Over 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from chronic pain. Nearly one third of American adults experience chronic pain, and almost one in five Europeans indicated they have moderate or severe chronic pain. The three most common sources of chronic pain are low back pain (29%), neck pain (16%), and severe headache or migraine pain (15%).
Pain can be acute or chronic
Acute pain warns you that you have been hurt. It starts suddenly, and when the injury heals, the pain stops. In acute injury, the pain is due to pressure from inflammation in the tissues and nerves at the site of the injury.
Chronic pain continues after the injury has healed, lasting for weeks, months, even years. In chronic injury, nerve signals that were active during acute injury continue to send messages that the body is in pain. Although chronic pain is not completely understood, it is potentially due to nerves that have become damaged. New research also suggests that chronic pain can come from a malfunction in the way the brain ‘maps’ sensory information.
Are drugs the answer?
Drugs are often prescribed to deal with a patient’s pain as a first line treatment. Yet research has shown that recommended doses of opioids were not effective for low back pain. One study found that those taking opioids were actually in more pain at 12-months compared to those who were on non-opioid pain relief. An estimated two million individuals in the United States are addicted to prescription opioids.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), are another commonly prescribed first-line treatment for pain. However, a recent study found that taking NSAIDs like Ibuprofen, for even a short period of time was associated with an increased risk of acute heart attack, even in healthy people. Taking them can also lead to gastrointestinal problems.
Acupuncture for pain
Acupuncture is widely known for its effectiveness in the treatment of pain. Its unique role in reducing suffering in patients experiencing pain is one of the main reasons it has become so popular around the world.
For acute pain, a systematic review of 13 trials found that acupuncture was more effective than both sham needling and injection with painkillers.
In a study for chronic pain patients were treated with acupuncture for headache, low back pain, and/or osteoarthritis. Effectiveness was rated as marked or moderate in 76% of cases.
A meta-analysis of 17,922 patients from randomized trials concluded, “Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option. Significant differences between true and sham acupuncture indicate that acupuncture is more than a placebo.” A follow up study with this data looking at long-term pain relief, found that the benefits of acupuncture persisted 12 months after treatment ended.
How acupuncture works for pain
The mechanisms underlying how acupuncture is so effective for treating pain have been researched extensively for over 60 years. While there is still much left to learn about acupuncture mechanisms and the human body in general, the neural pathways from acupuncture point stimulation, to the spinal cord to the deactivation of the pain centres in the brain have been mapped.
Acupuncture has been demonstrated to activate a number of the body’s own opioids as well as improving the brain’s sensitivity to opioids.
In the context of pharmaceutical options for pain, acupuncture represents a safe and effective alternative with a long track-record of successful use.
For more information and details of research see this link
If you would like to try Acupuncture to help you pain please call us on 01329 665 871