Acupuncture Offers Real Results for Pain Patients
Last December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed stronger warning labels for acetaminophen, known under the brand name Tylenol, and the common class of pain relievers known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which includes ibuprofen and aspirin. The FDA estimates that 200,000 Americans are hospitalized every year due to side effects of normal doses and overdoses of these drugs. NSAIDs are also thought to cause thousands of deaths per year.
Jamey Wallace, ND, medical director of Bastyr Center for Natural Health, reminds his patients to use caution when taking over-the-counter pain relievers. "Natural health approaches like acupuncture," he says, "have less risk than over-the-counter medications and have been successful in helping relieve pain for thousands of years." According to Andrew McIntyre, MS, LAc, a clinical faculty member at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, "Simply put, acupuncture does not run the risk of long-term, adverse side effects that common pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen have, like stomach or intestinal bleeding and liver and/or kidney damage. The 'side effects' of acupuncture are typically beneficial and include improved sleep, relaxation and a greater sense of well-being."
How It Works
Both Eastern and Western medicine can explain acupuncture's effectiveness. Chinese medicine maintains that more than 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body connect with 12 main and eight secondary "meridians" or channels. Pain and disease are the result of these channels becoming blocked. By placing needles at one end of the channel or the other, healthy energy can be restored.
A comprehensive explanation of all the effects of acupuncture has not been found in Western terms. But, scientists have discovered changes in the body from acupuncture that explain some of its effects. Research has shown that the placement of acupuncture needles at specific pain points releases endorphins and opioids, the body's natural painkillers. Additionally, immune system cells as well as neurotransmitters and neurohormones in the brain may also be released.
According to the National Institutes of Health, there is also evidence that stimulating acupuncture points enables electromagnetic signals to be relayed at a greater rate than under normal conditions. This may increase the flow of natural healing or painkilling chemicals to injured areas.
Quite often, common pain relievers and their potent prescription cousins do not successful and safely manage pain. This was the case for Deborah Lewis, a 51-year-old bookeeper from Kent, who encountered nerve damage after jaw surgery several years ago. Suffering from what felt like an excruciating toothache in the upper right side of her mouth, Deborah had eight root canals to try to solve the problem.
"The pain was so agonizing I decided I'd rather have dentures. But my surgeon explained I probably had nerve damage causing chronic pain no surgery could fix. I was prescribed painkillers, from which I had negative side effects. After several years of taking them, I felt I had to stop and was faced with going back to severe pain."
Deborah had no prior experience with naturopathic or Oriental medicine and had never visited Bastyr Center for Natural Health. But after her doctors offered only a lifetime of pill therapy to manage her pain, Deborah sought an alternative.
"I had tried all these medications and thought, 'Why not try something different?' I didn't want to spend my life taking pills."
Keeping an open mind, Deborah visited an acupuncturist at Bastyr Center for Natural Health two years ago. She began weekly appointments and found her pain gradually subsiding after a few months of treatment.
"I enjoyed all my acupuncture and electroacupuncture experiences. Every visit was very relaxing and comfortable and my jaw pain was always a lot better. It took several months, but now I don't take any pain medication. I also went to some appointments with headaches, and afterward, both my jaw and head felt substantially better."
Today, Deborah visits her Bastyr acupuncturist every couple of months and considers her pain successfully managed. "I feel acupuncture is a complete success. If my pain comes back, my first reaction will always be to return to my acupuncturist. I will never choose drugs before acupuncture again."
Learn more about Bastyr Center for Natural Health's acupunture & Oriental medicine services or call 206.834.4100 to make an appointment.
Author: Kate Lindsay, staff writer
Date: May 2007
Sources: healthlink.mcw.edu; medicalnewstoday.com; webmd.com; abcnews.go.com; Jamey Wallace, ND; Andrew McIntyre, MS, LAc.