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HEAL

Easing your pain with acupuncture

While acupuncture can help treat many conditions, one of the things that it is often used for is treating pain. Acupuncture is recognized as a safe and effective treatment for these and other conditions:

  • menstrual pain
  • neck and back pain
  • joint pain
  • migraine/headache
  • chronic pain

My own introduction to acupuncture came about because of pain. It occurred about 15 years ago when I was suffering from a severe case of tennis elbow (lateral-epicondylitis). The pain was affecting my ability to do just about anything and everything. A cortisone shot took the edge off for a short while, but then the pain returned and it was worse than ever. 

I was treated with acupuncture and electric stimulation for about 10 visits. I was coached to take a break from weight training and do some very gentle movements to help relax the tendons in my forearm and improve my circulation. I was also encouraged to "give myself permission to heal" (a revolutionary concept for me at the time). The pain went away, the function improved, and I've had more than 10 years without pain.

If you're considering acupuncture for pain, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Check your insurance policy to verify coverage for acupuncture.
  • Choose an acupuncturist who is licensed by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice.
  • If you're suffering from sudden, severe, acute pain, or suspect a broken bone, always see your primary care doctor first.
  • During your first visit, your acupuncturist will want to know more about your condition: When did the pain start? Was it associated with an injury?  How bad is the pain and what makes it worse or better? What other treatments have you had?
  • Information about your lifestyle and overall well being may also be important. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, which encompasses acupuncture and other ancient therapies, we look at the whole person. Stress and lifestyle imbalance can manifest as pain.
  • You may not experience immediate pain relief from your first acupuncture treatment (although many patients do). A typical treatment course is six to 10 visits, and we generally expect to see some improvement by the sixth visit.
  • If you have severe arthritis with bone on bone pain or other significant structural problems, acupuncture won't fix the condition, but it may still be helpful for pain relief. While a cure may not be possible, there is always potential for healing and hope.
  • Your acupuncturist may also recommend other Traditional Chinese Medicine therapies. Chinese herbs, dietary therapy, Tuina massage and movement/breathing exercises such as tai chi and  qi gong can also help people suffering with chronic pain.

Treating chronic pain from a holistic perspective means focusing on the whole person, not just the symptoms. One of the things I love about Traditional Chinese Medicine is the wisdom that has been compiled over 3,000 years. It encourages asking questions like: How do we nourish our lives? How do we save and preserve our health so we can live more meaningful lives?

Anyone dealing with chronic pain knows it is not only physically challenging. It can be an emotional burden as well. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we address the mind and emotions, as well as the body. I often remind my patients: You are not your pain, and you are not your symptoms. You are a whole person who happens to be suffering with a difficult condition.

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