Results from a number of studies suggest that acupuncture may help ease the types of pain that are often chronic such as low-back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis/ knee pain. It also may help reduce the frequency of tension headaches and prevent migraine headaches. Therefore, acupuncture appears to be a reasonable option for people with chronic pain to consider
Prevalence of Pain
Pain affects everybody at some point in their lives. It may be short-lived or it may linger and become a chronic condition. Regardless of the type of pain, it can be debilitating. According to results from a Canadian Community Health Survey, about 1 in 10 Canadians aged 12 to 44 (an estimated 1.5 million people) experience chronic pain. Another study, published in Pain Research and Management found that 19% of adults over 18 reported being in chronic pain. Approximately one-half of those with chronic pain reported suffering for more than 10 years. Approximately one-third of those reporting chronic pain rated the intensity in the very severe range. The lower back was the most common site of chronic pain, and arthritis was the most frequently named cause. The medical costs associated with low back pain are estimated at 6-12 billion dollars annually.
Many people go to see their regular doctor or to the emergency room when they have pain. The treatments they receive don’t always provide relief. Frequently, the options presented to pain sufferers are medications or surgery. The over-prescription of pain medications is creating an epidemic of opiate addiction. Opioids include commonly known drugs such as fentanyl, oxycodone, morphine, codeine, and heroin. In 2016, there were more than 2,800 apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada.
Acupuncture for Pain Relief
This is where acupuncture comes in. Acupuncture is part of a nearly 3,000-year-old medical system known as Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture uses hair-thin needles to stimulate specific pressure points on the body. Stimulating these points creates a series of changes in the body that help reduce pain and inflammation and engage the body’s healing response.
Acupuncture is associated with improved pain outcomes compared to sham acupuncture and compared to a no acupuncture control.
A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine examined how acupuncture can be used to treat low back pain. The researchers looked at multiple trials to determine that acupuncture shows great promise in relieving chronic low back pain.
A recent update on research published in 2012 in the Journal of Pain concluded that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain, that the effects of acupuncture persist over time, and that the benefits of acupuncture cannot be explained away solely by the placebo effect.
One of the advantages of using acupuncture to treat pain is that it has no real adverse side effects when performed by a qualified and professionally licensed practitioner. Another advantage is the ability to customize the treatments. Acupuncture is not a “one size fits all” type of solution. This means that as the pain shifts and changes, the patient will receive customized treatments that not only address the pain and inflammation, but they also work on resolving the root of the problem. Most patients who are dealing with pain also suffer from stress, insomnia, depression or anxiety. Acupuncture is great at treating all of these conditions. So the patient gets more than just pain relief.
Acupuncture + Modern Medicine
In China many hospitals combine Traditional and Modern medicine. Acupuncture is frequently used as a physical medicine for treating pain and musculoskeletal conditions. This combined use of acupuncture and modern medicine is slowly being tried and accepted in North America. Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota is now successfully using acupuncture in its emergency room to treat conditions ranging from car accident injuries to kidney stones. Their initial results show that patient pain scores are just as low when receiving acupuncture as they are when given analgesic painkillers.
Another positive action regarding the use of acupuncture came just recently. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released proposed changes that plan to educate health care providers about treating pain. The new guidelines recommend doctors get information about acupuncture and suggest it to their patients before prescribing opioids.
With these kinds of recommendations and testimonials, it is hard to believe only about 10 percent of the population has tried acupuncture. But that statistic is slowly changing as more and more people are seeking natural and alternative methods of dealing with pain and disease. Why not check it out for yourself? Contact me to find out more information.
Vickers, Andrew J., Phil, D., Linde, Klaus. Acupuncture for chronic pain. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2014, 311(9): 955-956.