood circulation. According to TJM theory, the abdominal region may include the following organs in Western medicine: large intestine, small intestine, bladder, uterus, ovary and its conduits, and kidney. Hence, adhesions and scars of the peritoneum – which is the membrane covering the above abdominal organs – after surgery are generally the cause of the symptoms.

The treatment modalities I applied in both of the cases above were devoted to releasing the blockage of scar formation with TJA and Rolfing, and also facilitating the flow of Qi and blood. Together, these approaches can improve the patient’s ability to deal with postoperative pain, reduce their pain levels and provide as much relief as possible, while also harmonizing their overall Yin / Yang balance.


[su_quote]Acute pain management strategies have evolved over the past 15 years, becoming increasingly multimodal, with modern understanding of the benefits of combining analgesics with additive or synergistic effects [6]. One non-pharmacologic modality—acupuncture—holds promise in providing postoperative pain relief and in diminishing the side effects associated with volatile anesthetics, opioids, and adjuvant analgesics.

International Association of Study of Pain – FACT SHEET No.12 2017 –


TJA and Rolfing two powerful techniques and approaches useful in dealing with postoperative pain that occurs immediately after the operation or subsequently, or even which exists long after the operation.

If you suffer from postoperative pain but have been frustrated in trying to find a safe and effective therapy, this might be a good time for you to consider Traditional Japanese Medicine.


– References –

  1. Incidence, patient satisfaction, and perceptions of post-surgical pain: results from a US national survey. Gan TJ, Habib AS, Miller TE, White W, Apfelbaum JL Curr Med Res Opin. 2014 Jan; 30(1):149-60.
  2. Acupuncture and related techniques for postoperative pain: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Sun Y, Gan TJ, Dubose JW, Habib AS Br J Anaesth. 2008 Aug; 101(2):151-60.
  3. Chernyak G, Sessler D. Perioperative acupuncture and related techniques. Anesthesiology 2005;102:1031–78.
  4. Lin J, Chen W. Acupuncture analgesia: a review of its mechanisms of actions. Am J Chin Med 2008;36:635–45.
  5. Zhao Z. Neural mechanism underlying acupuncture analgesia. Prog Neurobiol 2008;85:355–75.
  6. White P, Kehlet H. Improving postoperative pain management: what are the unresolved issues? Anesthesiology 2010;112:220–5.

– Credit –

 Daoyin strengthening technique to banish disease, C19 Chinese : Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)