The People's Perspective on Medicine

Acupuncture for Chronic Pain

Acupuncture has been practiced in China for thousands of years. Within the last few decades, Western health practitioners have begun to study it seriously. Even with dozens of controlled trials, however, most physicians remain skeptical about its benefits. That may be partly because the traditional Chinese medical system behind it is incomprehensible in modern scientific terms.
A new meta-analysis of 29 randomized, controlled trials involving nearly 18,000 patients suggests that acupuncture is effective for alleviating chronic shoulder, back or neck pain, osteoarthritis and headache. The investigators concluded that acupuncture is superior to both nonacupuncture control and sham acupuncture for the treatment of chronic pain.
[Archives of Internal Medicine, Sept.10, 2012]

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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Does the effectiveness of acupuncture depend on the expertise of the practitioner? My dad used to do acupuncture, and he treated me once for neck pain and muscle spasm. It only took one treatment and I was pain free for years. He is now deceased, so I tried a local acupuncturist when my neck pain returned because of arthritic changes. After many expensive treatments not covered by insurance, there was no relief whatsoever. I was very disappointed.

dry needle acupuncture helps my trochanteric bursitis which is on my left hip.
I could not sleep due to pains that drove me crazy. I am so glad I try dry needle acupuncture therapy.

My husband had an injured nerve that caused a lack of ability to swallow. At the same time he could not lift up his head. He has had much help from the medical community. After a year, the nerve appears to be healing and it is hoped he will once again begin to eat without a tube. A physical therapist and swallowing therapist have been great help. During all of this he tried acupuncture from a highly recommended doctor of acupuncture from China. It was expensive. We don’t know how much it helped but it gave us comfort knowing that we were trying everything. There may have been hidden benefits. Other patients we met were there for other ailments and said he helped them greatly

Acupuncture worked wonders for me 9 years ago. I don’t know what I would have done without it. I refuse to take prescription pain killers, and taking ibuprofen every day was not an option. I highly recommend acupuncture for anyone suffering from any kind of pain. It even works in curbing the appetite if you’re trying to lose weight.

Is there any information on the treatment of Neuropathy (of the legs) using acupuncture?
PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Neuropathy was not included in this analysis. There are 84 studies on this topic listed in PubMed, but according to the most recent, the quality is not high:

I was having terrible pain in my left leg due to sciatic nerve compression. I had to use a cane and couldn’t stand on my feet for more than 20 minutes. I was referred to a spine surgeon, and he suggested shaving a bone causing the compression, then putting screws in the area to “hold everything together”. My brain screamed “NO NO NO”, I thanked him and left. I found an acupuncturist and had 3 visits (at $60 each [Medicare no longer covers it]). I’ve been fine ever since. Oh, I also see a chiropractor weekly, which I’m sure helps, too. I’ve been touting the positive effects of my treatments ever since.

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