Whoever Said No Pain No Gain, Doesn't Have Chronic Pain!
Can Acupuncture Really Help?
When it comes to pain, it's unique to every individual. Medical doctors have long been baffled about the effects of acupuncture on reducing pain. The concept of Qi (Chi) traveling up and down meridians is a foreign entity in western medicine. However, a recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine reports that "regular sessions of acupuncture helps to relieve chronic or acute pain, more so than standard pain treatment and it's more than the placebo effect."
So, before you take that cortisone shot or reach for those pain meds, the results determined proved that acupuncture had a "robust" effect of relieving chronic pain in the back, neck and shoulders, and pain due to osteoarthritis, and headaches.
As a practitioner of acupuncture I welcome these westernized trial approaches to study the effectiveness of acupuncture. It's of course difficult to quantify foreign entities in western medicine known as Qi or life force. However, I already knew the positive results from the raw data I collect on my own patients' self reports of their pain. My philosophy when treating paties for pain is a combination of maintaining the balance of various body elements -including blood and nutrients along with less measurable ones like the energy force known as Qi. Using acupuncture in key treatment points in the body can intercept or unblock the flow of such elements and this concept lies at the heart of the centuries-old therapy of acupuncture.
Ironically, I am also content when I hear a western medicine doctor tell me; "it's all in the mind", it's the "placebo effect." Yes, of course! When did we separate the mind from the body? We are all unique individuals, and my perception of pain is different from yours. If one person has an illness and another person has an almost identical illness that is crippling him, we have one patient wanting to die, and yet the other still carrying on and at work. We then need to look at the state of the person's mind in dealing with the disease.
What acupuncture and Chinese medicine looks at is precisely seeing an individual from all three levels and a treatment consists of supporting the body, mind and spirit. When you get depressed, anxious and worried and feel within yourself you don't want to bother to carry on, the mental anguish is worse than the physical pain, and often the physical pain worsens as well. When you go deeper to the spiritual anguish, that's the time when you want to give up and there's no point in going on. Treating someone's physical level as well as their psycho-bio-emotional level is precisely the purpose of this system of medicine to help a patient feel better.
One of the advantages of acupuncture for pain management is that acupuncturists don't need to diagnose the cause of the pain in order to start treating it. What we mostly need to know is where, and how intense the pain is. Another benefit to consider is that the complications and potential adverse effects of acupuncture are low compared with medications and invasive treatments. While acupuncture is often effective at reducing pain, sometimes even when it isn't, it still improves a person's quality of life. Acupuncture generally reduces stress, benefits sleep, lifts and stabilizes moods, and improves energy. All of these effects might be helpful to someone who is purusing a multi-pronged approach to managing chronic pain. Therefore, acupuncture is an option with a good track record that's worth considering.