If you’re experiencing pain, would you be open to the idea of experiencing pins stabbed into your body to relieve it? It’s a fair question, and one that deserves examination if you’re all out of options.
Painkillers are expensive, addictive, and dangerous, physiotherapy and exercise can be difficult to stick to, and your lifestyle might provide too many challenges to supply adequate, extended pain relief. So…should you use acupuncture for pain? Can acupuncture really provide alternative pain relief?
Acupuncture for Pain: Can It Really Work?
Acupuncture, the practice of inserting needles into various points on the body, is a natural healing method that’s growing in popularity here in the United States. Common practice in some Asian countries for centuries, acupuncture has been used to treat a wide range of conditions, including pain. People have tried it to treat different varieties of soreness, including lower back pain, nerve pain (shingles, rashes, headaches, fibromyalgia), and menstrual cramps.
The evidence on acupuncture as a treatment for pain is mixed. There’s been evidence showing it can relieve pain; however, other results show it’s no more effective than a sugar pill. Perhaps it all just comes down to the individual. Plus, more study data is needed to prove anything either way. The positive thing about acupuncture is that, if you’d like to try it, it’s very safe and comes with virtually no side effects.
Types of Acupuncture
There are three main techniques for acupuncture: Chinese, Japanese, and Korean; each with a slightly different approach.
Chinese acupuncture involves inserting between four and 10 needles into your skin at various “acupoints.” The needles then may be twisted or turned, and there may be some heat applied to the area, too. The needles aren’t injected as deeply with Japanese style, and they are left in place instead of being twisted or heated. The Korean style focuses on applying needles to points in just your hands and feet.
The theory behind acupuncture treating pain is that it releases endorphins, natural chemicals produced in the body that fight pain. Additionally, the needles may stimulate the area of the brain controlling serotonin, which can help improve mood and make pain easier to deal with.
Acupuncture Treatment: What You Need to Know
The popularity of acupuncture vastly outweighs the knowledge most people have of it, so it’s important to know the facts. There are a lot of scam artists out there looking to take advantage of uninformed individuals who are in serious need of pain relief. Those of us who’ve experienced a chronic pain condition know how looking for relief can drive a person to the point of desperation.
So here are the basics… As mentioned, acupuncture typically uses only four to 10 needles per session, with each session lasting 10-30 minutes. A full treatment cycle usually lasts between six and 12 sessions, spanning a period of about three months.
It’s wise to seek an accredited acupuncturist with the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) or a state-licensed practitioner. The last thing you need is someone who has no idea what they’re doing wasting your time and money.
If you don’t like your current options for pain relief—and we all know how unpleasant and expensive taking painkillers can be—acupuncture is definitely a very attractive option.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“Acupuncture: In Depth” National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health web site, January 2016; https://nccih.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/introduction, last accessed July 27, 2016.
Pendrick, D., “Acupuncture is worth a try for chronic pain,” Harvard Health Blog, April 1, 2013; http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/acupuncture-is-worth-a-try-for-chronic-pain-201304016042, last accessed July 27, 2016.
“Relieving Pain with Acupuncture,” Harvard Health Publications, June 15, 2016; http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/relieving-pain-with-acupuncture, last accessed July 27, 2016.