A skeptic’s guide to pain relief with acupuncture

The quickest way to discover a skeptic is to start a conversation about acupuncture.

I know because I was one myself…

My left shoulder had been aching for 9 months. It began after several months of swimming a half-mile two mornings a week.

It hurt putting on a shirt, reaching across my other shoulder, and sleeping on the left side. Pushups and pullups worsened it too.

But rather than take a pain reliever daily (Ibuprofen, for example), I gave up swimming and began to move my shoulder with great care.

But even after months of resting, I could not understand why there was no improvement. Not even my trusty percussion massager by was making a difference.

Out of desperation, I found myself in the office of an experienced doctor of traditional Chinese medicine in the San Diego area — and this is what happened…

My personal TCM experience

She felt my pulse and told me I had back stiffness. I admitted to her that she was right.

“How did you know that,” I asked. “I can feel it in your pulse,” she said.

Next, she proceeded to quickly stick a few acupuncture needles in my hands, arms and forehead. Then she asked, “how does your shoulder feel now?”

To my amazement, it felt suddenly much less painful and I could reach across my other shoulder without pain or limitation! I was shocked at the immediate relief I felt. And after a few more treatments, the pain was greatly relieved.

Well, that was two weeks ago, and my shoulder still feels great — only about 20 percent of the pain stuck around. And the stiffness is completely gone. How did she do that?

To add to my experience, my collegiate soccer player son recently suffered for 5 months with a piriformis/sciatica condition. He laid off playing and training for 2 months and slowly went to many physical therapy appointments which proved to be worthless.

Like me, with acupuncture, he immediately felt improvement and is progressing to healing. Moreover, his teammate had struggled with Achilles tendonitis for many months and acupuncture treatments gave him 100 percent symptom resolution.

Can’t argue with results, right?

Still skeptical? I’ll do my best here to explain how acupuncture works, more about traditional Chinese medicine, and which conditions it treats best…

How acupuncture works

According to Harvard Health, acupuncture may relieve pain by releasing endorphins — the body’s natural pain-killing chemicals — and by affecting the part of the brain that governs serotonin, a brain chemical involved with mood.

From the perspective of a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctor, our human body is connected to the Universe and the energies of it.

In particular, Qi (pronounced, “Chee”) is the vital energy that flows through your body along specific channels or meridians. Therefore, this subtle electric-like energy maintains and performs multiple functions to maintain your health.

This concept seems to be spot on. How else could my shoulder be suddenly so improved? I guess some might call it the placebo effect? But, I don’t believe that.

More than acupuncture

There’s more to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) than acupuncture…

TCM comes from the ancient philosophy of Taoism, dating back more than 2,500 years. It encompasses several treatment methods. There’s acupuncture, moxibustion (heating up acupuncture points with burning herbs), herbal medicine using Chinese herbs, Chinese therapeutic massage (tui na), and specific dietary recommendations. Also, tai chi or chi gong (specific movements, postures, coordinated breathing, and mental focus) are used to maintain optimum health.

An estimated 10,000 TCM practitioners in the U.S. serve approximately 3 million patients annually. However, it is still not covered on most insurances, yet.

One possible reason for this is due to the small quantity and poor quality of TCM effectiveness research studies.  I believe the success of TCM has more to do with the experience of the practitioner than the science behind it.

Conditions best treated by TCM

Our National Institute of Health’s NCCIH (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health) recommends not to use TCM to replace or postpone effective mainstream medicine for your medical problem. I disagree in cases where mainstream medicine is not effective. Case in point: my shoulder pain.

Here is what Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treats best:

  • Musculoskeletal and nerve pain
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease)
  • Infertility
  • Insomnia, stress and depression

One experienced acupuncturist writes, “After graduating from a four-year, full-time program in New York City, I began practicing in Manhattan focusing on treating infertility and pain. I had a 99 percent success rate treating infertility in women under 40 using herbs and acupuncture. In my almost 15 years of practice, I have seen and treated pain, anxiety, depression, and insomnia the most.”

So, if you’re still skeptical, you could be missing out on some powerfully effective medicine. And that would be a shame…

Editor’s note: If you suffer from chronic pain and conventional medicine has let you down, or you just want to escape the potential dangers of OTC and prescription drugs even for occasional pain, you must read Conquering the Pain: An Alternative Doctor’s Fresh Look at the Newest and Oldest in Alternative Pain Therapies. Click here to get your copy today!

Sources:

What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine and What Can It Treat? — Forbes

Dr. Michael Cutler

By Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder of the original Easy Health Options™ newsletter — an advisory on natural healing therapies and nutrients. His current practice is San Diego Integrative Medicine, near San Diego, California.