If you have ever lived with chronic pain, you know how frustrating and debilitating the situation can be. In fact, many people try acupuncture after they have tried all other approaches. When you struggle with pain, it’s important to know there are resources out there such as acupuncture to provide you with hope and encouragement that you can indeed heal from your pain condition.
Pain is the third most common health problem in the U.S., just behind heart disease and cancer, with 50 million people affected. Whether it’s back or neck pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, headaches, extremity or facial pain, medical economists estimate that currently the cost of chronic pain treatments total well over $100 billion per year. Perhaps no other health issue is such a challenge to medical professionals.
Acupuncture is one of the oldest complementary therapies, and continuously practiced systems of medicine in the world. It is also the most well-researched complementary medicine with thousands and thousands of clinical trials that attest to the benefits of this ancient, renowned tradition. Developed through empirical observation by the Chinese over thousands of years, this unique medical system is used to treat a wide range of diseases, and is of special use for chronic pain. Acupuncture is an effective, drug-free way to treat pain,with no side effects.
The diagnosis and treatment of pain conditions can be traced to the Zhou dynasty (1128-220 B.C.) of ancient China. During the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368 A.D.) this specialty was expanded to include bonesetting (spinal and joint manipulations) and traumatology. Through the later Ming (1368-1644 A.D.) and Qing (1644-1911 A.D.) dynasties the specialty developed physical rehabilitation therapies. Today in China, in addition to acupuncture, massage, moxibustion, spinal and joint manipulations, and herbal medicines are used to treat pain.
How do modern medicine and Chinese medicine explain the occurrence of Pain? Modern medical research has discovered that pain signals are transmitted by specialized nerve cell receptors which are found throughout the skin and other body tissues. These cells respond to injury, inflammation, or tissue damage. Immediately after receiving these messages, the signals travel by electrical and chemical means through the nervous system to the spinal cord and then on to the brain, where they are interpreted as pain. Chinese medicine takes a different view: that the body maintains a balance between the principles of Yin and Yang, and between Qi and Blood. Qi and Blood travel throughout the body along well-defined pathways called meridians. When there is insufficient Qi and Blood, or when they are blocked in an area, there is an imbalance of Yin and Yang, and pain and illness can develop.
Acupuncture is the most researched and documented complementary therapy. According to the research of Bruce Pomerantz, MD, a neurophysiologist at the University of Toronto, one of the ways acupuncture works is by stimulation of muscle sensory nerves, which send messages to the spinal cord and brain to release endorphins (morphine-like substances) to relieve pain. Acupuncture also causes a rise in blood cortisol levels, which may explain the prolonged effects of pain relief in arthritis sufferers. Dozens of clinical trials have shown have acupuncture is very effective for chronic pain, helping anywhere from 55%-85% of patients. This compares favorably with prescription medicines, but acupuncture has none of the harmful side effects of drug therapy. Finally, several studies show that acupuncture outperforms other conventional pain treatments like nerve blocks, steroid injections, Botox, trigger point injections and surgery.
In addition to all these benefits, using acupuncture can also improve your ability to perform everyday activities; it increases your energy, regulates your mood, and greatly reduces the stress and tension that comes with having chronic pain.
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