THE BLOG

Managing Pain Without Opioids: Why You Should Consider Acupuncture

08/09/2016 05:06pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

2016-08-08-1470690239-362965-dreamstime_m_5182288.jpg
Some people go faint at the sight of needles, while others breathe a sigh of relief knowing that pain relief is on the way. If you're in the second category, chances are good you or someone you know well is an avid proponent of acupuncture. A traditional Chinese medical practice, acupuncture is a therapeutic treatment in which a trained professional inserts a series of thin needles into strategic points in the body in a way that can be used to stimulate the body's natural painkillers and ultimately diminish pain. Although the treatment has a long, distinguished history, patients in the United States still rarely hear the treatment recommended by a physician or offered in a mainstream medical setting.

This omission in treatment options is unfortunate, as acupuncture has a long history of being used as effective pain relief and could and should be used in place of opioid painkillers in many situations. For example, a recent study conducted by physicians in several Melbourne hospitals' emergency departments found that treating patients' pain with acupuncture was just as effective as western medicines at treating pain.

Not only is acupuncture effective, it is relatively low cost. Studies have shown conclusively that while acupuncture is as or more effective than western interventions at treating a variety of pain disorders, it is also lower cost to administer than many western interventions. Add in the diminished quality of life and complications that opioid addiction can cause to a person, family, community and economy, and acupuncture is both a cost- and medically-effective choice.

The simplicity of acupuncture as a treatment modality, especially its complete independence from pharmaceuticals of any kind, makes it especially attractive to people looking to avoid adding harsh chemicals to their body. If you prefer to eat only all-organic or all natural ingredients in your meals, why should the medicine you use be any different? This is an especially important concern for those with past histories of substance abuse.

The United States is currently experiencing an addiction epidemic on levels unseen since the crack epidemic of the 1980s, and opioids are at the center of this crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nearly 2.5 million people across the country are currently addicted to heroin or opioid-based medications. With an average of 78 people dying every day from an overdose involving opioid-based substances, it's in our best interest as communities and families to avoid opioid painkillers entirely if there are other viable treatment options available.

Anyone experiencing chronic pain deserves to know that acupuncture is an effective treatment option for pain management available at a relatively low cost. Whether you're trying to avoid unpronounceable ingredients, the possibility of addiction, or if you're just curious about what an alternative treatment can offer you, acupuncture is an important tool in our pain management arsenal and should be used as a first-line resource, particularly for those with chronic pain issues. Don't let fear of needles stop you. Acupuncture may be exactly what you need to ease your pain.