Acupuncture for pain: Ancient medicine may hold the key to solving the opioid epidemic

With opioid epidemic raging around the country some municipalities are looking at alternative treatments for pain that don’t involve drugs. For example in Ohio Joint Commission, which certifies hospital systems, mandated non-pharmacological treatments for pain have to be part of hospital systems starting in January. Additionally, the American College of Physicians now says they should be included as a first-line therapy.

Acupuncture was considered as one of those non-pharmacological treatments for pain with good results. The link below has more information.

Acupuncture Shows Promice in Migrane Treatment, study says.

(CNN) When most people get a headache, a simple over-the-counter pain reliever and a few moments of quiet can usually do the trick. But for millions of Americans suffering from debilitating migraines, the pain can be so intense that relief may seem out of reach.
Faced with a growing demand for solutions, researchers, drug companies and medical providers have sought out new treatment options. A widening class of medications, devices and alternative therapies is presenting those who suffer from moderate to severe migraines with various options to explore.
A study published Monday in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine said acupuncture may be helpful in reducing the frequency of migraines and preventing attacks.

How your mouth is linked to your migraines

How your mouth is linked to your migraines

Researchers in China found that properly administered acupuncture therapy may reduce the frequency of the most common types of migraines. The research, which builds on a body of knowledge from smaller studies, looked at how true acupuncture compared with sham acupuncture in reducing migraine attacks and symptoms in those who have been battling the condition for at least a year.
All treatments were administered by trained and licensed acupuncturists who trained for at least five years and had four or more years of clinical experience. Recipients of ‘true acupuncture’ were treated in four acupoints chosen by clinical experts. The four points used for the ‘sham’ group were chosen to avoid migraine relief.
Twenty weeks after receiving treatment at five times a week, patients in the true acupuncture group saw a reduction in the average number of migraines from 4.8 per month to 3 per month, with no adverse events reported requiring “special medical intervention.”

Not your everyday headache

Migraines, a disorder in the brain, can be the source of intense throbbing pain lasting hours or days. About 12% of Americans suffer from them, and some experience pain so severe that it keeps them from being able to continue their day.
“A migraine is an abnormal state of the brain where the brain has become hyperexcitable to stimuli,” said Dr. Amy Gelfand, assistant professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco. Gelfand provided commentary for the JAMA study about migraines.

Acupuncture may be antidote for allergies

Acupuncture may be antidote for allergies

“People suffer quite a bit from migraine, and I think that’s probably underestimated,” she said. “The impact of migraine is often underappreciated, so any and all research being done in migraine (science) is important and valuable,”
Not much is known about the neurological disorder, but there is strong evidence that it is genetic. “Oftentimes, people don’t realize that there’s a family history of migraine,” Gelfand said. “Only about half of adults in the US who have migraines have ever received a diagnosis. So plenty of people out there have it but don’t necessarily recognize that is what they are experiencing.”
“While migraine preventive medications exist, they are not necessarily effective for all patients and can cause serious adverse effects,” Gelfand wrote.

Over-the-counter medications provide little to no relief for chronic migraine sufferers, and prescription drugs can be costly or come with undesired side effects. “People who suffer with this … are so desperate for treatment,” said Dr. Lawrence Newman, director of the Headache Division at NYU Langone Medical Center. “We don’t have yet an optimal therapy, so people are looking for lots of different ways to try and control (migraines).”
Newman, who was not involved in the study, also gets chronic migraines. “As a migraine sufferer, migraines take away our control,” he said. “They strike without warning, and it can interfere with every type of plan that people who suffer with this disease have.”

A debilitating condition

Camille Howard retired for medical reasons in 1998 after six years of active duty in the US Army. Her chief complaint: chronic migraines. While her husband was deployed, she studied business administration at the University of Maryland’s Yongsan, South Korea, campus and returned to the military in a civilian role as a budget analyst. Today, migraines are still a constant problem and serve as one of the main reasons she has been on medical leave since August.

Acupuncture works, one way or another

Acupuncture works, one way or another

“On a normal week, I’m going to have at least three headaches,” she said. For the 44-year-old mother of three, headaches can be triggered by changes in the weather, certain foods and even strong smells like perfumes. Howard has seen several specialists and estimates that she has tried 20 medications to control her migraines.
While deployed in Germany, Howard started Botox combined with auriculotherapy, a form of acupuncture treatments in the ear to alleviate the pain associated with her migraines. “When I first started that treatment, it was fabulous. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is a miracle,’ ” she said.

Botox, widely known for its cosmetic uses, is a neurotoxin that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for migraine prevention. Researchers suggest that the botulinum toxin blocks the transmission of pain signals between nerve cells.

But when Howard and her family returned to the United States in 2012, she was unable to find a local provider to administer acupuncture and waited about a year to get approved to see a provider outside the Veterans Affair’s health system to continue Botox treatments. Today, Howard uses an FDA-approved transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation device, is receiving Botox therapy and takes two prescription medications. Still, she says, she has not experienced significant relief. “I can get about 20 headaches in a month on a bad month. But I get them every week,” Howard said.

Coming down the pipeline

The lack of options to ensure complete relief is leading migraine sufferers to seek out alternative treatment options, including yoga and meditation. “The good news is we’ve made a lot of inroads, and we’re making even more inroads into this,” Newman said. “So, you know, with time, we’re going to get to that cure.”

Researchers continue to find new ways to treat migraines. Alternative therapies such as biofeedback, stress management and acupuncture have received promising results and patients are beginning to widely accept these new methods.

Magnolia Ng, a licensed acupuncturist and pain management specialist in San Francisco who was not involved in the JAMA study, studied both the Eastern and Western traditions. She says she is not surprised by the study results and has seen some similar benefits in her practice. “At a cellular level, (acupuncture) changes the muscle cells as well as the fascia at the acupuncture point to influence the expression of pain in our body,” she said. “It also stimulates the body’s ability to recover from any illnesses and heal itself.” Typically, Ng hears from patients who have exhausted their medication options. She says it is common for people to come to her before trying medications that may have risks involved.

Dr. Stephen Silberstein, former president of the American Headache Society, says there are lots of treatment options for migraine. Most important, he says, are lifestyle changes. “Try to get adequate sleep, don’t get drunk, and if you take caffeine on a regular basis, take it on the weekends and don’t withdraw from it.” Silberstein is also eagerly awaiting potential new drugs designed to block the molecule (calcitonin gene-related peptide) that spikes during attacks, in hopes of stopping a migraine in its tracks. “They’re in clinical trials, and from what we know at this point, they’re safe. They seem to have no significant, if any, adverse events. They’re tolerable, and they work. In some people, they work extraordinarily well,” he said. With many options existing and still a lot of confusion around migraines and treatment, Newman advises his patients to have an open dialogue with their providers. “Discuss it with your doctor and see if your doctor has any recommendations.”

The truth about acupuncture

Acupuncture has had a long and sometimes controversial history in modern medicine. For years, many branded it as ‘voodoo’ medicine; something that was all in the mind and didn’t really make a difference when it came to managing real health issues and alleviating pain.

The ancient Chinese method divided medical experts into believers and sceptics. While some hailed its benefits and swore by its healing effects, others claimed it was nothing more than a placebo.

Then, about 12 years ago, a groundbreaking study from the University of Southampton’s Complementary Medicine Research unit found categorically that acupuncture does indeed work.

The study caused Western medical experts to sit up and take notice and acupuncture became increasingly popular with patients looking for alternative ways to manage pain and stimulate the body.

Vice president of Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA) Waveny Holland says the method can be used to treat a range of injuries and ailments and that despite the fact someone is inserting needles into your body, it is rarely painful.

“It is the insertion of very fine single-use sterile disposable needles into acupuncture points to balance the flow of qi (pronounced chee) – the Chinese word for energy,” she says. “Most people will report a feeling of relaxation after an acupuncture treatment and an improvement in symptoms.”

Acupuncture focuses on using the body’s qi – or energy – to stimulate certain points and clear out blockages to allow the energy to flow correctly. As strange as it may sound to some, our body is made of much more than blood, bones and muscles and acupuncture focusses on these differences.

Pressure points are targeted to hone in on certain areas to treat the cause of the problem as well as the symptoms.

So how will you know if it works for you? Holland says it’s not a matter of if, it simply does. “Acupuncture works. It’s not a case of will it work for me. It was the main medical model used in China for centuries, acupuncture was and still is used to treat the variety of medical conditions that affect people.”

She says acupuncture can be used to treat all kinds of pain and numerous studies have found it can help in other areas, like fertility and menopause, too.

As with most kinds of medical treatments, there are risks involved, but with acupuncture, they tend to be minimal. Some patients will experience minor bruising around the area where the needle was inserted, or a small spec of blood at the entry point. In worst case scenarios, Holland says needles inserted too deep could puncture organs, but this is extremely rare.

To make sure you’re getting the best care, it’s a good idea to find a registered practitioner through the AACMA. Just like a doctor, acupuncturists are registered to practice medicine and a good practitioner will always talk through your health issues with you first before beginning treatment.

One question that arises time and time again is, can I use acupuncture on it’s own or should it only be done in conjunction with western medicine?

Holland says it is absolutely safe to use acupuncture on it’s own and many people use it along with their regular GP visits, too.

If you’re feeling a little nervous about giving it a go, it’s a good idea to call a practitioner and talk through the treatment process with them. They should be able to tell you how they work and what areas of the body they will focus on to help you.

Can Acupuncture Reduce Opioid Use?

Vermont has already invested significant time and money in combating the opioid addiction, from special drug courts to laws regulating prescription monitoring. Now the state is considering a new tool in its arsenal: acupuncture. 

The idea isn’t to use acupuncture to treat addiction — though that’s not unheard of — but instead to investigate if acupuncture could be useful in treating chronic pain, as a way to avoid or reduce reliance on opioid medicines.  

The same bill last year that created the Vermont Prescription Monitoring System also allocated $200,000 to fund a study to see if making acupuncture accessibly to Medicaid patients is feasible — and useful.

“The Legislature, in learning about this opioid problem, said, ‘Hey, why aren’t these things more accessible to people?’ And one of the reasons is very few insurances in Vermont cover acupuncture,” says Robert Davis, who has been an acupuncturist for 17 years and is running this study.

As acupuncture is increasingly considered a viable option for pain relief, Vermont legislators want to explore how it could impact the lives of others — particularly those living below the poverty line.

Read more about the study at Vermont Public Radio.

Acupuncture Effective in Treating Pain and Depression

Acupuncture can boost the effectiveness of medical care and lessen the severity of chronic pain and depression, according to a new study led by British researchers.

In a meta-analysis (a study of studies) of 29 clinical trials involving nearly 18,000 patients with chronic neck, lower back, knee or headache pain, researchers found that acupuncture significantly reduced the severity of pain when combined with standard medical care such as anti-inflammatory drugs.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese form of treatment that involves the insertion of fine needles into acupuncture points on the body. About four million acupuncture sessions are provided each year in the UK, about half of them for pain relief. The evidence to support such treatment has been limited.

“There has been a question mark for many years over whether policy and decision makers should or should not provide wider access to acupuncture,” said Hugh MacPherson, PhD, a professor of acupuncture research at the University of York.

“Our aim was to bring together data from high quality clinical trials and provide a robust evidence base that will help reduce this uncertainty and support commissioners and health professionals in making informed decisions backed up with research.”

The study, published in the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Journals Library, found that the addition of acupuncture — compared to standard medical care alone — significantly reduced the number of headaches and migraine attacks and reduced the severity of neck and lower back pain.  Acupuncture also reduced the pain and disability of osteoarthritis, which led to patients using less anti-inflammatory medication to control pain.

The research team also conducted a new clinical trial for depression, in which 755 patients were provided with acupuncture, counseling or antidepressants. They found that both acupuncture and counseling significantly reduced the severity of depression, and that the benefits were sustained up to 12 months after treatment.

“In the largest study of its kind, we have now provided a solid evidence base to show that not only can acupuncture and counseling bring patients out of an episode of depression, but it can keep the condition at bay for up to a year on average,” said MacPherson, who added that antidepressants don’t work well for more than half of patients.

Researchers admit the benefits of acupuncture are partially associated with a placebo effect, which has contributed to uncertainty about it’s clinical effectiveness. However, when compared with sham acupuncture – in which fake needles are used or inserted in the wrong locations – they say “real” acupuncture provides substantially more pain relief.

“Our new data provides a significant step forward in treating chronic pain and managing depression, because patients and health professionals can now make decisions on acupuncture with more confidence. Not only is it more cost effective, but it reduces pain levels and improves mood levels, which could reduce over reliance on drugs that can sometimes result in unwanted side effects,” MacPherson said.

Acupuncture is one of the most widely practiced forms of alternative medicine. As many as 3 million Americans receive acupuncture treatments, most often for relief of chronic pain. While there is little consensus in the medical community about acupuncture’s value, a large study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that  “acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option.”

5 Surprising Beauty Benefits of Acupuncture


Photographed by Kim Andreolli, Vogue, September 1997

Acupuncture has been popular since ancient times for a reason: It makes people feel better. What’s more, in recent years, patients undergoing the procedure to treat health concerns have often noticed that their looks have benefited, too—leading to a rise in “acupuncture facials” that combine whole-body rebalancing with targeted needle stimulation (and, sometimes, spa-like add-ons) for glowing skin. Less well known, however, is the fact that the technique can also be used to address specific, pesky cosmetic issues—and as it turns out, those are one of the first things a practitioner might look at when diagnosing you.

“In traditional Chinese medicine, we look at the face as a reflection of what’s going on inside,” explains New York City acupuncturist Shellie Goldstein, M.S., L.Ac. “We look at your internal well-being to decipher what’s going on. From the inside, we will make that change, and it will be reflected on the outside.” In other words, the lasting solution to your breakouts or sagging skin might not be a cream or device, but rather a healthier, more balanced body.

Here, Goldstein explains five specific ways that acupuncture can provide a beauty boost from the inside out.

A swollen face is likely a sign of larger issues, according to Goldstein—issues that acupuncture is designed to address. “If you have digestive problems, allergies, or poor lymphatic drainage, what you may see in the face is puffiness,” Goldstein explains. “Not only will we correct it, we will adjust it from the inside.” This is accomplished by inserting fine sterile needles at certain points on the body identified in traditional Chinese medicine. Each resulting “micro-trauma,” as Goldstein calls it, causes a healing response both locally and throughout the body; different points correspond to different bodily systems.

Clear Up Acne
Acupuncture’s rebalancing effect has a way of calming breakouts, whether chronic or caused by monthly hormonal fluctuations. “We look at acne as a reflection of internal heat, and the digestive system,” Goldstein explains. “We can adjust premenstrual breakouts through acupuncture as well by treating the heat that arises” in the body during certain times of the month.

Calm Rosacea
“Similar to acne, it’s about adjusting that internal balance within,” Goldstein says. “Rosacea in Chinese medicine is often about digestion—by clearing up the internal digestive issues, it really helps to minimize redness and irritation in the skin tissue.”

Brighten Dull Skin
Acupuncture can boost a lackluster complexion both directly—by triggering local healing processes in the face—and indirectly, by recalibrating bodily systems. “Simply by putting a needle in the skin, you’re stimulating skin circulation, lymphatic drainage, and collagen production,” Goldstein says. But also, “dullness can often be a lack of energy flowing through the body properly. We work to raise your energy and balance what’s going on.”

Tighten and Tone
Whether your concern is the gravitational pull on your legs or slack facial skin, according to Goldstein, a few needle pricks can help to firm things up. Acupuncture is “absolutely amazing for muscle tone and deeper tissue tone in the body,” she says. “It will help to relax the deeper tissue muscles that are too tight, and tighten the ones that are [loose]. It’s really good for lifting and sculpting the cheeks and jawline, and even for lifting eyebrows.”

Cupping Used by The Olympic Athletes

It appears that the Olympic athletes in Reo are extensively using ancient cupping method to relive the pain. Please see this article from BBC.

Michael Phelps

US swimmer Michael Phelps, winner of 19 Olympic gold medals, sporting cupping bruises on his shoulders and back


Should You Try Acupuncture?

Acupuncture, the traditional Chinese technique of inserting thin needles into the body at specific spots called acupoints, is becoming an increasingly popular pain treatment. It is based on the belief that blocked qi, or energy, causes pain, and that stimulating some of our more than 300 acupoints, each believed to affect a specific body part or organ, can unblock energy and relieve pain.

Between 2002 and 2012 the number of people receiving acupuncture increased by 36 percent, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, and they typically visited a licensed practitioner (not a medical doctor) to perform the procedure. Proponents claim it can ease back pain, neck pain, and even treat ills such as allergies and hot flashes. But does it work? And is it safe?

A number of people who use acupuncture for chronic pain do report benefits. For example, an analysis of 29 studies with a total of 17,922 participants with back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache, and shoulder pain found that people with those conditions experienced significantly more relief with acupuncture than those who had no treatment. People also reported less pain after real acupuncture than they did after fake acupuncture (for example, with needles placed in spots that were not acupoints), but the differences were small.

One possible reason for the benefits of acupuncture: Studies show that it causes us to release feel-good hormones, called endorphins, that suppress pain. “Acupuncture, real and sham, also might make you feel better simply because you feel cared for or because you expect it to work—the placebo effect,” says Consumer Reports’ chief medical adviser, Marvin M. Lipman, M.D.

For back and neck pain, acupuncture is safe as long as sterile needles, such as single-use disposables, are used by a trained practitioner. But skip it for conditions other than pain; there’s no conclusive evidence that it will help.

If you do decide to try acupuncture, make sure that your practitioner has the appropriate credentials. Most states require at least 1,600 hours of training and that acupuncturists are certified by, or pass an exam from, the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. And note that acupuncture treatments are covered by some insurance policies, but they are not covered by Medicare.