06 Jan 2019

Try Acupuncture for Pain Before Drugs

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Pain — a Four-Letter Word

Sooner or later, we run into this four letter word in our lives, and it’s been around a long time in our evolution. But the way we treat pain varies widely across time and cultures. There is no doubt about it: pain is still a big deal.

The Rise of Opiates

In 1996, pain was declared the “fifth vital sign”, and the “war on pain” was declared at the urging of the American Pain Society. That was the year that the first “safeextended release opiates were approved, and Oxycontin hit the market. The following year, the FDA approved and enabled the pharmaceutical companies to advertise directly to consumers.

The increases in the budgets for advertising these “pain killers” were reflected in significant rises in the numbers of prescriptions written for opioid pain medications, as well as the numbers of individuals taking these meds.

Drug Sales, Addiction, and Suffering

It has taken nearly 20 years for the facts on overdosing and addiction to catch up, but it turns out that these meds have wreaked havoc on far too many lives. As quoted in the Annals of Internal Medicine in April 2017 Guideline:

“We have now seen that overall, the response
was more effective at promoting drug sales
than it was at relieving suffering.”

Clinical Trials on Meds

In 2007, after hundreds of RCTs (randomized controlled clinical trials) were published, studying anti-inflammatory meds such as ibuprofen, muscle relaxers, corticosteroids and opioids, the recommendation by the American College of Physician (ACP) for nondrug therapies was made:

Try nondrug therapies first
for treatment of low back pain
—including acute, subacute, and chronic.

Nondrug Therapies for Pain

These recommended nondrug therapies for pain include, to name a few:

  • heat
  • massage
  • acupuncture
  • spinal manipulation
  • tai chi
  • yoga

In order to make recommendations about which treatments worked best, the researchers looked at:

  • reduction of pain
  • quality of life improvements
  • return to work
  • adverse effects
  • patient satisfaction

Their report was unequivocal:

For the treatment of short term (acute pain of 1-4 weeks and subacute up to 4 months duration) and chronic low back pain (over 4 months), non-drug treatments came out on top and were strongly recommended as the first line of treatment whenever possible.

In other words, massage, acupuncture, and heat
are better for the treatment of low back pain
than Alleve, or you name it.

And these practices are older than the hills, and are derived from diverse cultures all across the globe. How cool is that?

Addiction to Opioids

In my acupuncture practice, I have been gratified—thrilled, actually — at the efficacy of acupuncture to relieve low back pain, regardless of the cause.

I’ve also been deeply touched by the courage of folks who came for help in getting over addiction to opioids. The addicted clients have all “made it through”, but had suffered greatly — with large doses of shame (unnecessary, but very human), before acknowledging that they needed help in getting their lives back. “If only I had known about acupuncture…” they tell me. Yes, indeed.

Try Acupuncture for Pain Before Drugs

Please help me get the word out there on the streets that for the treatment of back pain, the place to begin is with acupuncture. That is also true for the treatment of migraine headaches.

Help me spare people from needless addiction and suffering with acupuncture that works!

And be well!

— Janet

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About the Author


Janet Barrows has a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine (MSOM) from the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College in Berkeley, CA. She is a California State Licensed Acupuncturist (L. Ac.) practicing acupuncture in Santa Rosa, CA. Her practice includes acupuncture, natural herbs, facial rejuvenation, nutrition, and medical qigong.