Is fibromyalgia real

Living With Fibro: How to Ease the Pain

It’s been over a year since your primary care physician ran a series of inconclusive tests and diagnosed you with fibromyalgia. It didn’t seem like much was known about your condition.  Since then your symptoms haven’t improved, and you’ve wondered if you were even diagnosed correctly. Is fibromyalgia real? If you’ve been diagnosed with fibro, what options do you have for treatment, and how do you ease chronic pain?

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition known for its aching, widespread pain that’s often accompanied by tenderness of tendons and muscles. An estimated five million people in the United States alone suffer from fibromyalgia.

Typical symptoms of fibro can include:

  • Widespread or localized pain, described as burning, throbbing or sharp
  • Aches and stiffness in muscles, tendons and bones
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Difficulties with concentration and focus due to “fibro fog”
  • Tension headaches or migraines
  • Cramping in the lower abdomen
  • Depression
  • IBS
  • Numbness or tingling of the extremities
  • Sensitivity to temperatures, noises, bright lights and/or potent odors
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness

Is Fibromyalgia Real?

Physicians today still remain skeptical regarding whether or not fibro is real. Not only does the condition vary from one individual to the next, but unlike other conditions, no test can diagnose fibromyalgia. Diagnosis usually involves considering the above symptoms and ruling out other conditions with blood tests such as CBC, erythrocyte sedimentation rate and thyroid function.

“Is fibromyalgia real?” is still asked throughout the medical community because the causes of fibro are unknown. Since fibromyalgia tends to run in families, genetics might be a factor. Other theories involve infections and physical and/or emotional trauma.

Since pain is almost always involved in fibro, researchers also believe pain signals are amplified in the brain over time due to overstimulation and an increased release of certain chemicals.

Getting Treated For Fibro

Treatment for fibromyalgia focuses on providing relief from chronic pain, along with minimizing all symptoms present. You’ll need an experienced team of experts to put together a reliable treatment plan for you based on your medical history and current state of health.

In terms of medications, your medical team may recommend you use the following:

  • Pregabalin, to date the only pharmaceutical drug approved by the FDA to treat fibro
  • NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen sodium, to decrease pain and inflammation and relieve muscle aches
  • Painkillers, such as acetaminophen and prescription medication
  • Benzodiazepines, which can help with disruptive sleep, muscle tension and restless leg syndrome
  • Antidepressants to elevate chemicals in the brain that will elevate your mood, boost the effect of endorphins, stabilize your sleep patterns and reduce fatigue
  • Anti-seizure medications, also commonly used when treating fibro

Treating Fibromyalgia Naturally

Many individuals diagnosed with fibro address it with a combination of Western and Eastern medicine. This approach works best when it comes to maximizing relief from chronic pain and fatigue. Treating fibro naturally might include:

  • Learning to reduce stress levels, which might involve therapy, breathing exercises, yoga, meditation and massage.
  • Exercising regularly, which has been proven to help fibro patients immensely; stretching and low-impact aerobics such as walking, yoga and swimming are recommended.
  •  Acupuncture, which could positively affect your blood flow and levels of neurotransmitters in the brain and spinal cord to effectively reduce pain.
  • Massage, which can reduce your heart rate, relax your muscles and increase the production of endorphins.
  • Eating healthy foods, such as organic fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants that can boost your immune system; ginger and turmeric powder are also said to have excellent anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Yoga and tai chi, which can reduce fibro symptoms by combining meditation, deep breathing and relaxation.
  • Addressing insomnia and sleep problems in order to boost energy and mood; this might involve following a sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, minimizing the length of daytime naps, and incorporating relaxation techniques before falling asleep. Some fibro patients also undergo acupuncture to cure insomnia.

The Next Steps

There’s no need to continue feeling fatigued, achy and living life unfocused and unable to accomplish much. Using evidence-based research, Acupuncture Balanced Health is dedicated to helping you overcome fibromyalgia. Our team of experts is ready to put together a plan designed to treat all of your fibro symptoms. Take the right step toward improving your quality of life, and contact us today to make an appointment.

Discover the causes of chronic headaches and what to do about them.

6 Causes of Chronic Headaches and How to Treat Them

There’s nothing worse than living with chronic pain, and headaches can be one of the most challenging. When a severe headache strikes, it’s debilitating and can force you to do nothing but lie still in a darkened room until the worst of the effects pass.

Thankfully, most chronic headaches are not quite that painful, and they can be more of a “headache behind the eyes” or a mild, throbbing headache than the most severe headache you’ve ever had. Let’s take a closer look at what causes chronic headaches and explore methods of treatment for them.

Causes of Chronic Headaches

Before we get into what causes chronic headaches, we should define what they are. In headache terms, chronic means you experience headaches at least 15 days per month for at least three months. This is different from a migraine or other types of acute headache, which strike hard and then disappear. But chronic headaches are no less difficult to live with, whether you experience them as a headache behind the eyes, a throbbing headache or a pressure headache.

There can be many causes for this type of headache, but here are some of the more common triggers:

  1. Muscular tension, often linked to posture, is one of the most common causes of tension headaches.
  2. Stress is another big contributor to chronic headaches.
  3. Eye strain can cause tension headaches, and if you routinely experience headache behind the eyes, you might need to have your eyes tested.
  4. Dehydration, alcohol consumption and caffeine can all cause or worsen headaches behind the eyes.
  5. Tiredness is another factor, and if you routinely experience pressure headaches when you’re tired, then you might simply need a little more sleep.
  6. Environmental factors like heat, cold or wind.

The good news is that tension headaches or pressure headaches that typically cause chronic headaches are rarely a sign of something more serious. So while they do need to be treated to improve your quality of life, they are generally manageable with the right treatment methods.

Treatment for Chronic Headaches

Treatment for chronic headaches can be tricky because they are so frequent. While your doctor may advise you to take over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, you can’t take these types of medications every day. Overuse of these medications is bad for certain organs and may actually cause headaches.

If you do take painkillers, try to limit them to days when you genuinely need them, rather than taking them every day. Do not take them as a preventive measure.

Dealing with stress is a good way to treat chronic headaches, which can be linked to stress. Neck massages, physiotherapy, shoulder massages and acupuncture can all loosen tight muscles that are causing headaches.

Exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy that teaches you to actively alter your habits and lifestyle can also be effective treatments for chronic headaches, as they can help you make lifestyle changes that reduce or limit your pain.

Most people find that a combination of therapies, avoiding the things that trigger their headaches, and ongoing pain management treatments like physiotherapy and acupuncture are the best solution for their pressure headaches. So it may simply be that you need to find the right mix of therapies.



Acupuncture for back pain caused by these conditions has proved to be an effective treatment method.

9 Common Lower Back Conditions and How to Treat Them

If you thought you were alone in suffering from lower-back pain, think again. The World Health Organization states that this type of pain is the leading cause of disability in young adults, and the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study placed lower-back pain in the top 10 global causes of absenteeism from work.

In other words, there are millions of people suffering from lower-back pain, just like you. It’s no surprise, therefore, that treatments like acupuncture for back pain are in higher demand now than ever. The question is, what is behind this epidemic, and what can be done to remedy the situation?

Causes of Back Pain

Let’s start with some of the more common conditions that can cause chronic lower-back pain:

  1. Lumbar strain (acute, chronic), stretching injury to the ligaments, tendons, and/or muscles of the low back. The stretching incident results in microscopic tears of varying degrees in these tissues.
  2. Nerve irritation: mechanical pressure (impingement) by bone or other tissues, or from disease, anywhere along their paths — from their roots at the spinal cord to the skin surface.
  3. Lumbar radiculopathy is nerve irritation caused by damage to the discs between the vertebrae. Damage to the disc occurs because of degeneration (“wear and tear”) of the outer ring of the disc, traumatic injury, or both.
  4. Bony encroachment: Any condition that results in movement or growth of the vertebrae of the lumbar spine can limit the space (encroachment) for the adjacent spinal cord and nerves.
  5. Bone and joint conditions leading to lower back pain include those existing from birth (congenital), those resulting from wear and tear (degenerative) or injury, and those due to inflammation of the joints (arthritis).
  6. Degenerative bone and joint conditions: As we age, the water and protein content of the body’s cartilage changes. This change results in weaker, thinner, and more fragile cartilage.
  7. Injury to the muscles, bones and joints.
  8. Arthritis of the lower back and sacroiliac joints.
  9. Tumors of the kidneys or ovaries can also cause lower back pain.

Acupuncture for Back Pain and Other Treatments

When you have back pain or have been diagnosed with a spinal cord injury, you are likely looking for solutions to the problem. The course of treatment, which will be determined by the cause of the pain, may include one or more of the following:

  1. Medications, including pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, topical treatments and treatments for infections, whether primary or secondary.
  2. Complementary or alternative treatments, such as acupuncture for back pain, which has been proven to provide relief for conditions like spinal stenosis.
  3. Physiotherapy and massage for muscle strains and pains, if your back pain is related to overworked muscles rather than the spine itself.
  4. Spinal surgery, including laser spine surgery, although this is often reserved for advanced and serious cases.
  5. Treatments for underlying conditions, such as arthritis or osteoporosis, which cause bone spurs or degeneration of the spine.
  6. Lifestyle changes, including an improved diet, moderate exercise and changes to work habits.

Acupuncture is performed by licensed acupuncturists who put the needles in your body. Among other therapies, acupuncture is considered to have minimum side effects. It can reduce pain and inflammation like steroids or ibuprofen do and have long-lasting results, without any side effects.

What Should You Expect from an Acupuncture Session?

Acupuncture sessions last for one hour. We will ask about your medical history, exam the source of your pain, check your pulse and look at your tongue to find out the cause of your lower back pain. Then we will determine the points on your body to insert the needles. Patients can usually feel the needle, but not necessarily feel pain from needles. After we put the needles in, you will relax for 15 to 30 mins while the needles do their work. You will typically need between 1 and 10 sessions, depending on the severity of your lower back pain. If your insurance covers acupuncture, you will be able to file your claim yourself.


If you have been diagnosed with any of the conditions causing lower back pain or a medical condition like spinal stenosis, the good news is that you’re better off than many people who suffer from chronic lower back pain. You can work with your doctors and alternative medicine professionals to formulate a plan that tackles the root cause of the problem.

Don’t suffer in silence, and don’t wait to treat degenerative conditions. Lower back pain usually gets worse with age, not better.



acupuncture in raleigh nc

How Acupuncture Treatment Benefits a Range of Conditions

The credibility of using acupuncture in Raleigh NC has grown substantially over the past few years. Even if you had never considered trying acupuncture before, you might be weighing your options now.

Acupuncture has a long tradition of being a very effective, non-invasive treatment for issues like nausea and vomiting, especially in the case of chemotherapy patients.

Types of Conditions

Although results vary and there aren’t always reliable studies to back up anecdotal evidence, acupuncture is also widely used to treat:

  • headaches
  • fibromyalgia
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • addiction
  • weight loss

and even as part of stroke rehabilitation.

According to MedicineNet, acupuncture works by encouraging the body to release opioids into the central nervous system. This in turn eases pain, increases a feeling of well-being, and might explain the relief of a number of symptoms after a single visit to a practitioner.

Reliable Studies and Why the Experts Are Standing Behind Them

One of the main reasons people seek acupuncture in Raleigh NC is back pain – and with good reason. Numerous studies back up the use of acupuncture treatment for this condition, and many show it to be more effective than a number of conventional approaches.

For example, in an article published in Acupuncture Today, researchers pointed out that acupuncture actually works better than injectable drugs to relieve lower back pain. Other studies have shown that acupuncture treatment is superior to physical therapy and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help relieve pain, tension and discomfort in the lower back area.

In addition, patients who receive acupuncture are more likely to experience long-term relief of pain and improvements in functional abilities as long as six months after the last session. These responses are not seen with the use of any other type of treatment.

How Else Acupuncture Can Help

Here’s an unexpected benefit of acupuncture: using it might actually improve the effectiveness of your prescription drugs. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that people who used acupuncture and a small dose of Prozac experienced similar results to those using a full dose of Prozac but no acupuncture to treat anxiety. In addition, the acupuncture treatment option was a lot more effective because it resulted in fewer side effects. On the other hand, those on a full dose of Prozac experienced more nausea, gained more weight, and reported a decrease in their sex drive.

Digestive Conditions

And while the use of acupuncture in Raleigh NC for nausea and vomiting has been practiced for years, it now appears that acupuncture can also help with digestive conditions. In fact, researchers found that acupuncture sessions can help pregnant women deal with indigestion and heartburn without the dangers or side effects associated with drugs. In a study conducted in Brazil, 75 % of the women using acupuncture reported improvements in their heartburn episodes, while only 44% of women using traditional drug treatment reported the same.

Weight Loss

Finally, acupuncture has been extensively used to help reduce appetite and improve weight loss results, but new studies show it might also help fight obesity. A systemic review of 31 studies showed that the use of acupuncture treatment in obese patients leads to better results than the use of medications or diet alone.

If you are curious about these findings and living in Raleigh NC, make the short drive over to Chapel Hill‘s Acupuncture Balanced Health to see one of our highly experienced practitioners. Give us a call to schedule your introductory consultation.



carpal tunnel acupuncture

Carpal Tunnel Acupuncture Stands Up to Traditional Treatments

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when nerves on the wrist area are compressed and symptoms like tingling and numbness develop. Without treatment, carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to a chronic, dull ache in the wrist, fingers, and/or hand that makes it difficult to deal with common daily activities – from cooking to writing to typing on your computer.

Although there’s no specific cause behind the development of carpal tunnel syndrome, certain people are more predisposed to it. In some cases, people with rheumatoid arthritis can develop carpal tunnel syndrome as a side effect of their problem.

While the most common current treatment for CTS is a combination of corticosteroid injections directly in the affected area and splinting or physical therapy, carpal tunnel acupuncture treatment is can be a valid option for a number of reasons.

What the Experts Say

There have been numerous studies done on the effectiveness of acupuncture to treat CTS. A recent one, published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, compared the effectiveness of acupuncture against night splinting, sham acupuncture, and the use of vitamins B1 and B6 to reduce the symptoms of mild CTS. The results? Patients who received acupuncture experienced a reduction in symptoms and felt better after just a few sessions.

Another study published in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand compared electro-acupuncture against night splinting to reduce the symptoms of CTS. After five weeks, the patients receiving carpal tunnel acupuncture and the ones using a night splinter experienced similar results in terms of overall comfort and reduction of symptoms. However, the patients using electro-acupuncture reported a much more significant improvement in terms of pain reduction.

Finally, a study published in The Clinical Journal of Pain compared the use of 20 mg of prednisone (an anti-inflammatory) daily to eight sessions of electro-acupuncture administered twice a week for four weeks. At the end of the study, both groups reported similar levels of improvement in their levels of pain, weakness, night awakening and numbness. According to the researchers leading the study, the use of electro-acupuncture is at least as effective as oral prescription medication to treat CTS with fewer potential side effects.

Other Reasons Acupuncture Might Help

According to the British Acupuncture Council, carpal tunnel acupuncture can help with pain by stimulating the release of neurochemicals that improve both emotional and physical well-being. This in turn helps control pain and relaxes nerves and muscles. In people with CTS, this can lead to a reduction in stress and sensitivity, helping ease general symptoms of discomfort.

In addition, studies have shown that acupuncture also helps condition the brain to stop processing sensory nerve input. This means that the pain and discomfort you normally experience from carpal tunnel syndrome are greatly reduced because the brain processes those signals differently. The result? A much more comfortable experience when using your wrists, as well as an improvement in weakness and burning sensations in the area.

Finally, experts believe acupuncture provides additional benefits of stress reduction, which has a significant impact in the way people experience pain. As stress levels are reduced, so are the secondary effects stress has on the body. For example, people with lower levels of stress are able to handle discomfort and pain better, so acupuncture could also help people suffering from CTS indirectly.



acupuncture nc

4 Tips for Choosing the Right Acupuncture NC Practitioner

When you’re searching for acupuncture NC clinics, keep in mind that not all practitioners are the same. Experience, education and even general methods and ways of practicing can affect how comfortable you feel during your sessions and how effective the treatment turns out to be.

Here are four things to keep in mind when searching for the right acupuncture professional:

#1: Ask about their experience treating a specific condition

Most, if not all, acupuncturists will know how to deal with general issues such as aches and pains, smoking cessation, and chronic fatigue syndrome. But if you need help with a particular problem – such as side effects of chemotherapy treatment or women’s reproductive health issues – you might want to look for a practitioner who understands that specific issue:

  • Ideally, you want somebody who has worked with those conditions before and already knows the best treatment course for them.
  • Your second best option is an acupuncture practitioner with a great deal of experience, who knows how to research treatment for specific issues and is willing and open to working with you.

#2: Find out about their educational background

It’s true that many acupuncture NC practitioners learn through hands-on experience, but that doesn’t mean that their education and licensure background are any less important. In fact, well-educated acupuncturists are also likely to know a lot about Chinese medicine, herbal medicine and other complimentary theories. Many pursue additional certifications or even degrees in those areas, making them well-rounded professionals.

The highest level of training currently available results in the title of Licensed Acupuncturist (LAc). In order to become an LAc, an acupuncture NC practitioner will need a minimum of 1800 hours (and up to 2400 hours, depending on the state) of coursework and clinical training.

#3: Beware of medical professionals offering acupuncture as an afterthought

There are no standardized educational requirements to become an acupuncturist. In fact, it’s possible to obtain a basic certification as one in as little as 100 hours. This is why many chiropractors or other professionals involved in the medical profession sometimes offer acupuncture as an additional service in their practices. The problem with this, however, is that you’ll be receiving treatment from somebody who doesn’t specialize in acupuncture – and as a result might not have the experience or knowledge needed to treat certain conditions.

To be safe, always inquire about the educational background of anybody offering acupuncture services.

#4: Inquiry about styles

Another thing to keep in mind when searching for an acupuncture NC clinic is to look at the type of acupuncture being offered. While traditional Chinese acupuncture might be the best-known form of acupuncture, some practitioners specialize in:

  • Japanese style acupuncture
  • Scalp acupuncture, or
  • Ear acupuncture.

While each type focuses on very different treatment points, there is another important difference to keep in mind: some types of acupuncture are more effective than others for treating certain conditions.

For example, ear acupuncture has long been considered highly effective for functional disorders, weight loss, smoking cessation and the treatment of conditions related to the nervous system. Traditional Chinese acupuncture is usually the right choice if you’re searching for pain treatment or to control certain symptoms or side effects, such as nausea connected to chemotherapy treatments.



acupuncture in chapel hill nc

What to Expect During Your First Acupuncture Appointment

If you’ve been considering trying acupuncture in Chapel Hill NC, you might be curious to know what exactly happens during your first appointment.

While it’s true that each acupuncturist is different, there are some things most acupuncturists will address the first time you step into their office. Knowing what to expect could make your visit more comfortable and will help you prepare so you can make the most of the consultation.

The First Step

Before any treatment can be decided, the acupuncturist will spend some time trying to understand what ails you. He or she will ask you to share information about your lifestyle, your medical story and any health concerns you may have. If this is the first time you’re trying acupuncture for a medical condition, the acupuncturist will explain what to expect in terms of discomfort, pain or side effects. He or she might also discuss the differences between traditional or Eastern medicine compared with what you’re used to in terms of treatment in Western medicine.

From here, the acupuncturist will decide the best course of action for you. He or she will discuss with you how many sessions are recommended and what to expect in terms of relief. Sometimes you can see results after just one appointment, but often it’s necessary to go through several sessions before you experience relief.

The First Session

In many cases, it’s possible to start treatment during your first visit. If this is your first time trying acupuncture, it might be a good idea to ask questions and discuss concerns. In general, acupuncture is not a painful experience. Needles most closely resemble the width of a single human hair. And, once the needle is in place, you shouldn’t feel any discomfort either. If you do, tell the acupuncturist immediately so he or she can adjust the position of the needle or try a different point.

During a session, needles are left in place for up to half an hour to stimulate the release of healing energy. The more quiet and relaxed you are during a session, the better the experience will be. Many people find acupuncture sessions relaxing and often drift off to sleep.

Follow-Up Treatment

Even if you experience some relief after your first treatment, chances are you will have to return for follow-up visits. This is because acupuncture is a form of therapy known as “cumulative medicine,” which means you get the best results after a few visits, as each treatment builds on the benefits of the previous session. Sometimes acupuncturists are unable to determine how long treatment will take until after they’ve completed 2-3 sessions. By then, any new concerns or changes in your body and condition can be discussed and an appropriate timing for the treatment decided.

Acupuncture can produce long-term results. For example, a study published in the Pain journal showed that acupuncture can provide benefits even six months after the last session. In the study, participants were treated with acupuncture over a period of eight weeks. When they returned for follow-up visits three and six months later, most participants reported ongoing relief compared with the control group that didn’t receive acupuncture treatments.

If you’re ready to give acupuncture in Chapel Hill NC a try, give us a call to schedule an appointment and to talk with one of our acupuncturists. Then download and print our new patient form and fill it out before your visit.



acupuncture fibromyalgia

How Acupuncture Fibromyalgia Treatments Help Patients Cope

Acupuncture fibromyalgia treatments have been used and recommended for decades. In fact, well-respected sources of medical information such as the Mayo Clinic and WebMD report that acupuncture can be an effective complementary treatment for those suffering from fibromyalgia. As explained by WebMD, acupuncture works because the needles stimulate certain points that lead to the release of endorphins (the “feel good” hormones). These in turn help fight pain, reduce stress, and produce an overall feeling of well-being.

Acupuncture is believed to help “unblock” the flow of energy, or qi (pronounced “chee”) through the body. This is believed to restore the natural energy of the organism, helping it to heal itself.

What the Experts Say

In an article published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, experts looked at the benefits of using acupuncture to treat fibromyalgia. After looking at nine different studies and 395 participants, the Review pointed out that acupuncture provided a significant reduction in pain in patients suffering from fibromyalgia.

In other studies, patients undergoing acupuncture for fibromyalgia reported sleeping better. They also reported an improved sense of well-being and feeling less fatigued. In one of the studies, patients receiving acupuncture experienced less pain just one month after starting treatment – this was faster than those using standard therapy without acupuncture to deal with symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Other studies have shown similar results. For example, a study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings journal looked at the direct benefits of acupuncture on the treatment of fibromyalgia. The study found that patients who received acupuncture experienced improvement not only in their pain levels, but also suffered less fatigue and anxiety. These benefits lasted even after the treatment had ended. In fact, when patients returned seven months after the end of the study, the positive acupuncture benefits were still there.

Something to Keep in Mind

The United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) Center for Reviews and Dissemination: Effective HealthCare on Acupuncture review pointed out that there’s enough evidence to support the use of acupuncture in the management of patients who are not responding to conventional fibromyalgia treatment or as an addition to other forms of treatment currently in use. The NHS also pointed out that acupuncture could be a good alternative for people who can’t tolerate medication prescribed for their pain and are in need of an option to deal with fibromyalgia symptoms.

While there haven’t been enough large-scale randomized controlled trials to recommend the use of acupuncture as a sole treatment for fibromyalgia, experts agree that there is enough evidence about acupuncture’s effectiveness and safety to encourage patients with fibromyalgia to include acupuncture as part of the health care plan.



acupuncture for chronic pain, what is chronic pain, living with chronic pain

Is Acupuncture for Chronic Pain a Viable Option?

The treatment of chronic pain has always been a major focus of modern medicine. While acute pain can and is often treated with drugs, chronic pain presents other challenges. For example, long-term use of certain pain-management drugs can be damaging to the liver and kidneys, making treatment a challenge.

Experts do agree that one of the best ways of living with chronic pain is to adopt a multi-modal approach. That means blending together a series of therapies and treatment modalities to get the best results faster. One of the modalities with a long tradition is the use of acupuncture for chronic pain.

A recent paper – which looked into earlier studies involving acupuncture and pain — published by the by the North Carolina Medical Journal might change that. According to the authors of this study, acupuncture has been shown more times than not to provide relief in the four major areas of pain: chronic headaches, chronic shoulder pain, chronic back and neck pain, and osteoarthritis.


The Major Factors

One of the factors affecting the outcome of studies regarding acupuncture for chronic pain is the “sham acupuncture” control group. Sham acupuncture is used to refer to the application of needles at a superficial level and at points that have no known therapeutic value (instead of applying the needles to recognized energy points).

When researchers compared the results of using traditional acupuncture and sham acupuncture, they noticed that in many studies (but not all studies), people in both groups experienced an improvement in their pain level and frequency. This raises an interesting question for researchers: is the simple action of using needles enough to alleviate pain or is there a placebo effect in place when using acupuncture?

Researchers believe the answer might lie somewhere in between, especially considering the long tradition of acupuncture being used effectively to treat a number of conditions.

Why Try Acupuncture

The evidence is clear and compelling that acupuncture is very effective for treating many forms of chronic pain, even if the question of how much of this effectiveness is due to placebo effects has not yet been settled. Another factor to consider is acupuncture’s low incidence of side effects. The study notes that significant side effects occur at “an incidence of 1 or 2 events per 34,407 treatments.” When compared to the side effects other forms of treatment carry, acupuncture can be considered to be a relatively very safe option.

A Final Word

While acupuncture alone might not be enough to control severe chronic pain, combining it with other forms of therapy could provide excellent results – and in more ways than one. For example, research shows that patients taking opioids for pain experience fewer side effects (which include nausea, sedation and dizziness) from the drug when using acupuncture at the same time.

In the end, researchers believe that when faced between the choice of using acupuncture or no treatment at all to address chronic pain, acupuncture can provide a number of benefits. However, more research is needed to better establish acupuncture’s place in the treatment of chronic pain.