Posts Tagged ‘pain management’

Alternative Medicine – Not So Alternative Anymore…

Thursday, February 17th, 2011 by Sharon Sherman
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are health alternatives

Alternative medicine, acupuncture and Chinese medicine are gaining popularity

While it may be seen as a new or “alternative” medicine in the United States, Chinese Medicine is actually one of the oldest complete medical systems practiced today. In fact, acupuncture – a part of Chinese Medicine – has been in use for over 2,000 years and is one of the most commonly used medical procedures worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80% of people rely on alternative medicine for their primary care in many Asian and African nations and that in many developed nations, 70-80% of people have used alternative medicine.

And, the use of alternative medicine is growing here in the U.S., becoming more of a complement to traditional Western medical treatments, and making it not so “alternative” anymore…

In fact, studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), USA Today, ABC News and Stanford University all point to increasing numbers of Americans using acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. The most recent CDC study found that nearly 3.3 million U.S. adults and children had used acupuncture in the previous year. Additionally, a 2005 USA Today/ABC News/Stanford University Medical Center poll found that 5% of American adults have turned to acupuncture for pain relief.

Even the U.S. military is bringing alternative medicine into the mainstream of its medical services and treatments – the U.S. Army recently announced a program utilizing acupuncture to treat post traumatic stress disorder in soldiers and a recent Army pain management report recommended alternative medicine treatments like acupuncture, mediation and yoga.

In another illustration of how acupuncture and Chinese Medicine are taking hold and being evaluated as not-so-alternative medical treatments, the NIH’s National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine is currently recruiting for nearly 100 clinical trials evaluating alternative medicine as a safe and effective treatment for ailments and diseases ranging from back pain to autoimmune disorders.

The good news is, to meet this growing demand, there are more practitioners of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine than ever before. A study published in the Annals of Family Medicine journal in 2005 cites that there are now more than 50 acupuncture schools accredited in the U.S. and that 42 states have statutes that allow the practice of acupuncture by nonphysicians.

So, it may be that in another few years, “alternative” medicine has a new not-so-alternative name…

How Does Acupuncture Relieve Pain?

Sunday, June 13th, 2010 by Sharon Sherman

acupuncture reduces inflammation and painAlthough it has been practiced for thousands of years, there seems to be a lack of modern scientific language to explain how and why acupuncture works.  While modern day fans of the technique swear by its ability to reduce pain, many are skeptical, attributing the efficacy of acupuncture to placebo effect.

A recent study in Nature Neuroscience journal points to the naturally-occurring substance adenosine as a possible mechanism for the pain relief acupuncture has provided for millennia. The body sends adenosine to punctured or otherwise injured tissue.  Adenosine appears to cause an anti-inflammatory response, easing pain and discomfort.

In this study, conducted at the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, mice were treated with acupuncture.  After treatment, the level of adenosine in the tissue near the needle insertion points was nearly two dozen times greater than before the treatment.

Though the findings are promising, researchers agree that human trials are the next step in determining the role acupuncture and adenosine play in pain management.  As scientific evidence mounts, skeptics await proof of what acupuncture devotees know from real life experience and 4000 years of successful practice.

Study: Acupuncture and Pain Management

Friday, May 28th, 2010 by Sharon Sherman
shoulder pain

acupuncture increases pain threshold

A recent study published in the May issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia, official journal of the International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS), illustrates the successful use of acupuncture to increase pain tolerance in two dozen patients.

Researchers used quantitative sensory testing to explore certain nerve fiber injuries related to chronic pain.  This type of testing measures a patient’s perception of hot and cold as well as pressure.

Three types of acupuncture were used: acupuncture alone and acupuncture with high-frequency and low-frequency electrical stimulation. Pain thresholds increased by up to 50 per cent in both the treated leg and the untreated (contralateral) leg.  Patient responses provide diagnostic clues to specific types of nerve injury and treatment possibilities.

“Our results show that contralateral stimulation leads to a remarkable pain relief. This suggests that acupuncturists should needle contralaterally if the affected side is too painful or not accessible-for example, if the skin is injured or there is a dressing in place,” commented Dr. Dominik Irnich, one of the lead researchers.

Studies like this one illustrate a scientific basis for acupuncture and inspire further research. Such research is immensely valuable to the field of Oriental Medicine and all who suffer from chronic pain.

The Results are In: Treating Back Pain with Acupuncture as Good or Better than Conventional Treatment

Monday, February 1st, 2010 by Sharon Sherman
acupuncture effective for backache

acupuncture effective for backache

A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that acupuncture relieves back pain better than conventional treatments.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, divided 638 participants with back pain into four groups.  Two groups received acupuncture, one group received a placebo version of acupuncture (in which the skin was stimulated but not pierced), while the participants of the final group received no acupuncture, but continued whatever  conventional treatment program they were on, be it pharmaceutical or physical therapy.

After seven weeks, all three groups who received acupuncture (or something like it) experienced greater and more meaningful improvement in their back pain than the usual-care group.  Even placebo acupuncture techniques yielded positive results.

The placebo acupuncture being as good as needle acupuncture raised questions about how acupuncture works, and what it is about the technique that causes a therapeutic result.  “What we can say is, it is not essential to achieve a benefit to insert the needle through the skin,” says Dan Cherkin PhD, key researcher.  “One possibility is there is a physiological chain of events that occurs when you insert a needle or just stimulate the skin superficially. They may or may not be the same.”  Another possibility: “believing you are getting a treatment that will help your back pain” actually does help it.

“Overall, 60% of the acupuncture-treated patients, but just 39% of the usual-care group patients had meaningful improvements in dysfunction,” a WebMD article states.  Meaningful improvements refers to relief which allows patients to return to activities of daily living previously hindered by back pain.

Cherkin also remarks that Americans spend some $37 billion a year for medical care for back pain, and that acupuncture is a cost-effective option for those seeking treatment for the condition.

Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine are increasingly recognized by the Western medical community as safe and effective pain management solutions.  Many MDs recommend acupuncture and Oriental Medicine as an adjunct therapy to patients suffering from back pain.