These days, two very different medical approaches are starting to come together to give patients more options in dealing with chronic pain. Traditional western medicine and acupuncture have long been at odds with one another. However, the American public, more and more, is choosing to seek out alternative ways of dealing with pain, chronic disease, and even cancer.
One reason this is occurring is a practical one; as the economy slows down, people are concerned with finances, and traditional medicine typically costs more than alternative medicine. Additionally, for the many Americans who don’t have insurance, a holistic approach to wellness can truly be the only feasible alternative.
Whatever the reasons, people are wanting more options in treatment. And, more and more frequently, studies are showing that holistic approaches, especially those that have proven themselves over the centuries, have much to teach us regarding prevention and pain management.
For the purpose of this article, let’s take a look at some recent discoveries that have been made regarding acupuncture. Two different studies have revealed that treating lower back pain and arthritis in the knees with acupuncture radically reduces a patient’s need for pain medication. The surprise, however, is that the acupuncture treatment may not have to be genuine in order to provide relief.
The Archives of Internal Medicine is currently reporting on a study led by Dr. Daniel Cherkin of Group Health. 638 patients took part in a carefully controlled study on the effects of acupuncture in patients suffering from chronic back pain. Patients were divided into four groups; one had standard acupuncture treatments, the second had individually prescribed treatments, the third had acupuncture treatments using toothpicks, the fourth group was treated traditionally with medication and physical therapy.
Both acupuncture groups fared better than those who received traditional treatment. Surprisingly, the patients who underwent toothpick therapy reported the same level of improvement as those who had the needle treatment.
Two years prior, a similar study was conducted in Germany. According to the Journal of Internal Medicine, some of the arthritis suffers underwent traditional acupuncture treatments, while others experienced a placebo-like treatment: needles were used, but not correctly manipulated.
Fifty percent of those experiencing traditional acupuncture reported significant improvement, while (40%) of those undergoing the sham treatment reported similar results.
While the jury is still out on why treatments that mimic acupuncture seem to be just as effective as the real deal, one theory suggests that simply touching the skin releases emotional and hormonal responses that are similar to those released during actual treatment.