Chronic pain can be defined as persistent pain that lasts six months or longer. Some people who experience chronic pain have been living with the condition for years and even decades. Unfortunately, chronic pain will often continue long after the initial injury or illness has healed. More concerning is the fact that nearly a quarter of people with chronic pain will develop chronic pain syndrome which is associated with depression and anxiety. Ultimately, chronic pain syndrome can have significant negative effects on daily life, often interfering with many aspects of living including work, social interactions, and self-care.
Chronic pain syndrome is poorly understood and many different injuries or painful conditions have been known to result in this syndrome. Arthritis, headaches, muscular injury, nerve damage, cancer, and acid reflux are just a few of the conditions that may result in chronic pain. As the pain persists, individuals may also experience fatigue, poor sleep, substance use, relationship problems, and even suicidal ideation. To confound the problem, chronic pain is traditionally very difficult to treat and the side effects of many treatments can also have negative consequences for the individual. For example, pain medications can have damaging effects on your body and may also be associated with substance use disorders and other mental health effects.
So then, what do the experts say about acupuncture for chronic pain? In fact, there is a large body of evidence supporting acupuncture as a safe and effective treatment for chronic pain. One theory is that acupuncture provides pain relief by modulating endorphins. As a result, people simply become less aware of their pain. Further research suggests acupuncture is especially effective for treating osteoarthritis pain, neck and pack pain, and headaches. Many other painful conditions may be treated effectively with acupuncture and research is continually being conducted to provide support for this therapeutic modality. Indeed, a review of 29 studies encompassing 18,000 participants, acupuncture was found to relieve pain by about 50%.
Perhaps the most important implication for trying acupuncture for chronic pain is the safety of the treatment. There are few if any known side effects to acupuncture though it may be as effective as traditional treatments. Long-term acupuncture treatment is not likely to damage your body or organs and the treatment is generally tolerated well. If you are experiencing chronic pain and you are looking for a safe and effective alternative treatment, talk to your doctor or health care provider about acupuncture.