Finding alternative treatments to control pain

ADC Neurologist, writes how acupuncture may be an option for controlling your pain.

Closeup of hand placing acupuncture needles

Acupuncture – one of the oldest forms of medicine — at least 2,500-5,000 years old — is thought of in the United States as a ‘new alternative’ philosophy. While traditional Western medicine generally uses drugs to treat disease and control symptoms, acupuncture provides a different approach to pain control and is becoming one of the treatment options for more patients.

Acupuncture for pain and symptom management

Acupuncture is now used by some physicians as part of their treatment regimens. Acupuncture can treat conditions ranging from chronic pain to migraines, or it can help people stop smoking.

Though each acupuncture practitioner has his or her own style, traditional Chinese treatment generally consists of an exam and assessment of a patient’s condition, insertion of very fine needles through the skin to strategic depths and places in the body, and a discussion about self-care.

The traditional Chinese theory behind this method is that health is a result of balanced life force within the body, comprised of the two complementary extremes — yin and yang. This life force, chi or qi, is believed to flow in paths through the body. Acupuncture needles are placed into the pathways, or meridians, through the more than 350 acupuncture points in the body. This is thought to balance the energy flow and restore health.

In Western medicine, we tend to believe that acupuncture works by stimulating nerves, muscles, and tissue, increasing blood flow to affected areas and boosting release of the body’s natural painkillers. Although explanations differ, acupuncture has been shown to relieve pain and other symptoms.

Acupuncture can also treat addiction to nicotine and help people stop smoking. Acupuncture eases the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Because withdrawal symptoms are painful and a difficult part of smoking cessation, easing those symptoms greatly increases a person’s chance of success with smoking cessation.

A range of treatment options

Whether viewed as old or new types of therapy, alternative forms of therapy, such as acupuncture, continue to gain supporters; especially in cities like Austin where “weird” is a way of life. The best idea is for you to discover what works for you — whether it’s a way to help you quit smoking or control migraines or chronic pain. Ask your doctor about possible options. You may be surprised to find out how many physicians today are including alternative therapies as part of their practices.