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Are You A Chronic Pain Suffer?

3rd Nov 18

Acupuncture for Chronic Pain.
Article by Revana Swales
BSc. MSc. Dip.Ac. MBAcC

Traditional acupuncturists and their many satisfied clients have known for many years that acupuncture effectively treats chronic pain. Recently after extensive research the National Institute for Health Research (the research arm of the NHS) now agree, stating:

‘We have provided the most robust evidence from high quality trials on acupuncture for chronic pain. Acupuncture is one of the more clinically effective therapies…it is not a placebo… is better than usual care for pain from musculoskeletal conditions, osteoarthritis and chronic headache’.

Pain is a global problem. In recent health surveys almost one in three Americans and one in five Europeans reported suffering from long term (chronic) moderate to severe pain which effected their health and quality of life. Given that many people in pain are not involved with health studies and quite often feel the best option is just to try and get on with life it is likely that the percentage experiencing less than optimum wellbeing due to pain actually much higher.

The most common causes of chronic pain are; back pain, neck pain, severe headaches and migraines. Chronic pain occurs for a number of reasons and is not completely understood. Acute pain which happens at the time of an injury warns us we have been hurt, it is our body’s way of telling us to rest and protect the injured area and once the injury has healed the pain stops. Chronic pain continues, muscle and body memory are unable to forget the trauma. Sometimes nerve signals may become damaged or confused and so continue to send pain signals to the brain.

Chronic pain effects quality of life on many levels. Two thirds of people with chronic pain also report suffering with chronic sleep problems, lack of restorative sleep makes pain worse and a negative cycle of pain and insomnia builds up.

How can chronic pain be treated? Drugs are frequently the first line of treatment, but these are rarely the answer. ‘Across the Counter’ pain medications such as Ibuprofen and paracetamol are not intended for long term use. They are not a cure, at best they temporarily dull moderate pain and are ineffective in more severe conditions. Stronger Opioid based prescription medication is often hardly more effective. Opioids can be very effective short term for severe acute pain they are a less appropriate option for chronic pain. Recent US studies found only 23% of patients found opioids effective for chronic pain, and that many taking these medications were actually in more pain after 12 months compared to others not taking opioid pain relief. There are also significant risks of addiction and depression associated with long term use.

So what other options are there? Acupuncture is widely known and used world wide in effective treatment of pain. Traditionally acupuncture has been used to treat pain for over a thousand years. Recently Western medicine has become interested in this use of acupuncture and a number of large scale research trials and in depth investigations have been undertaken. In a very large recent US study over 450,000 patients were treated for head ache, low back pain and/or osteoarthritis, 76% experienced a clinically significant reduction in pain. Here in the UK the National Institute of Health Research (the research arm of the NHS) recently concluded, after reviewing or 140 trials that ‘We have provided the most robust evidence from high quality trails on acupuncture for chronic pain. Acupuncture is one of the more clinically effective therapies…it is not a placebo… is better than usual care for pain from musculoskeletal conditions, osteoarthritis and chronic headache’.

Acupuncture stimulates the body’s natural healing responses to restore health and balance. There is still much to learn about how and why it is so effective in treating pain. It has been shown that acupuncture point stimulation effects neural pathways and calms pain centres in the brain. It also stimulates the body to release and regulate natural biochemicals involved in pain reduction including ATP, GABA, adenosine and substance P.

Acupuncture has a long track record of successful use and offers a safe and effective alternative option for the treatment of chronic pain.

For more information on how acupuncture may be of benefit to you, contact Revana on 07831 687457 or via email: Revana, website here

REFERENCES

Evidence Based Acupuncture www.evidencedbasedacupuncture.org.

The British Acupuncture Council www.acupuncture.org.uk

NIHR www.discover.dc.nihr.ac.uk

National Center for Health Statistics (2006) Health, United States, 2006 [Online] Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus06.pdf [Accessed 12 Sept 2017].

Breivik H, Collett B, Ventafridda V, Cohen R, Gallacher D. Survey of chronic pain in Europe: prevalence, impact on daily life, and treatment. Eur J Pain. 2006;13:287–333. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2005.06.009.

The CHP Group (2014) The Cost of Chronic Pain:How Complementary and Alternative Medicine Can Provide Relief. [Online] Available from: https://www.chpgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/CHP-WP_CAM-Chronic-Pain_Sls_12.12.2014.pdf [Accessed 12 Sept 2017].

Krebs EE. Effectiveness of opioid therapy vs. non-opioid medication therapy for chronic back & osteoarthritis pain over 12 months. Inannual meeting, Society for General Internal Medicine, Washington DC 2017.

Zhao, Z.-Q. (2008). Neural mechanism underlying acupuncture analgesia. Progress in Neurobiology, 85(4), 355–375. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pneurobio.2008.05.004

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