Ancient Chinese Treatments for Modern-Day Pain
Pain medications, prescription or otherwise, are effective at relieving pain. Unfortunately, this relief comes at a cost.
For most pain medications, long-term use results in several consequences. Side effects, tolerance, dependency, and even addiction all become risks when medications alone are used to mask chronic pain. For this reason, alternative forms of pain management have grown incredibly popular, with modalities such as physical therapy and chinese medicines used to great effect.
In fact, a promising treatment for alleviating pain is actually thousands of years old.
In the article below you will learn what acupuncture is, how it’s intended to work, and the way in which it can help manage pain.
Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
In traditional Chinese Medicine, there is a concept known as meridians. These are seen as pathways within the body that carries chi (energy) throughout the body. Along this path, chi tends to collect at certain points creating blockages and contributing to pain.
Acupuncture works by taking these points and manipulating them using tiny needles, light electrical currents, and sometimes heat. In combination, these methods stimulate the energy flow in these blocked points to bring you chi back into balance and thus alleviate pain.
Looking at this from a western orientation, you can also say that these needles are stimulating nerve points to either relax the nerve or encourage your body’s own natural pain fighting abilities. This also creates a more holistic pain relief system than increasing your dose of medication.
What Type of Pain Does Acupuncture Treat?
The premise of acupuncture is that it works to bring the body’s own energy into alignment, As such, it is used for a wide range of pain conditions. These include:
- Acupuncture for back pain
- Acupuncture for neck pain
- Acupuncture for muscle pain
- Acupuncture for fibromyalgia
- Acupuncture for migraines
While not expressly listed above, acupuncture is also known as an alternative treatment for ailments unrelated to pain, such as reducing anxiety, lowering blood pressure, and having an overall effect on blood flow.
What Does the Research Say?
When looking at the efficacy of treatments for pain relief, there is conflicting evidence. While some studies suggest that the effects of acupuncture work better than placebo for conditions such as chronic neck pain, headaches, and other pain conditions, there is less evidence to show its efficacy for chronic pain.
As such, medical professionals in the United States suggest acupuncture as an alternative or complementary treatment to pain, used in addition to western medicine or after western medicine proves ineffective.
How Long Are Sessions?
As a non-western form of medicine, many do not know what to expect from a first acupuncture treatment. Fortunately, they are quicker and simpler than many imagine.
A full acupuncture session lasts between 20 and 30 minutes, first beginning with a basic health assessment and then moving on to placing the needles along acupuncture points. These points can be along the spinal cord, head, and even feet.
Needles are left in place for 15-20 minutes and, if needed, are further manipulated by heat and/or light electrical signals.
Many individuals find acupuncture a relaxing process and sometimes fall asleep during treatment.
How Many Sessions Will I Need?
Generally speaking, the more complex the problem, the more treatments are needed. For conditions such as chronic pain, immune system challenges, and other persistent health problems, a patient will sometimes need 8 or more treatments to begin feeling substantial relief.
For less complicated pain, the number of treatments is greatly reduced. Some clients report feeling better with as little as 1-3 treatments.
Where to Find an Acupuncturist
When finding a practitioner for any medical treatment, it is important to make sure they are licensed and certified in the procedures they offer. Just like medical doctors have various board certifications, acupuncturists have the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
If curious, ask your provider about their certifications and any continuing education completed to ensure you’re receiving the best treatment possible.
Acupuncture Benefits: Is it Effective?
According to the National Institute of Health, we know acupuncture is effective against some forms of pain, but we know less about its efficacy for other categories of health problems. As such, it makes a good complementary treatment, though it is wise to make sure your pain can also be managed through other means.
Because knowing all your pain management options is confusing, its important to speak with a pain management expert to ensure you are not only getting the highest level of care, but the care that is right for you, your philosophy, and your lifestyle.
At the Arizona Pain and Spine Institute, we have a full team of seasoned professionals who specialize in managing pain. We are doctors dedicated to providing education and understanding to our clients about all their pain management options.
In keeping with our personal philosophies, we offer minimally invasive and clinically proven modalities to our clients to help them regain their quality of life.
Contact us at (480) 986-7246 for more information on the service we provide, find which doctor is right for you, and get on the path to discussing your next treatment options.