Research confirms what I’ve seen for years: Acupuncture is great for pain relief
I was lucky to attend the first annual Sports Acupuncture Alliance Conference in Philadelphia, PA, just a few weeks ago. One of my passions is helping my patients find pain relief – and while this conference focused partly on athletic performance enhancement, much of it dedicated to orthopedic conditions, pain and successful treatment with acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and gua sha.
It was a great conference – and I spent time meeting other acupuncturists from around the country and learned about their practices and acupuncture in general. One gentleman, I met from Minneapolis works in a medical clinic associated with a hospital system. He worked as an acupuncturist treating a variety of conditions, often pain, that presented in their emergency care clinic. He also told me of a hospital system in Minneapolis where acupuncturists are on staff in the Emergency Department. I was so excited to hear this – that acupuncture in some places is starting to get attention from the medical establishment for pain relief!
Part of these changes, though, come from the fact that our country has an opioid epidemic and people are getting sick, and all too often dying, from these drugs. Aside from the addictive nature of the drugs, rather than treating the problem or the condition, they mask the primary symptom, pain. Minnesota is not alone – Oregon is also looking at pain relief from acupuncture – and other non-addicting modalities like chiropractic, naturopathic and massage – as detailed in this NPR story
And there’s more – another recent article
from the Annals of Internal Medicine
from April of this year lists new clinical recommendations for patients presenting with acute, subacute and chronic back pain. And yes, acupuncture, as well as chiropractic, yoga, exercise, and mindfulness, are strongly recommended before
a pharmacologic intervention. Some of my patients do get recommendations from their doctor’s for acupuncture, but sadly this is not always the case. So I’m glad there’s more and more research out there showing what I see so often – that other, non-pharmacological methods work very well for pain relief. And not only that, I want my patients to get back out into their lives doing the activities they have not been able to do because of their pain.
Other interesting research out this year is on the use of acupuncture for carpal tunnel, another condition that affects millions of Americans, like back pain. The study, published in the Journal Brain
, found that acupuncture provided relief from pain and recommended that patients try acupuncture before a more invasive procedure like surgery.
One final recommendation – please find an acupuncturist to receive your acupuncture treatment. Dry needling, which is a practice many Physical Therapists offer, is the practice of acupuncture, without the training (unfortunately PTs who perform dry needling are trained in a weekend seminar, not the minimum three plus years it takes to learn Chinese medicine). I love physical therapy and find it very helpful to my patients as an adjunct to acupuncture. However, the under trained PTs performing dry needling often have adverse events – and actually, dry needling has been found by the State of Illinois to be outside their scope of practice. Stick with PT for your rehabilitation exercises and please visit an acupuncturist for your acupuncture.