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National Pain Awareness Month

by David Mortell, R.Ac.

Pain Management.3September is National Pain Awareness month. Chronic pain is said to be the most costly health problem in the U.S., with costs exceeding $90 billion per year and growing. Considering that up to 85% of people over the age of 40 in industrialized countries worldwide have low back pain and arthritis pain affects 66 million Americans yearly, you can begin to see some of the reasons why health care costs are spiraling out control. Increased medical expenses, lost income, lost productivity, compensation payments, and legal fees are just some of the negative economic consequences of chronic pain. That doesn’t include the toll pain inflicts on a person’s family and other relationships, to say nothing of the psychological effects pain has on the patient.
Acupuncture is consistently rated as one of the top choices for treating acute chronic pain. Not only in my opinion, but in study after study, researchers give acupuncture high marks for pain relief for a multitude of pain syndromes including low back pain, headaches, neck and shoulder pain, knee/hip/elbow pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, neuropathy, fibromyalgia, and even tooth and jaw pain.

In most cases, acupuncture works better than physical therapy, massage, and pain medications, and can even help patients avoid or postpone surgery, while improving their quality of life.

And acupuncture treatments save money! In some cases, lots of money! In one cost-effectiveness study, stroke patients received acupuncture treatments in addition to standard rehabilitative care. They recovered twice as fast as those that just received standard care, and saved an incredible $26,000 per person in treatment costs. In a knee pain study, adding acupuncture treatments to standard care saved $9,000 per person.

So, how does acupuncture really work to treat pain? One way it works is by stimulating the release of our bodies’ own pain-relieving chemicals, especially endorphins. Endorphins are opiates that help relieve muscle/nerve pain and inflammation. Acupuncture doesn’t just temporarily block pain signals, the effects are cumulative and long lasting.

Recent MRI studies of the “brain on acupuncture” indicate that stimulating acupuncture points raises the brain’s pain threshold levels so that a stimulus that was felt as painful before acupuncture is perceived as non-painful after acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture also aids in tissue healing by increasing blood flow to the painful area.

To your health,
David Mortell, L Ac., Dipl. Ac.