PAIN MANAGEMENT – 5 REASONS WHY ACUPUNCTURE SHOULD BE YOUR “GO TO” CHOICE
1. Thousands of years of evidence:
Before the popularity of the term Evidence based medicine (EBM), Chinese Medicine and acupuncture had thousands of years of EBM! Chinese scholars shared medical information via the narrative, passing down proven techniques through generations of healers, as our medicine developed over the past 4000 years.
Based on integrated clinical experience and patient values with the best available research information, these results were eventually chronicled in medical books such as the Huang Di Nei Jing ~ 26 BCE, Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Eighty One Difficult Issues, Nan Jing, ~ 106 CE, Treatise on Cold Damage Disorders (Shan Han Lun, ~ 206 CE) and Shennong’s Materia Medica (Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, ~ 220 CE). This rich history formed the early foundations of what modern-day acupuncturists all over the world draw from when assessing, diagnosing and treating their patients in their clinics. Before electronics, before digital scanning, before computer read-outs, doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) actively explored the health and wellness principles that inform the ever-growing, community of Chinese Medicine practitioners.
2. Getting to the root:
What has always impressed me about TCM is the constant focus on the root of the issue and not just how the injury manifests. Yes of course, if your wrist hurts we want to examine it thoroughly to be sure the injury isn’t centered “locally”. However, most times, unless there was a fall, or some trauma associated with the wrist, we as TCM practitioners are going to look at the “global” picture. What does that mean? If the signal to move your wrist muscle starts in your nervous system and travels along a path that includes muscles in your neck, shoulder, upper and lower arm, aren’t we being good detectives if we at least examine all of these areas to see if anything along the way is out of balance?
In my experience, depending on the type of pain, (i.e. sharp, achy, electric, numbing), I can most times tell where the origin of the pain is with a few questions. Numbing? Electric? That’s likely your spine. Sharp? Focused only on the wrist? Probably a muscle or group of muscles close to the injury. This is not 100% fool proof, but I find that examining a patient’s spine can provide valuable information above and beyond the injury, that will prove worthwhile to the patient’s overall health.
3. Instant relief:
Once we’ve examined the patient and determined at least 1-2 areas that may be out of balance, with the proper treatment, we can bring at least 30-50% relief after one treatment. Not always… but certainly more often than not.
4. Lack of Side-affects:
Though I’m a squarely against using corticosteroids to provide relief for pain, I recognize that they provide a useful alternative in some isolated cases. They are very effective when used as adjuvant therapy for metastatic bone pain, neuropathic and visceral pain. They can come at a price though. Potential symptoms include:
a. Increased appetite or weight gain
b. Muscle weakness
d. Gastrointestinal discomfort
e. Psychiatric symptoms such as delirium, depression, anxiety and psychosis
f. Osteoporosis (with long-term use)
In my mind, corticosteroids act as a band aid, when used for pain. They reduce pain by inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis, in effect, shutting down the nerve sensation. Wouldn’t it make more sense to root out the issue and balance the imbalance?
How do I find an acupuncturist? Well, as of July, 2016 there were 30,000 of us in the U.S. You, of course, want to be sure that your practitioner is a licensed acupuncturist and hasn’t just bought some needles and rented a treatment room. You can contact the NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) to see if whomever you’re considering has a current license. Oh, and while you’re at it, skip the Western doctors and Chiropractors/PTs (Medical acupuncture), who are trying to climb on board by taking a 60-hour weekend course. They will likely employ dry or trigger-point needling, which may give you temporary relief, but THIS IS NOT Chinese Medicine. These doctors have none of the TCM theory-based background that a Chinese Medicine practitioner will have, which includes over 1200 hours of clinic supervision and 4 years of didactic work in a post-graduate setting.
I’m willing to bet there’s an acupuncturist that you can work with in your community that will provide safe, effective, results-driven treatment. Most of us accept all insurances, cash, checks and can process HSA’s, so as the healthcare terrain shifts along a new horizon there are all kinds of other reasons why acupuncture should be your first choice. Herein lies 5 for you to ponder.