Acupuncture for Treating Pain

What is Acupuncture?

Sixteenth century Chinese doctors believed that illness was due to an imbalance of energy in the body. In acupuncture, disposable, stainless steel needles are used to stimulate the body's 14 major meridians, or energy-carrying channels, to resist or overcome illnesses and conditions by correcting these imbalances.  Many acu-points are near nerves, and when stimulated these nerves cause a dull ache or feeling of fullness in the muscle. The stimulated muscle sends a message to the central nervous system causing the release of endorphins, the neurotransmitters that block the message of pain.

What is acupuncture used for?

Acupuncture is endorsed by the American college of rheumatology, to control pain from chronic conditions.  In OB/GYN, acupuncture has also been applied to labor pains, and in some studies has been found to be an adjunct to conventional pain control.

Some other uses include:

    • Dental pain postoperative
    • Headaches
    • Tennis elbow
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Carpal tunnel syndrome

Why it’s hard to study

Acupuncture is safe but must be performed with disposable needles under clean, sterile conditions by a qualified practitioner.  It is very practitioner dependent, which makes it hard to compare studies or make standard recommendations regarding its use as treatment.  In order to create a standard research design, in attempt to eliminate bias may reduce the efficacy.  Similarly, underfunding drives small sample sizes leaving the studies undervalued.

Important things to consider

Because the results are progressive, acupuncture is rarely a one time treatment. When it comes to addressing medical conditions, your acupuncturist may suggest treatments ranging from every day for a week, to once a week for an extended amount of time. And, in the case of cosmetic acupuncture, the recommended course of treatment is 12 to 15 treatments over 2 and a half months, followed by maintenance treatments every 4 to 6 weeks.

If you are considering acupuncture, it is essential to find a reliable and qualified practitioner. Check with your physician to see if acupuncture is right for you based on your medical history and to see if he or she can refer you to a specific practice. This is especially important given that fact that needles are used.

It is important to keep in mind that most treatments take time before experiencing results, so allow for a few appointments before deciding if acupuncture works for you. Some insurance companies will pay for acupuncture, so consult your provider to see if you are covered.