The Benefits of Acupuncture for Pain Management
By Dr. Fred Lisanti of Integrative Med Solutions
Dr. Fred Lisanti
We don’t know the exact date, but acupuncture is estimated to have been in existence for 3,000 to 10,000 years. Some believe it was discovered when Chinese soldiers returned from battle with arrow wounds that relieved prior, chronic conditions. Others point to archeological research, like the sharpened stones from ancient China that indicated possible acupuncture use, or drawings of meridians (point channels on the body) from the Shang Dynasty (1600–1100 BCE). Its introduction into American society occurred in 1971, when New York Times reporter James Reston was administered acupuncture for post-operative pain in Beijing and wrote about it in his column. Shortly after that, President Nixon witnessed its use as well.
Although acupuncture is an excellent tool to keep the body in harmony (just as you would maintain your car) many people seek its healing capability when afflicted with acute or chronic pain. The concept of acupuncture is rooted in the principles of internal energy flow (qi, pronounced “chee”). When qi becomes stagnant or stuck, discomfort or even disease is believed to occur. Acupuncture is capable of opening this energy, enabling it to once again move along its path, thus reducing or eliminating pain altogether.
The procedure itself is usually painless (some people feel a very slight pinch). During an acupuncture treatment, tiny, sterile, hair-thin needles are placed into intricate points throughout the body to “open” trapped energy. The meridians are not always located at the actual point of pain; treatment may be administered at other, correlating locations in the body. As both a licensed acupuncturist and a naturopathic doctor, I take an individualized approach, tailoring my treatments and medicine to each patient’s specific symptoms, presentations and overall health and life history in order to achieve successful healing.
There is no condition or disease that cannot be treated with acupuncture; its universal application makes it a unique and extremely beneficial tool in regaining or maintaining vibrant health. Listed below are three common chronic conditions that can be treated with acupuncture, along with some supporting studies. These are just a few of the thousands of pain management benefits of acupuncture.
Lower Back Pain
A 2005 study by researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center and the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, United Kingdom, found acupuncture to be a valid treatment for lower back pain. In a report of the study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, lead author Eric Manheimer writes, “For people with chronic low back pain, this analysis shows that acupuncture is clearly effective in providing considerable pain relief.” Points often targeted for lower back pain include BL26 (located adjacent to the middle spine); ST39 (front lower leg); and KI3 (inside foot, just above the ankle).
Approximately 45 million Americans are thought to suffer from chronic headaches. A Duke University study found that out of 4,000 patients who suffered from migraines, “62 percent of the acupuncture patients reported headache relief compared to only 45 percent of people taking medication.” The study’s lead analyst, Duke anesthesiologist Dr. T. J. Gan, commented, “Acupuncture is becoming a favorable option for a variety of purposes ranging from enhancing fertility to decreasing post-operative pain because people experience significantly fewer side effects and it can be less expensive than other options. This analysis reinforces that acupuncture also is a successful source of relief from chronic headaches.” Popular acupuncture headache points are LI4 (“the Great Eliminator,” located on the web between the thumb and index finger—also mentioned below); SI1 (on the outside tip of the little finger); and GB43 (top of the foot between the fourth and fifth toes).
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 10 to 20 percent of the population suffers from one form or another of allergic rhinitis. Allergies can be painful conditions whose symptoms are often just superficially masked by conventional synthetic, sometimes toxic medications. A 2004 study published in Allergy Magazine found that patients who received weekly acupuncture treatments along with a combination of Chinese herbs experienced significant improvement in symptoms of the eyes and nose as well as strengthened physical activity and an overall feeling of well-being. Allergy points include LU5 (near the bicep); LI4 (on the web between the thumb and index finger); and LI11 (on the outside elbow crease).
Because I’m both a naturopathic doctor and a licensed acupuncturist, my patients receive the healing benefits of Classical Chinese Medicine (CCM) combined with acupuncture. CCM approaches conditions through internal weaknesses such as excess dampness or heat that can indicate which acupuncture points need to be targeted. Working the proper meridians can increase blood flow, reduce inflammation and stimulate the immune system. These are some of the many benefits of acupuncture for pain management.
Dr. Fred Lisanti is a licensed acupuncturist and naturopathic doctor with Integrative Med Solutions, located at 281 White Plains Rd, Eastchester, NY. To schedule an appointment or to inquire about services, call 914.337.2980, visit IntMedSolutions.com, or e-mail Info@intmedsolutions.com. Integrative Med Solutions welcomes most health insurance plans for acupuncture treatments.