Acupuncture has long term effects on pain

Two new studies have shown that acupuncture is not only good at treating pain in the short term, but also has long term effects.

Researchers from Australia and New Zealand looked at acupuncture for reduction in menstrual pain, and found that the effects were still apparent 1 year later. This randomised controlled trial (published in PLoS One, Jul 2017) divided women into four groups, which each received a different kind of acupuncture. Women had a total of 12 treatments.

Acupuncture was found to reduce both the intensity and duration of menstrual pain , and this benefit was sustained for up to 12 months after treatment.

Another paper in the journal Pain (May 2017) lead by Prof Hugh MacPherson looked at 20 high quality randomised trials of acupuncture for chronic pain, including lower back pain, neck pain, arthritis of the knee and headache. In studies that compared acupuncture to a no-acupuncture control group, he found that 90% of the benefit relative to the control group would be maintained after 1 year, and in studies where true acupuncture was compared with sham acupuncture, the benefit after 1 year was 50%

I’m pleased to see the results of these kinds of studies – but not entirely surprised. Acupuncture, like all of Chinese medicine, works by treating the root cause of a problem, unlike a lot of conventional Western medical treatments that do no more than mask the symptoms.

For instance, in the case of pain, taking painkillers simply stops the sensation of pain but does nothing to resolve the underlying cause. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong – treating it with painkillers is like seeing a warning light come on the dashboard of your car, and solving the problem by covering over the light with a piece of tape!

The fact that acupuncture has been shown to be effective for pain over long periods tells us that it must be getting to root cause of the initial problem – dealing with the pain at source, and not simply masking the pain signal.

As I’ve written about before, acupuncture is really excellent in the treatment of all kinds of pain, from arthritis to sports injuries, headache, neuralgia, and lots more besides. If you know anyone who’s suffering, acupuncture is well worth a try!

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