Acupuncture May Be an Alternative to Opioid Drugs for Pain Relief

Many people are addicted to opioid drugs and need alternative pain relief therapies. The use of opioids for chronic pain has increased dramatically and has been accompanied by a major increase in opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

An estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers and an estimated 467,000 people are addicted to heroin.

Acupuncture may offer an alternative solution for those who do not want opioids to treat pain. Results from a number of studies suggest that acupuncture may help ease types of pain that are often chronic, such as low-back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis knee pain. It also may help reduce the frequency of tension headaches and prevent migraine headaches. Acupuncture appears to be a reasonable option to consider for people with chronic pain.

However, the effects of acupuncture on the brain and body and how best to measure the response are only beginning to be understood. Current evidence suggests that many factors such as personal expectation and belief may play important roles in the beneficial effects of acupuncture on pain.

Relatively few complications from using acupuncture have been documented. When considering practitioners, it is important to ask about their training and experience. Some conventional medical practitioners practice acupuncture also. National acupuncture organizations may provide referrals to acupuncturists if needed.

Josephine P. Briggs, M.D., Director of National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine said:

“Pain is the most common reason Americans turn to complementary and integrative health practices. The need for nondrug treatment options is a significant and urgent public health imperative.”

Research has shown the effectiveness of alternative treatments, like acupuncture, for helping control pain. A personal recovery plan should include mental, physical and spiritual health to offer the best chance of success. However, please use caution when choosing acupuncture. Do not use acupuncture to postpone seeing a health care provider about a health problem. Also, do not stop taking pain medications without guidance from a professional. Acupuncture is a wonderful therapy when used appropriately.