Acupuncture may be beneficial in the treatment of chronic pain. Acupuncture has been practiced for over 3000 years. The NIH produced a consensus statement in 1977 on acupuncture. It supported its efficacy for the treatment of pain and nausea and vomiting. A later 2012 finding by the NIH supported its use for neck and back pain, osteoarthritis and headache.
In acupuncture, disease is thought to originate from a disturbance in the balance of the flow of energy in the body or qi (pronounced chee). Acupuncture points can be stimulated to correct this imbalance. Needles are inserted along meridians in the body. Techniques include dry needling, electroacupuncture and heat stimulation. Acupuncture has been associated with the release of morphine like substances in the body ( endorphins).
In 2003, the WHO released a statement endorsing acupuncture for 28 conditions for which it has been studied and proven effective. Low back pain, knee osteoarthritis and headache are areas which seem to be helped by acupuncture.
Although usually safe, the treatment of chronic pain with acupuncture may have complications. These include disease transmission through the needle, nerve damage, pneumothorax, organ puncture, bleeding and infection among others.
In conclusion, the treatment of chronic pain with acupuncture is a useful adjunct to current therapy. Choosing a practitioner with adequate credentials, skill level and licensing is critical. Even though acupuncture may be useful in a variety of painful conditions, it is not a substitute for traditional medical evaluation and treatment. The addition of acupuncture for the treatment of chronic pain to any regimen should be discussed with your doctor or specialist.