Pinpointing the benefits of this ancient Chinese art to treat chronic painBy: Mathew Solan, Correspondent
Just then the man slammed his full-sized pickup truck into reverse. Jacobs was knocked three feet in the air and thrown backwards 14 feet into the grass median. He cushioned his fall as much as possible and avoided serious injury, but he knew his body had taken a serious blow. Two days later he felt its impact: intense chronic pain that stretched across his right shoulder and neck and down through his right arm.âAt times it was like a lightning bolt had struck me,â said Jacobs, 39. âOther times the pain was like a heavy wet blanket weighing down on me.â
The episodes came and went, sometimes regularly and sometime sporadic, like summer afternoon rainstorms. Doctors were certain it was a pinched nerve, but couldnât identify the specific location. Jacobs fought the deep, throbbing discomfort with daily medication (800 mg of ibuprofen and 600 mg naproxen) but the constant diet of pills soon ignited a violent acid reflux attack.
He felt he was out of traditional options and turned to a treatment that years ago had cured a pulled back muscle: acupuncture.
âAfter the initial treatment, I felt it was going to work,â says Jacobs. âI had less tension, and the pressure of that wet blanket feeling gradually lifted away.â
Like Jacobs, more people are searching for alternative ways to treat their chronic pain and finding that acupuncture hits the spot. A 2010 University of Michigan Health System study found that one out of three patients with chronic pain uses complementary and alternative medicine therapies, including acupuncture. It is estimated that 50 million Americans live with chronic pain, according to the American Academy of Pain Management.
Chronic pain is one of the most misunderstood maladies. It can linger for six months and for years. The searing pain strikes your nerves, joints or muscles. It can be a nagging ache, a steady throb, a sharp jab or any combination. People often compare their episodes with snowflakesâno two feelings are ever alike.
Doctors treat most chronic pain with prescriptions f or pain relievers. Yet painkillers offer only short-term relief, can become addictive and, as Jacobs painfully discovered, trigger serious side effects, including fever, nausea, diarrhea and constipation.
Acupuncture, says Barry Greenberg, the board certified acupuncturist with the Acupuncture Center of Bradenton who treated Jacobs, offers a natural, safe and effective treatment for various types of chronic pain.
âIt can help manage pain from arthritis to tendinomuscular injuries, to nerve-related problems,â he says. âBasically any chronic pain associated with connective tissue and muscles.â
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently concluded that acupuncture is effective in treating adults for pain after dental surgery and might help other chronic pain issues, such as migraines and headaches, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, low-back pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome.