Acupuncture has Long Been Recognized as an
Effective Treatment for Chronic Pain

“As a patient, it seemed as if no medical professional could give me an answer to my chronic pain.
After only a few [Acupuncture] sessions, my energy had doubled, and muscle tension washed away.
During the treatment, occasional bouts of deep pain led to a release in knots and tightness that had been commonplace for years.
Gradually, my symptoms reduced, and I was brighter, sharper and full of energy.
Even my insomnia fell away, and my sleep deepened.”

A long-term Fibromyalgia sufferer
 
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Acupuncture for Chronic Pain


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Acupuncture is an excellent way to address chronic pain. In fact, it was proven particularly beneficial for those suffering from agonizing musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and back pain. It is unfortunate that acupuncture sometimes gets short shrift by much of the medical world, considering just how effective, non-invasive, and beneficial it really is.

Though acupuncture is considered an “alternative” pain relief method, it has proven effective in the treatment of a number of chronic pain conditions. In February of 2017 the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), stated that acupuncture was “a reasonable option for people with chronic pain…” In 2012, the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) reported findings from a study conducted on a large sample size of patients suffering from headaches, arthritis, shoulder pain, and back aches. The researchers in this study, after ensuring proper technique, both in their treatment methods and research design, concluded that acupuncture should absolutely be included in the arsenal of pain relief methods already available to the public.


Acupuncture, a method of pain relief introduced several millennia ago, promotes the unobstructed flow of Qi throughout the body. Through the use of specially designed needles that are millimeters in width and inserted carefully into the skin, pain can be lessened and in time, fully alleviated.


What is Chronic Pain?

All of us experience pain from time to time. The occasional headache or stubbed toe may seem inconsequential, but the uncomfortable sensations they produce are very real. Intermittent or time limited pain, such as menstrual cramps, is generally short lived but can cause a great deal of distress to its sufferers. Pain is considered chronic however when it lasts for at least three months and leads to limitations in range of motion, general functioning, and quality of life.

How Can Acupuncture Treat Chronic Pain?

The premise upon which acupuncture is based includes an understanding of Qi. When one’s Qi, or flow of energy, is interrupted, blockages and disruptions in the body’s homeostasis and overall functioning are said to occur. In order to release these blockages, acupuncture needles must be clinically and strategically placed in order to achieve optimal pain relief. These sites, more commonly referred to as acupressure points, are known to produce a marked inhibitory influence on pain.

In addition to stimulating pressure points, unblocking Qi, and targeting key acupoints that correspond to affected systems within the body, acupuncture also impacts endorphin levels. Endorphins are a key player in the body’s pain management system. When inserted properly, acupuncture needles can stimulate the production of endorphins which in turn leads to pain control.

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Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia


Acupuncture & Chronic Pain: A Success Story

Acupuncture has been receiving increasing attention in the media over recent years. Once shunned as an Eastern fantasy, the practice has finally earned its place in mainstream medicine, and more and more patients are turning to its healing power.

However, for chronic illness sufferers, the decision to try acupuncture is not always instant. Tuning to a different form of healing takes an open mind, and even if there is scientific evidence supporting it as a functional treatment, there can often be resistance.

As a long-term Fibromyalgia sufferer, acupuncture came at the end of a long list of hopeless attempts to control my condition. While I was open to the experience, my battered hopes struggled to remain high. However, in a matter of mere weeks, the results were astounding. Here’s a short synopsis of my journey, from understanding what acupuncture is to enjoying incredible results.

Acupuncture & Chronic Pain

Traditional healers have long known the benefit of acupuncture as a painkiller. With no long-term side effects, the process can be equally as potent as some of the strongest opioids for pain relief. In a recent study of 300 ER patients, acupuncture was shown to relieve pain in 92 percent of patients after just eight minutes. Comparably, morphine helped 78 percent of people and took 42 minutes to work.

The decision to take long-term tablet painkillers should be a last resort for chronic pain sufferers. Most pills leave you drowsy, irritable and can often lead to depression and addiction. My relationship with these medicines and my desire to stay away from them made me realize there is a genuine need for an alternative to ongoing prescriptions. Acupuncture offers a real solution.

How Does it Work?

In Chinese medicine, practitioners talk about the meridian system, which is a combination of points on the body through which vital Qi (chee) energy flows. By working on certain mirrored points, acupuncturists can regulate certain organs and anatomical processes.

While this explanation holds very little weight in western medicine, studies continue to surface that somewhat parallel this theory. Recent research uncovered that acupuncture actually raises the functionality of mu-opioid receptors in parts of the brain that reduce pain. It’s a small step, but still a significant discovery on the path to explaining the seemingly miraculous power of this ancient practice. Work like this is helping countless people, myself included, open up to the idea of trying acupuncture.

A Holistic Experience

Unlike traditional medicine-based treatment, acupuncture requires a much more holistic involvement. Finding a good acupuncturist is essential to the success of your treatment. If you don't feel a personal connection, then try another option. For me, my weekly acupuncture session soon felt more like a visit to a friend than a medical procedure.

It was also made clear to me on arrival that real success with the treatment involved complete commitment. As well as my sessions, I was advised to receive counseling, change my diet and develop a healthier outlook on life. By making the practice an all-encompassing experience, my health quickly transformed in ways that were truly unexpected.

Unexpected Results

A traditional image of acupuncture is the placid patient lying calming on a white bed. As an anxiety-riddled insomniac, there was a deep fear that this would be unachievable. However, in the first session, I was immediately overwhelmed by a deep but pleasant fatigue. Relaxation was instant and, although the anxiety and pain were still present, I could be still and sit with the sensation.

After only a few sessions, my energy had doubled, and muscle tension washed away. During the treatment, occasional bouts of deep pain led to a release in knots and tightness that had been commonplace for years. Gradually, my symptoms reduced, and I was brighter, sharper and full of energy. Even my insomnia fell away, and my sleep deepened.

As a patient, it seemed as if no medical professional could give me an answer to my chronic pain. Like many, it was easier to give up hopes of recovery than to continuing pursuing seemingly hopeless wonder cures.

It's easy to see acupuncture as lacking valid evidence and proof. However, personal success stories like mine are everywhere, and studies are continually published confirming its benefits.

If you've been unsure about whether acupuncture is for you, then my advice is to give it a go!Contact Dr. Linda Marino, Acupuncture Physician, Marino Clinic.

References:

"Acupuncture relieves pain better than opioids." Nutrition and Healing. N.p., 06 Sept. 2016. Web. 22 Apr. 2017. Available at: http://nutritionandhealing.com/2016/09/07/acupuncture-relieves-pain-better-than-opioids/

Martikainen, Ilkka K., et al. "Alterations in endogenous opioid functional measures in chronic back pain." Journal of Neuroscience 33.37 (2013): 14729-14737. Available at: http://www.jneurosci.org/content/33/37/14729.short