Acute Pain, Acupuncture and the Opioid Crisis 

 July 10, 2017

By  Steve Hoffman

The attention that the opioid crisis is getting in the media is shining a light on a problem that has reached epidemic proportions. While this is a significant step forward, the fact that things got to this point in the first place is distressing. This article FDA Suggest Doctors Learn About Acupuncture shows how serious the media and even government agencies are taking this problem. Today, I want to talk about acute pain and how acupuncture can help the opioid crisis. Acute pain syndromes are of abrupt onset, normally of short duration and often needs urgent care. Think of a sprain, strain or even a bone break that happens because of an injury or accident. This is a situation for which opioids are often prescribed. Not a bad idea. Manage the immediate pain, allow the injury to heal and then discontinue the opioids when the pain level has reduced to a “manageable” level.

There are a few problems with this approach. One is that sometimes the pain level does not decrease to a manageable level and where does that leave the patient. In need of more opioids just to get by and this is a recipe for addiction. The other problem is that pain is there for a reason. With a broken leg, the pain will be so severe that if you try to bear weight on it, the pain prevents you from doing so. Imagine if you took opioids to mask the pain and continued to do weight bearing activities. The bone would not heal right, setting you up for further complications and quite probably chronic pain. A similar thing could happen with back pain. If you use opioids to manage the pain, you are likely to continue to do things (poor posture, lifting things you shouldn’t etc.) that can exacerbate the problem or NOT do things (physical therapy, exercise, lose weight) that could help the problem. Further, opioids do absolutely NOTHING to heal the body.

Acupuncture does not normally come to mind for most people when it comes to acute pain. Often, we see patients who have been dealing with their pain issue for years or even decades and traditional therapies have done little to nothing to address the problem. This is the exact wrong approach! Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help manage pain but that is because it is helping the body heal the problem. Injuries heal faster, more completely and with fewer long term problems than letting the body heal on its own. I have seen dramatic improvement in pain, swelling and range of motion after just one treatment. By taking advantage of what acupuncture can do, many can avoid turning to pain reliving medications all together.

If you have an acute injury don’t wait, the sooner acupuncture is performed on an injury, the faster an injury will heal, even a day or two makes a difference. There is a place for opioids but with other interventions, you can stop using them sooner or may not have to use them at all.

Princeton Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Our patients know just how effective treatments are for these and a host of other problems. Steven Hoffman, a New Jersey Licensed Acupuncturist and Diplomate in Oriental Medicine, will provide you with a thorough intake and evaluation and a clear, comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan that will insure that your goals are met or exceeded. Do you want to move past these or other problems? We will help you thrive not just survive!

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