Dr. Gray's Straight Talk

Honest and blunt healthcare discussion and advice.

Acupuncture for Pain & Other Symptoms

Posted by Dr. Gray on Wednesday, November 13, 2013

We are often asked, “What can acupuncture treat?” Fortunately, the answer is thousands of conditions. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for everybody. At the end of the day, acupuncture is just another treatment method for addressing a multitude of conditions. As with any other treatment option, it is not a cure-all. Therefore, a more appropriate question would be, “What conditions does acupuncture have a good success rate in treating?” Again, the fortunate answer is TONS of them!

Here’s what a recent study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry concluded with regards to the use of acupuncture for the treatment of pain in patients with multiple sclerosis:

This study demonstrates clear benefit from acupuncture as a treatment for pain in MS patients. … the sustained benefit of acupuncture as a treatment for pain was further confirmed by the fact that most patients managed to reduce their analgesia requirements, with some able to stop taking painkillers completely. There was some subjective improvement in mood, mobility and energy levels, and more than half felt their sleep pattern improved.

Source:  J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2013 Nov;84(11):e2. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2013-306573.177.

Now that’s a pretty good conclusion! Here’s another recent statement… this time from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA):

Medical guidelines for back pain recommend the use of conservative treatments. A JAMA article published in April 2013 encourages patients with back pain to first try conservative treatments–exercises, physical therapy, chiropractic or acupuncture—and resort to surgery only when less invasive options fail.

However, a study published earlier this year in JAMA Internal Medicine confirms that many physicians don’t follow guidelines and instead refer back pain patients to surgery or write prescriptions for powerful pain killers.

Most of you that know me or follow this blog know that I am not an anti-med chiropractor. In fact, I think the chiropractic profession is limiting itself and derelict by refusing to fight for prescription rights. If it’s for nothing more than to offer an alternative mentality regarding pharmaceuticals, that would be worth it. The right to prescribe also affords a doctor the right to advise. The ability to advise a patient to discontinue a medication is just as important to their health as advising when medications are appropriate. But, I digress…

As noted above, too often physicians (not just MD’s, ALL physicians) don’t follow the appropriate guidelines. They continue to do what they’ve done in the past and what their pharmaceutical/medical device/practice management rep tells them. Most often, the physician is so busy that alternative options don’t pop into his/her head. As a patient, it is entirely appropriate for you to ask about alternative methods when you are discussing treatment options. Tell your doctor that you’ve seen references in JAMA recommending acupuncture, or chiropractic, or physical therapy, etc. Tell them that you’d prefer to try less invasive treatment options before resorting to powerful pharmaceuticals or surgical procedures. Your doctor will not be offended by this, and will likely appreciate that you are taking an active role in your health care.

– Dr. Gray


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