Finding Relief with TCM: Acupuncture for Pain

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When I think about the most common ailments my patients are battling, pain is definitely at the top of the list. Whether it’s migraines, neck pain, joint stiffness, arthritis or lower back pain, dealing with pain is an everyday occurrence for many.

Pain is – unfortunately – extremely common. In fact, a national NIH survey found that more than 25% of U.S. adults had experienced some sort of pain lasting more than a day. Often, an aspirin, acetaminophen or other over-the-counter pain medication can keep the aches at bay, but for serious pain, stronger medications can be prescribed. To avoid these medications’ risk of side effects or addiction and because they are looking for an alternative approach, more and more people are turning to acupuncture for pain treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) analysis recently showed that pain or musculoskeletal complaints accounted for 7 of the top 10 conditions for which people use acupuncture. The most common condition was back pain, followed by joint pain, neck pain, severe headaches and recurring pain.

And…there’s an increasing body of scientific evidence showing that acupuncture is working.

A 2010 study was able to shed some light on exactly how acupuncture helps relieve pain – the study looked at mice and found that the insertion of an acupuncture needle activated pain-suppressing receptors near the insertion site. It also showed that the insertion and movement of the acupuncture needles released adenosine, a naturally occurring compound that boosts the response of the receptors, increasing pain relief.

Other clinical studies have showed promising results for acupuncture for pain in: lower back pain, menstrual cramps, fibromyalgia, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, neck pain and tennis elbow.

In short, using acupuncture for pain is on the rise and I am seeing more and more patients benefit from this approach. If you are coping with pain, a licensed acupuncturist may be able to help.

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