Acupuncture & Chronic Pain
by Ingrid Masi
Defined as ‘pain that extends beyond expected healing time’, chronic pain affects approximately 3 out of 10 Australians or 29% of the population, according to a 2011 health report. Even if we don’t experience pain, 61% of the population know someone who lives with the condition, and it is women who suffer more chronic pain than men.
A diagnosed condition such as arthritis, an inflammatory condition, multiple sclerosis or cancer is behind nearly half of the cases of chronic pain, and the other causes are surgery or accident related. However for about 13% of those suffering from chronic pain, there is no known cause. This can often cause great distress as without a medical diagnosis others don’t believe their pain is real.
There are many tools now available for those suffering from chronic pain, such as medication, hydrotherapy, counselling, visualisation and exercise, but recent studies have confirmed acupuncture as an effective adjunctive therapy to treat chronic pain.
A recent German study (Arthritis and Rheumatism 54; 11;3485-3493) in patients with arthritis of the hip and knee showed significant improvement over controls at both three and six months in the oseteoarthritis severity and quality of life (WOMAC) measures.
Another recent Australian study (Pain Pract. 2013 Oct 21) showed that acupuncture was a cost-effective therapy for lower back pain, with subjects showing significant improvement over an eight week period. Other studies have also confirmed that acupuncture brings about significant improvement in the way the brain responds to chronic pain, which can help alleviate associated mood changes and depression.
A licensed acupuncturist undergoes four years of training in both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and western medical training. Using TCM methodology with a western medicine background, acupuncturists assess the condition thoroughly using different signs and symptoms within the TCM model. Treatment includes using such methods as cupping, electro-acupuncture and massage as well as different types of needling techniques. A variety of methods are usually used in someone suffering chronic pain to ensure the best results possible.
Chronic pain is a very serious and difficult issue, especially for those whose lives are deeply impacted day to day. If you are seeking acupuncture for a difficult pain condition, then consider consultation with a trained acupuncturist for a comprehensive TCM assessment to ensure a safe and effective result.