Pain and Acupuncture
"That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt." - John Green
We all know too well how pain can affect our lives. I bet as your reading this you can feel that nagging spot that you have learned to endure! We are often told to “suck it up,” and when we suffer through the pain, we are praised for being “strong”. Maybe that’s true with a stubbed toe, but living with chronic physical pain takes a major toll on our quality of life. It makes it hard to focus, and it stops us from doing the things we enjoy. Pain can make us feel like prisoners in our own bodies.
Drugs are often the first line of treatment in pain cases, yet only 23% of patients with chronic pain find opiates to be effective according to a 2006 survey by the American Pain Foundation. (1) A recent review found that opioids taken at the recommended dose were not effective for low back pain. (2) In fact, a randomized study evaluating the long term effectiveness of opioid use for pain relief found that these patients were actually in MORE PAIN at 12 months compared to those who were on non-opioid pain relief. (3) This is because it does not solve the problem causing the pain; it simply masks the pain as the problem continues to worsen, resulting in increasing pain. We can’t forget to mention that opiate abuse and depression have become common in the pain equation, and in the United States, prescription opiates result in more deaths from overdose than heroin. (4)
Currently, an estimated two million individuals in the United states are addicted to prescription opioids. (5)
Additionally, there are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which are the most commonly used medications in the world.6 They are another commonly prescribed first-line treatment for pain, and the side effects are hardly ever explained to patients. A recent study of over 440,000 patients found that using any NSAID, including over the counter drugs like Ibuprofen, for even a short period of time was associated with an increased risk of acute heart attack, even in healthy people.(7)
So, what other options do we have?
It is widely known for its effectiveness in the treatment of pain and its ability to reduce suffering in patients. This is one of the main reasons it has become so popular around the world. Don’t just take our word for it! There are handfuls of evidence to back this up. In a two-year retroactive survey of over 89,000 patients, 93% of patients said that their acupuncturist had been successful in treating their musculoskeletal pain.8
There is still plenty of research to be done in regards to the mechanisms of acupuncture and the human body; ie: scientists have yet to figure out exactly why and how this ancient medicine works. What we do know so far is that the neural pathways from acupuncture point stimulation travel to the spinal cord and up to trigger the deactivation of the pain centers in the brain, and this process has been mapped!9 Acupuncture has been demonstrated to activate a number of the body’s own opioid pathways as well as improving the brain’s sensitivity to opioids.10 A number of other biochemicals involved in pain reduction have been found to be released or regulated by acupuncture stimulation, including ATP and adenosine, GABA and substance P. (11)
In the context of ineffective and often dangerous pharmaceutical options for pain, acupuncture represents a safe and effective alternative with a long track-record of successful use.
The sooner you can see your acupuncturist, the better! Pain causes something we call stagnation, and the longer the stagnation sits in your body, the harder it is to move it out. Despite what we have been taught, there is no honor and glory in suffering through pain; in fact, quite the opposite!
What are you waiting for?!
and let’s work together to help you regain
control of your body and your life!
- The CHP Group (2014) The Cost of Chronic Pain:How Complementary and Alternative Medicine Can Provide Relief. [Online] Available from: https://www.chpgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/CHP-WP_CAM-Chronic-Pain_Sls_12.12.2014.pdf [Accessed 12 Sept 2017].
- 2.Abdel Shaheed, C., Maher, C. G., Williams, K. A., Day, R., & McLachlan, A. J. (2016). Efficacy, Tolerability, and Dose-Dependent Effects of Opioid Analgesics for Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis1.. JAMA Internal Medicine, 176(7), 958–968. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.1251
- Krebs EE. Effectiveness of opioid therapy vs. non-opioid medication therapy for chronic back & osteoarthritis pain over 12 months. Inannual meeting, Society for General Internal Medicine, Washington DC 2017.
- Rudd RA, Seth P, David F, Scholl L. Increases in Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths — United States, 2010–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:1445–1452. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm655051e1
- Schuchat, A., Houry, D., & Guy, G. P. (2017). New Data on Opioid Use and Prescribing in the United States. Jama, 318(5), 425–426. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2017.8913
- Motgahre, V. M., Bajait, C. S., & Turankar, A. (2016). Prescription pattern and adverse drug reaction profile of drugs prescribed with focus on NSAIDs for orthopedic indications at a tertiary care hospital. Skin. https://doi.org/10.18231/2393-9087.2016.0007
- Bally, M., Dendukuri, N., Rich, B., Nadeau, L., Helin-Salmivaara, A., Garbe, E., & Brophy, J. M. (2017). Risk of acute myocardial infarction with NSAIDs in real world use: bayesian meta-analysis of individual patient data. BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), 357, j1909–13. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j1909
- American Specialty Health Incorporated Health Services Department. (2016). Acupuncture: Does Acupuncture Provided Within a Managed Care Setting Meet Patient Expectations and Quality Outcomes?, 1–12.
- Zhang, Z.-J., Wang, X.-M., & McAlonan, G. M. (2012). Neural Acupuncture Unit: A New Concept for Interpreting Effects and Mechanisms of Acupuncture. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012(3), 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brainresbull.2007.08.003
- Harris, R. E., Zubieta, J.-K., Scott, D. J., Napadow, V., Gracely, R. H., & Clauw, D. J. (2009). Traditional Chinese acupuncture and placebo (sham) acupuncture are differentiated by their effects on μ-opioid receptors (MORs). NeuroImage, 47(3), 1077–1085. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.05.083
- Zhao, Z.-Q. (2008). Neural mechanism underlying acupuncture analgesia. Progress in Neurobiology, 85(4), 355–375. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pneurobio.2008.05.004