Four in 10 people, or 75 million Americans live with chronic pain. Some try traditional medical treatment, such as medications, cortisone shots and surgery. Others try alternative medicine like acupuncture for relief.
A combination may be best.
Acupuncture began as traditional medicine in China two thousand years ago to treat pain and dysfunction in the body. The word "acupuncture" comes from the Latin words "acus" or needle and "punctura" for penetration.
Acupuncture points run along meridians or internal rivers inside your body. When stimulated, they release muscular tension, improve blood circulation and help the body heal.
Acupuncture can help pain and nausea.
Acupuncture has been studied and appears to have possible effectiveness for chronic and acute pain as well as postoperative and chemotherapy-related nausea.
Acupuncture is considered safe when compared to medication side effects. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires state licensed acupuncturists to use disposable sterile needles.
A Consumer Reports survey found that acupuncture is possibly effective for reducing pain, including knee pain, from osteoarthritis and lower back pain, as well as relieving nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
What to expect.
A state licensed acupuncturist will ask questions, do a physical exam and put 5-20 needles through the skin in a typical session in very specific places.
Acupuncture patients have described the feeling as less painful than a mosquito bite. Sessions usually last up to an hour, although they can be just 15 minutes. Once hair-thin needles are inserted, they are often left for 10 to 15 minutes while the patient relaxes. The acupuncturist removes the needles at the end of the session.
Acupuncturists may also incorporate manual pressure, electrical stimulation, magnets, low-power lasers, heat and ultrasound.
Treatments occur one to two times a week and the total number of visits varies. This depends on the condition, amount of pain or nausea, and whether the patient has a chronic or acute condition.
The best results happen when the patient is eating a healthy diet, so the body can heal. Exercise and physical therapy give patients strength, endurance and better posture so the problem does not return.
Who is not a candidate?
You do not want to schedule acupuncture with the following conditions:
- An active infection or malignancy around the insertion area.
- Severe neutropenia as seen after myelosuppressive chemotherapy.
- Electroacupuncture is not a good idea for patients with an automatic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator or pacemaker.
If you are pregnant, let the acupuncturist know this because some points can induce labor. Also let the acupuncturist know if you have a bleeding disorder.
Some insurance providers cover the cost of acupuncture. But Medicare and Medicaid don't cover the cost. Yet.