Is Acupuncture a Safer Alternative to Painkillers?
Painkillers tend to be the easiest way to get rid of a headache, cramps, back pain or other areas of your body that need relief. Studies show that 80% of heroin users began by using prescription medicine to help recover from a surgery or injury pain. However, not all pain needs to be treated with constant medications and prescriptions. A few recent advisories have begun to recommend acupuncture to be used primarily for pain management: an ancient Chinese form of alternative medicine.
Western studies have shown it to manage common pain conditions — especially back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis pain and headaches. As its popularity is growing, it is being used to treat a range of other physical and mental conditions. Acupuncture positively addresses pain with few to minimal side effects, compared to the dangerous opioid and addictive side effects that you may face with conventional medicine.
How does Acupuncture help?
Originating in China over 5,000 years ago, this treatment stimulates hundreds of strategic points on the body as acupuncturists place thin needles to balance your qi (energy).
Blockages and imbalances of qi and blood that flow through specific points in the body are believed to cause disease and pain.
When areas on the body are stimulated, acupuncture increases blood flow and targets the nervous system to send a signal to the brain to release natural pain-relieving chemicals, called endorphins. These endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers and lowers pain thresholds.
There is also evidence, according to a 2016 study, that by using acupuncture to stimulate a specific nerve that runs from the brain stem to the colon, the “vagus nerve”, it may lower inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is closely tied to chronic pain and many other conditions.
- Trigger Points
Another study proposes that acupuncture transforms cells that are in connective tissue around trigger points. This leads to less pain by releasing analgesic properties and calming these muscle spasms.
- Pain Relief
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has trained more than 2,800 providers about a specific protocol that involves ear acupuncture to relieve pain called “battlefield acupuncture.” According to Dr. Charles Levy at the Gainesville VA center in Florida, treatment has helped with headaches, acute and chronic back and musculoskeletal pain, and neuropathic pain in veterans.
Some states have been experimenting with extending Medicaid coverage for acupuncture as an attempt to cut opioid prescriptions and give people more options for pain treatment. Rhode Island, Oregon, and Ohio all have programs that extend coverage in part. – and other states are in the process of giving acupuncture more recognition in the western medicine fields.
Marc Cohen, the leader of an Australian acupuncture study in 2017 said;
“While acupuncture is widely used by practitioners in community settings for treating pain, it is rarely used in hospital emergency departments.”
While the use of powerful painkillers will not be eradicated from emergency rooms completely, the study gives hope that we will see a decline in the number of opioid prescriptions as alternatives appear.
How much Acupuncture do I need?
On average, we recommend a minimum of weekly consecutive acupuncture visits for best results – but the frequency will depend on what you are wanting to treat. Not only will you have less pain, but you might also encounter secondary improvements such as better sleep, moods and an overall balance.
We offer a complimentary consultation with one of our highly trained acupuncturists for you to review medical history, check vitals, discuss goals and develop a treatment plan. We do require consultations prior to your first acupuncture session, and we offer private and group acupuncture options starting at $35.
Please see www.serasana.com/acupuncture to learn more and get started.