People who have chronic pain are often bombarded with well-meaning suggestions.
Stop eating sugar! Start working out! Take this medication! No, that one! Sleep more! No, sleep less!
While all these suggestions are certainly intended to be helpful, they can also leave confusion in their wake, and some can even worsen symptoms and discomfort. Medical professionals sometimes give equally confusing suggestions, from recommending heavy opiates to disbelieving the patient has any pain!
Opiate Usage for Chronic Pain
Opiate medications are controlled substances, derivatives or synthetic forms of the opium plant. They can be unbelievably useful in treating short-term or intense pain from surgery or other acute injuries. However, their benefits also carry risks.
Risks of Opiate Usage for Chronic Pain
One side effect of opiates is respiratory depression, which means people may take fewer and shallower breaths under the influence of these medications. For people who have other health issues, such as breathing or heart problems, a resultant lack of sufficient oxygen can become an emergency. Another side effect of opiates is rebound pain. After taking them for any length of time, the body becomes accustomed to the medication, and once it is stopped, the patient may feel even greater pain as a result.
Opiates are considered habituating, which in this context means that the body adapts to specific dosages. Over time, more and more medication is required to have the same analgesic effect. With higher doses of medication come higher risks of side effects, and worse. People who use prescription opiates sometimes enjoy the euphoric side effect of the medication, and take more than prescribed. This misuse can develop into addiction. Even when used appropriately, opiates can exacerbate or have negative interactions with other safe medications. Patients who take opiates for periods of as little as a week can experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, even when they took their medication as prescribed.
With all the potential consequences of taking opiates, it makes sense that chronic pain patients seek out alternative ways to manage their pain over the long term.
A Natural Solution for Chronic Pain
Acupuncture is a proven safe and effective treatment for chronic pain. There are no potential interactions with other medications, and very, very few conditions that preclude the use of acupuncture. Even patients with high risk of bleeding can utilize related treatments, such as acupressure, to achieve similar results.
Over thousands of years, people across the planet have used acupuncture to deal with pain, long before opiates or other pain medications were widely available.
For patients who have already been taking opiates for a long period, acupuncture can ease normal withdrawal symptoms. Furthermore, for people who struggle with addiction, acupuncture is one way to support the body during the recovery process. Acupuncture can also be done alongside opiate medication, allowing patients to use less medication, therefore experiencing fewer side effects.
How Can acupuncture help with Chronic Pain?
The practice of acupuncture has been in use for far longer than Western medicine. It emerged from a study of the body’s own system of energy generation. This energy is the force that allows the human body to heal itself. Over time, people learned that they were able to manipulate the energy of the body, directing it to areas in greater need of healing by stimulating it with very fine needles used in specific locations.
In addition to directing the body’s energy, acupuncture also increases blood flow to areas of the body. Increased blood flow not only carries increased nutrients and oxygenated blood, it works to carry away impurities and inflammation. But, how do these things help with chronic pain?
Heal from the Source
Chronic pain can come from many sources, from a long-standing injury that hasn’t healed will, causing ongoing discomfort, to problems with the nervous system, like neuropathy. Beyond employing the body’s own energy to work to heal, acupuncture also encourages the brain to release neurotransmitters that carry feelings of wellness and health. Effectively, these neurotransmitters can block out the signals of pain from reaching the brain, or lower their volume, leading to reduced feelings of discomfort.
Another side effect of chronic pain is the body’s desire to protect itself. Sometimes, this can look like overcompensation, like using one leg more than a weaker one. This can lead to the strong leg becoming painful or injured. Acupuncture can reduce muscle spasms and tightness, and relax the nervous system, helping the rest of the body that’s working overtime to adjust to chronic pain.
Improve Mood and Reduce Anxiety
In addition to physical discomforts, chronic pain carries a serious risk of depression and anxiety, as well as problems sleeping. Together, these three symptoms of chronic pain help to account for the dangers of self-harm that chronic pain patients suffer as they seek to find ways out of their pain. Overall, acupuncture works on the whole body, muscles, nerves, tendons, and the mind. Just as it can be a useful tool for healing from addiction, acupuncture can improve mood, reduce anxiety, and benefit sleeping habits, all of which can lead to increased feelings of wellness and health.
All in all, acupuncture is a safe treatment for chronic pain, it’s effective, and it has virtually no contraindications and no potentially harmful interactions with any other avenues of treatment. For patients seeking to avoid risky medications or additional surgeries, acupuncture is a super tool for addressing pain in the body, even for conditions that are long-lasting or severe. Instead of simply addressing the pain, acupuncture creates holistic wellness in the body, leading to a greater feeling of wellness.
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!