Chronic Pain

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On How Acupuncture Can Help



Chronic pain is sadly a widespread problem that affects around 8 million people in the UK. Chronic pain has lead to depression in 22% of cases, and approximately 25% of those diagnosed with it end up losing their job. The government spends around £3.8 billion a year on incapacity benefit payments to those diagnosed with this condition.


Apart from medicine what else can help? Despite the growing evidence of the benefits of acupuncture for pain relief over the last 10 years, sceptics whether in the medical profession or not will continue to raise questions about this ancient system of medicine that originated in China over 4,000 years ago.


Even though the efficacy of acupuncture is on the rise through scientific evidence some naysayers of this therapy will claim that the treatments are just placebos. However if you keep an open mind and see the growing evidence base you will come across good news that acupuncture can help many conditions such as chronic pain, pain in the lower back, neck and knees all of which can be debilitating to a normal life. NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) has recommended the use of acupuncture for back pain since 2012. Acupuncture has also been proven to reduce bouts of tension headaches and migraines.


The results of the research that supports the efficacy of acupuncture in relieving chronic pain was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. This showed that acupuncture outperformed sham treatments and standard care when used by people suffering from osteoarthritis, migraines and chronic back, neck and shoulder pain. The study found that, at the end of treatment, approximately half of the patients treated with real acupuncture reported improvements, compared with about 30% of patients in the control group who didn’t receive treatment.


The meta-analyis incorporated studies that compared acupuncture with standard care such as over the counter pain relief and sham acupuncture treatments, in which needles were inserted in dummy points. This is one of the best studies to date and has made a good impression on the medical profession.


Much of the cynicism stems from myth and misunderstanding around this healing art. Acupuncture involves stimulating specific points on the body to correct the flow of energy (Qi) and the movement of vital substances (fluid and blood) . When the flow of Qi and vital substances are blocked pain, inflammation and disease manifest. So the overall goal of acupuncture is to restore balance and prevent pain and illness by inserting needles to remove blocks that stop energy flowing freely, a bit like maintaining “homeostasis”.


From a scientific point of view acupuncture may help to relieve chronic pain by stimulating nerves located in muscles and tissues encouraging the release of endorphins and changing the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord. Stimulating the nervous system influences the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being.

 

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