“Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is, therefore, a reasonable referral option. Significant differences between true and sham acupuncture indicate that acupuncture is more than a placebo.” (Vickers, et al. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(19)6
Pain is one of the most common reasons people are introduced to acupuncture as a therapy. Acupuncture originated in China and has been used to manage pain for approximately 2000 years. It continues to this day in China and the therapy itself has spread throughout the world. Acupuncture has been used to manage both chronic and acute pain, with chronic pain being defined as any pain that lasts longer than three months.
Pain is a symptom in many medical conditions and is defined by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) as “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.”1 This passage demonstrates that pain can be more then tissue damage creating a response from the nervous system and is a subjective sensation that we all experience differently.
It is estimated that one in five people, or 20%, of adult Australians, suffer from chronic pain2. It can be experienced as a range of sensations from dull aches or pressure to sharp, shooting, throbbing or burning sensations. Pain can be experienced anywhere from simple headaches to more complicated situations such as fibromyalgia expressing itself at multiple places around the body.
Because the cause of pain can range from minor injuries to more serious condition, there can be a number of tests used by your doctor or GP. These can include imaging such as x-rays, ultrasounds, MRI or CT scans and physical tests such as blood tests or palpation, movement or immobilisation.
Modern medicine will treat pain in a variety of ways depending on its severity. This can range from simple immobilisation and ice for a general injury to pharmacological solutions such as a variety of pain killers including opioids. From the 1st of February 2018 in Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Association changed previous over the counter low dose codeine products to a prescription only product. This was due to various issues relating to health risks associated with the drugs and the possible addictive nature when used with chronic pain over a period of time3.
Pain and Chinese medicine
Pain in Traditional Chinese Medicine is often associated with the concept of stagnation. A common traditional saying is ‘Where there is stagnation there is pain’. The emphasis is that by resolving the stagnation you can relieve the pain. Traditionally, Chinese Medicine deals with pain using a variety of tools, the primary focus being acupuncture. Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely fine high quality stainless-steel needles under the skin. In the trained hands of a qualified acupuncturist, this is a relatively painless process and can be extremely relaxing. Alongside acupuncture, a variety of therapies can be introduced if required including Chinese herbal formulas, topical muscle liniments or lotions, massage, cupping, gua-sha scraping techniques and exercises or lifestyle modifications.
Acupuncture for pain research
Scientific research has been carried out on acupuncture for some time and has developed a large number of studies. As of February 2018 the Chochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials had 10,039 clinical trials listed for Acupuncture4. Recently The Acupuncture Evidence Project (McDonald J, and Janz S, 2017) completed and is a project looking at the current range of evidence relating to acupuncture clinical trials.
We searched the literature with a focus on systematic reviews and meta analyses (the highest form of evidence available). We sorted the evidence to identify which conditions acupuncture has been found to be most effective for. We also looked for evidence of acupuncture’s safety and cost-effectiveness, and we reported how the evidence for acupuncture’s effectiveness has changed over an eleven-year time-frame. (Plain English Summary: AEP, McDonald J, and Janz S, 2017)5
The Acupuncture Evidence Project looked at 122 conditions and discovered strong evidence for the use of acupuncture with 8 conditions and moderate evidence for a further 38 conditions. Amongst the 8 conditions with strong evidence are chronic lower back pain, headache, knee osteoarthritis, migraine and postoperative pain. Within the further 38 conditions of moderate evidence lists a further 12 conditions relating to acupuncture for pain.
In 2012 “Acupuncture for chronic pain: individual patient data meta-analysis” was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. This study conducted a systematic review to identify randomized controlled trials of acupuncture for chronic pain. It analysed 17,922 patients and concluded that:
“Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option. Significant differences between true and sham acupuncture indicate that acupuncture is more than a placebo.” (Vickers, et al. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(19)6
Booking an acupuncture appointment in Mornington
A typical session at Mornington Chinese Medicine initially involves a detailed consultation focusing on the problem and a thorough diagnosis. This can include a range of questions relating to your health or lifestyle, a physical assessment and tongue or pulse diagnosis. After the initial discussion, you can lay down in our comfortable treatment rooms listening to soothing music as acupuncture is administered followed by 20-30 minutes of stress free relaxation.
At Mornington Chinese Medicine we are all nationally registered acupuncturists and as a result, can offer health insurance rebates for most common health funds at the time of your booking using our HICAPS system.
Before your acupuncture session make sure you have eaten something and preferably wear loose fitting clothing. Remember to bring along any information you may have relating to your concern which could include test results or x-rays.
The easiest way to book your acupuncture session is to call Mornington Chinese Medicine on (03) 5973 6886.
Book your acupuncture appointment today
1 https://www.iasp-pain.org/Taxonomy – IASP Pain Terminology website accessed 12/4/18
2 https://www.bupa.com.au/health-and-wellness/health-information/az-health-information/chronic-pain-fact-sheet – BUPA Fact sheet on chronic pain in Australia accessed 12/4/18
3 https://www.tga.gov.au/codeine-info-hub – TGA Codeine information hub web site accessed 12/4/18
4 http://www.cochranelibrary.com – Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials accessed 12/4/18
5 McDonald J, Janz S. The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comparative Literature Review (Revised Edition). Brisbane: Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association Ltd; 2017. http://www.acupuncture.org.au.
6 Vickers AJ, Cronin AM, Maschino AC, et al. Acupuncture for Chronic PainIndividual Patient Data Meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(19):1444–1453. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3654