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Clinical Trials Support Acupuncture

Offered by Jessica Ahmed, LAc, DiplOM

The most common health issue I see in my acupuncture practice is pain, with back pain comprising a large portion of patient complaints. Up to 85% of Americans will suff er from back pain at some point in their lives, and approximately one in four adults have had back pain in the past three months, according to estimates from US national surveys.

Although expenditures on MRIs, opioids for back pain, epidural steroid injections and spinal fusion surgery are all on the rise, there has not been a similar improvement in patient outcomes or disability rates. With Americans spending over $37 billion a year on medical care for back pain, a cost-conscious, effective and safe solution is needed.

Acupuncture is a system of medicine that has been used to treat pain and other illness for thousands of years in some parts of the world. Modern research is now helping explain just how effective acupuncture is through randomized, placebo-controlled studies, and many of these studies are on the treatment of pain.

One study by the National Institutes of Health showed that patients receiving acupuncture for back pain had significant improvements over “usual treatment,” which included pain medication and physical therapy. Another study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed the efficacy of acupuncture for chronic lower back pain was almost twice that of conventional therapy, which included medication, physical therapy and exercise.

This is not to say that these other therapies are ineffective, as I believe stretching and exercise at a certain point in the healing process are crucial when working with pain, and sometimes surgery and pain medication are appropriate options. What these studies do show is that acupuncture has a great track record in treating pain, with little to no side effects.

With acupuncture, many people feel some pain relief immediately or within several treatments, and the effects are cumulative. Acupuncture is beneficial for both acute and chronic pain, and can help if you want to avoid surgery and medication, as well as if you choose to use them.

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