Acupuncture and Pain Relief
According to a report published in The Lancet, over forty percent of Americans have acute or chronic pain conditions that may require treatment. Acute pain, which starts quickly and does not last long, may be caused by an infection, accident or surgery. Chronic pain, which may be the result of a specific condition, might not diminish with conventional therapies and generally does not go away with the passage of time. Whether acute or chronic, pain is a warning sign telling you something is wrong.
Convential Drug Treatment
Many people choose to deal with their pain by ignoring it or using drugs to treat the symptoms. Conventional drug treatment options for pain often include anti-inflammatory medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.) or steroid injections. Both have a potential for side effects like stomach ulcers, bleeding, liver failure, bone loss, or adrenal burnout. Unlike the many drugs used for pain management, there are no inherent side effects with acupuncture.
How Pain Occurs
An understanding of how pain occurs is critical to finding more effective ways to manage it. There are millions of sensory receptors in the body that keep the brain informed about the conditions of the body. These receptors and the brain communicate in a complicated code through a network of nerves located throughout the body. Acupuncture points are believed to stimulate this network of nerves to release chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals either change the experience of pain or release other chemicals, such as hormones, that influence the body’s self-regulating systems. These biochemical changes may stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.
Acupuncture Recognized as Effective for Pain
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has concluded that acupuncture starts the flow of pain-relieving endorphins and immune system cells to specific sites in the body that are injured or vulnerable to disease. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the NIH acknowledge the benefits of acupuncture for treating and eliminating pain due to a wide range of causes. Stress-related disorders, pain management, and chronic disease are three of acupuncture medicine’s specialties.
Here are just a few of the many study results published recently:
- A major study reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine (December 2004) found that acupuncture relieves pain and improves function for patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.
- The British Medical Journal reported that weekly acupuncture sessions markedly eased pain and stiffness in patients taking prescription anti-inflammatory drugs and was effective for treatment of chronic headaches, particularly migraines.
- Time magazine (February 2005) ran a series of articles on pain management and identified acupuncture for the treatment of headaches and osteoarthritis.
Acupuncture Complements Other Approaches
Increasingly, acupuncture is complementing conventional therapies. For example, doctors and acupuncturists may work together to control surgery-related pain in their patients. By providing both acupuncture and certain conventional anesthetic drugs, it is possible to achieve a state of complete pain relief for some patients. Using acupuncture lowers the need for conventional pain-killing drugs and thus reduces the risk of side effects for patients who take the drugs. Acupuncture is offered as part of an array of therapies at many well-known hospitals throughout the country, including the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
For more on acute and chronic pain management.