A lot of people are asking if acupuncture pain treatment is right form me? – Pain relief is one of the most common requests of physicians. My practice is largely made up of those patients who have failed all else – both conventional and alternative. My approach is eclectic and combines several modalities. Often for back and neck pain due to spinal stenosis or failed surgery I find that blocking the sympathetic nerves alongside the spine is very helpful. 14 of the 15 varieties of acupuncture I practice provide excellent treatments for pain. Sometimes percutaneous electric nerve stimulation or TENS is in order. Low power laser can work dramatically. One goal of course is to minimize the amount of medication needed. Another is to put the patient in control of their own treatment.
My best results come from those who have continuous pain. If you have 24/7, continuous and severe pain, then we find out right away whether a treatment works. Usually it is immediate, sometimes delayed an hour, but always that day. It does not take 3 treatments a week for a month. If you do not get better that 1st day, then we need to try a different approach. (When working as a Family Physician, often I would see somebody with a condition like a sprained ankle – and prescribe ibuprofen. If the patient called back in a couple of days saying that ankle still hurt, I would call in a prescription for naproxen, and if that didn’t work, then indomethicin or meclofen or…We all know that each of those NSAIDs works in 1/2 to 2/3 of people, but we cannot tell which one ahead of time. It is the same with different acupuncture types.)
What Type of Acupuncture is Better For Pain Treatment?
For intermittent pain, it is more difficult to find out which approach is going to be successful. If you have a migraine headache once a month, I treat and you don’t have a headache for a week, we don’t know whether the treatment helped or not. It takes much longer to figure out what type acupuncture is going to help with intermittent conditions.
Medical acupuncture has reverse tolerance. Tolerance is the phenomon that if you take pain pill, you need to take them on a regular basis – and after a while you need more of them or a stronger medication. With reverse tolerance, if you get one days relief the 1st treatment, if you are treated soon enough, you get 2 days relief – then 4 days, a week, 2 weeks, a month and so on.
Many of my pain patients have had continuous pain for decades. Often they got worse after surgery – have failed acupuncture, chiropractic, facet blocks and epidural injections, physical therapy, massage, and multiple pain medications. These patients sometimes will get only 8 –12 hours relief from the 1st treatment. Still, with a finite number of treatments, they can be made comfortable for 3 – 6 months at a time. Then, when symptoms begin to return, a single treatment provides relief for another 3 – 6 months.
The above patients usually have a structural/physical condition. It could be lumbar spinal stenosis, cervical spinal stenosis, scar tissue/boney changes from failed cervical laminectomy or failed lumbar laminectomy. Normally it is relatively easy to treat bulging discs or herniated discs or sacral pain (sacrodynia.)
I cannot “undo” the damage of bone rubbing on bone. However, after a few treatments, most patients can live several months pain free. Then they need just a single “tune up” treatment. Typically these patients require injections of Sarapin – the only medication in the 3500 page Physicians Destk Reference that I have seen that says “no known side effects” – despite having been in use over 70 years.
I do not often get a chance to see acute injuries. They behave differently. In two treatments, a fresh sprained ankle can be made well – until such time as the ankle is sprained again.
Another class of patients are helped also: those without a diagnosis. Because X-ray imaging or blood tests do not make a diagnosis, often these folk told that the problem is “in their head” and are sent to a psychologist/psychiatrist. I don’t treat X-rays or blood tests. I treat people. Most of them get better.
Typically, my approach begins using Auricular Medicine (ear acupuncture.) This is an approach discovered by the French neurologist Paul Nogier, DO and embellished by Rene Bourdiol, MD in France and Frank Bahr, MD in Germany. Basically, your body heals itself – if it gets a chance. Many times however, there are blockages. Usually those blockages are inside the brain itself – not accessible. It turns out that the external ear has connections to the brain such that one can effectively treat sites within the brain by treating the ear.
Sometimes Auricular Medicine is all it takes. More frequently, at least with the long standing chronic condition that make the biggest part of my pain practice, more will be needed. What is true is that Auricular Medicine makes everything else work better: acupuncture, manipulation, medications, injections, physical therapy, massage all work better.
For that reason, starting second visit, if you are not still “cured,” I will add whatever I think will get you better most efficiently. That most often is a new type of acupuncture. However, as a physician, I often inject joints or trigger points, instruct in self exercise/manipulation, prescribe medication – or refer you on to physical therapy, massage, chiropractic/osteopathic manipulation, or surgeon. I may try another modality altogether – TENS, PENS, or low power infrared laser. It all depends on your condition and response.
Pain is easy to treat. It is with pain conditions that I first formulated my standard warrantee: “If I accept you as a patient, treat you 3 times and you are not significantly better by your own standards, then no charge to anybody – you, insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.” The above pledge should assure you that my success rate is high and that I am not treating just because there is a fee involved. My treatments are not commonly practiced in the US – but they are based on reliable scientific observations and logic. They also benefit from other physicians experience here and abroad.