Acupuncture - An Effective Treatment for Chronic Pain

At ACU4U, one of the most common problems that our visitors suffer from is chronic pain. An analysis funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and published in The Journal of Pain (2010) indicated that an estimated 25.3 million adults (11.2%) experience chronic pain and nearly 40 million adults (17.6 %) experience severe levels of pain1.  Chronic pain --- from headache, low back pain, joints pain, neurologic pain to cancer pain --- represents a major clinical, social and economic problem. The impact of pain on economies is enormous, with the cost of back pain alone equivalent to more than a fifth of one country's total health expenditure.

In the conventional western medicine, drugs --- the NSAIDs and the opiods --- are still the mainstream treatment. Unfortunately, for chronic pain, these drugs posed only as a temporary solution, and in most cases, created more problems than solutions.

NSAIDs are not the answer

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)  are often prescribed to deal with a patient’s pain. A Cochrane review in 2016 of 13 randomized control trials evaluating the efficacy of NSAIDs found that the difference between NSAIDs and placebo were small --- 7 points on a 100-point scale for pain intensity2.  It was not just the efficacy that was unimpressive; NSAIDs are also known to increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and renal dysfunction3,4.

A meta-analysis of 446,763 patients, published in British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2017 by Bally et al5, found that using any NSAID, for even a short period of time, was associated with an increased risk of acute heart attack, even in healthy people. The risk was greatest during the first month of NSAID use and with higher doses.

Opioids are even worse

For three decades, there has been hope that more liberal use of opioids would help reduce the number of Americans with unrelieved chronic pain. Instead, it produced what has been termed an epidemic of prescription-opioid abuse, overdoses, and deaths — and no demonstrable reduction in the burden of chronic pain.

A survey done by the American Pain Foundation in 2006 indicated that only 23% of patients with chronic pain found opiates effective6. In 2016, a systemic review and meta-analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine indicated that the doses for opioids recommended by the Federal Guideline were not effective for low back pain7. In 2017, the first randomized study to ever evaluate the long-term effectiveness of opioid for pain relief found that those taking opioids were actually in more pain at 12-months compared to those who were on non-opioid pain relief8.

Opioids have not been effectively treating the chronic pain, yet the prescription of opioids subsequently increased rates of toxic drug effects and exposed vulnerable populations to risk. For many other people, especially adolescents and young adults, increased access to opioids has led to abuse, addiction, and death. An estimated two million individuals in the United States are addicted to prescription opioids, resulting in an economic cost of $78.5 billion USD annually9.

Acupuncture is an effective treatment for pain

Acupuncture’s effectiveness in the treatment of pain is no longer a question; it is a well-documented fact. In the last three decades, there has been a tremendous amount of research supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture on all kinds of pain10.  

In the largest acupuncture study of chronic pain to date, 454,920 patients were treated with acupuncture for headache, low back pain, and/or osteoarthritis in an open pragmatic trial. Effectiveness was rated as marked or moderate in 76% of cases by the 8,727 treating physicians11.

A meta-analysis of 17,922 patients from randomized trials in 2012 concluded that “Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option. Significant differences between true and sham acupuncture indicate that acupuncture is more than a placebo.”12.  

A paper titled ‘Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: An Update and Critical Overview’ in 2017’s Current Opinion in Anesthesiology concluded that “Acupuncture is effective, safe, and cost-effective for treating several chronic pain conditions”13.

As stated by the team of Dr. Vickers in their meta-analysis review funded by the National Health Institute --- “Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic musculoskeletal, headache, and osteoarthritis pain. Treatment effects of acupuncture persist over time and cannot be explained solely in terms of placebo effects. Referral for a course of acupuncture treatment is a reasonable option for a patient with chronic pain.”12

How ACU4U can help

If you live near Houston and suffer from chronic pain, schedule a free consultation at our acupuncture clinic. Our licensed acupuncturists will work with you to solidify your path towards better health and wellness and relieve your chronic pain. To learn more about our clinic, our affordable rates, and how our clinic bills with insurance, visit our website at www.acu4u.com

 

References

  1. Johannes, C. B., Le, T. K., Zhou, X., Johnston, J. A., & Dworkin, R. H. (2010). The prevalence of chronic pain in United States adults: results of an Internet-based survey. The Journal of Pain : Official Journal of the American Pain Society, 11(11), 1230–1239.
  2. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for chronic low backpain (Review)Enthoven WTM, Roelofs PDDM, Deyo RA, van Tulder MW, Koes BWEnthoven WTM, Roelofs PDDM, Deyo RA, van Tulder MW, Koes BW.Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for chronic low back pain.Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 2.
  3. Huerta C, Castellsague J, Varas-Lorenzo C, Rodriguez LAG. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and risk of ARF in the general population. Am J Kidney Dis 2005; 45: 531–9.
  4. Hawkey CJ, Langman MJS. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: overall risks and management. Complementary roles for COX-2 inhibitors and proton pump inhibitors. Gut 2003; 52: 600–8.
  5. Bally, M., Dendukuri, N., Rich, B., Nadeau, L., Helin-Salmivaara, A., Garbe, E., & Brophy, J. M. (2017). Risk of acute myocardial infarction with NSAIDs in real world use: bayesian meta-analysis of individual patient data. BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), 357, 1909–13.
  6. The CHP Group (2014) The Cost of Chronic Pain:How Complementary and Alternative Medicine Can Provide Relief.
  7. Abdel Shaheed, C., Maher, C. G., Williams, K. A., Day, R., & McLachlan, A. J.  Efficacy, Tolerability, and Dose-Dependent Effects of Opioid Analgesics for Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Internal Medicine 2016; 176(7), 958–968.
  8. Erin E. Krebs, MD, et al. Effect of Opioid vs Nonopioid Medications on Pain-Related Function in Patients with Chronic Back Pain or Hip or Knee Osteoarthritis Pain The SPACE Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2018;319(9):872-882
  9. Anne Schuchat, MD, Debra Houry, MD, MPH, and Gery P. Guy, Jr, PhD, MPH. New Data on Opioid Use and Prescribing in the United States. JAMA. 2017 Aug 1; 318(5): 425–426.
  10. The Joint Acupuncture Opioid Task Force:  Acupuncture’s Role in Solving the Opioid Epidemic. White Paper 2017.
  11. Weidenhammer W, Streng A, Linde K, Hoppe A, Melchart D. Acupuncture for chronic pain within the research program of 10 German Health Insurance Funds–basic results from an observational study. Complementary therapies in medicine. 2007;15(4):238-46.
  12. Vickers, A. J., Cronin, A. M., Maschino, A. C., Lewith, G., MacPherson, H., Foster, N. E., et al. Acupuncture for Chronic Pain. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2012; 172(19), 1444.
  13. Yin, C., Buchheit, T. E., & Park, J. J. Acupuncture for chronic pain: an update and critical overview. Current Opinion in Anesthesiology, 2017 Oct;30(5):583-592.