How Can You Use Acupuncture for Pain Treatment?
Everyone has experienced pain at some point. In fact, 80% of Americans experience pain at any one time and over 100 million suffer from chronic pain. That’s more than all of those suffering from the four major illnesses COMBINED (cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke). When you are in pain, it impacts nearly every area of your life, including sleep, appetite, relationships, job performance and life style. Acupuncture for pain offers relief while sometimes targeting the cause of the pain, all without the side effects of medication.
The Pain Differential
Pain comes in many forms and strikes in many different places in the body, from back pain and head pain, to abdominal, joint and neurological pain. And multiple factors can cause the pain, such as injury, surgery, disease, tumors, poor circulation, and changes in normal bone, tissue and bodily functions. Then in some cases, pain is present with no medical explanation, or the perceived pain is out of proportion to any evidence of cause. What is tricky about pain, and treating pain, is individual psyches. Psychological states can actually decrease pain tolerance and chronic noxious pain stimuli can cause changes to pain receptors in the brain that can increase pain perception.
There is not one simple remedy for all pain – the options and approaches to treating pain differ just as much as the locations and causes for the pain. More conventional treatments include medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, opioids, anticonvulsants and invasive procedures, such as joint replacement, bone fusions, nerve blockers, platelet and stem cells. Then there are alternative options, like chiropractic care, physical therapy, massage, fascial stretch and injection treatments, like steroids and Botox. And of course, there is acupuncture for pain, recognized as a safe and effective treatment for many types of pain. Because pain is such a pervasive and complex problem, sometimes the best approach is multidisciplinary.
Acupuncture for Pain
Acupuncture and electroacupuncture can work alone for conditions such as chronic headache, digestive pain, sprains or strains, menstrual pain, muscle tension and chronic systemic pain. They also complement other modalities to produce better, faster outcomes.
For example, acupuncture and chiropractic care work well together to treat pain related to spine misalignment combined with neck, back and shoulder tension or mental-emotional stress. And I often recommend physical therapy, massage and/or fascial stretch when I’m treating people for injury, post-surgery recovery, stroke rehabilitation and chronically tight musculature. Injection treatments are sometimes necessary for joint degradation, chronic severe pain, or severe flare-ups. Many injection treatments must be repeated periodically, can decrease in effectiveness over time, and in some cases, have side effects. Combining injections and acupuncture for pain can extend the time between injections and in some cases, improve results by slowing disease progression and initiating healing.
When surgery for pain relief is necessary, acupuncture works extremely well as an accompaniment. It works to lessen acute pain, speed the healing process and improve results by minimizing scarring, helping repair tissue, bone and nerve damage. In some cases, acupuncture even prevents or postpones the need for invasive surgery, which always comes with health risks.
Pain medications are also helpful and important to treating pain, but only for very short-term use. They have potentially serious side effects that can damage the liver and kidneys or cause opioid dependence. Acupuncture for pain reduces, if not eliminates, the need for post-surgical and chronic pain medications, in particular opioids. With our current epidemic in opioid overuse and addiction, acupuncture should certainly be considered by every surgeon, pain doctor and patient as a first line of defense for pain, alone and in certain cases with reduced amounts of medications. Acupuncture has even been shown as an effective way to treat opioid dependence.
What are the Benefits of Using Acupuncture for Pain?
First, acupuncture for pain is considered very safe when performed by a licensed acupuncturist, properly trained and certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. The governing organization states that “not a single death has been reported to result from acupuncture in the US.” While there are potentially some mild adverse effects – bruising, bleeding (with needle removal), dizziness or fainting and fatigue – these side effects are really minimal as compared to the potential side effects of other forms of pain treatment. Based on a 2004 review, a rare, serious complication associated with acupuncture was estimated to be 0.05 per 10,000 treatments. And in examining the data, most events were due to negligence and improperly trained practitioners.
Second, it works! The National Institutes for Health and the World Health Organization have officially confirmed the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating several common pain conditions. And clinically there is increasing evidence for its effectiveness for treating an even greater number of conditions.
Acupuncture treatments for pain actually works on several levels. It not only reduces pain and inflammation, it can treat the underlying causes of pain, the psychological and psychosomatic aspects of pain, and it can treat multiple pain areas simultaneously. This is especially good for treating systemic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia, complex regional pain and neuropathies.
Whether you experience acute, intermittent or chronic pain, you have a lot of treatment options to consider. Keep acupuncture for pain in mind, either alone or at least as part of your pain treatment. And give it enough time to work. Often people expect acupuncture to work as quickly as a pill or a shot. Acupuncture uses your body’s natural healing mechanisms, and this can take time, especially if you’ve had the problem for a while. The benefit of this natural approach is that it can actually heal the pain-causing condition and produce more lasting results – all while providing pain relief. Schedule a consultation with me to get back to feeling like yourself faster, and naturally, with acupuncture for pain.