I have a passion. My passion is to get people to think differently about their health. I have a passion to change the world one vertebrae at a time. It is commonplace thought that we have to play a more active role in maintaining good health. It’s our responsibility to ourselves. Preventive measures can often prevent the reaction to get a “prescription” will clear up the ailment. Taking responsibility for our health involves an integrative approach whereby shots, drugs and surgery should be the last recourse. But today, doctors of all types are scrambling to maintain their income with an ever shrinking insurance pot. It is not uncommon for a sale representative today to make more ‘bonus’ money selling a surgical appliance than the surgeon makes from implanting it in the patient!
Every day more and more patients are looking to alternative medicine for pain relief. Steroid injections for back pain have fallen in and out of favor for decades. In my experience it usually offers short term relief and often leads to increased problems down the road with repeated use. Steroid injections for spinal pain have made yet another resurgence in popularity but this time it has brought with it a meningitis scare. The risk-reward ratio for a couple weeks of pain moderation seems high right about now.
There will never be a substantial financial incentive to subsidize research into acupuncture or other alternative methodologies simple because there is no profit in selling acupuncture needles—no matter how effective. Money is better invested in the next anti-anxiety or blood cholesterol medication. My passion as a Chiropractor/acupuncturist is to help people find potential alternatives to medications. All prescribed medications are for symptoms. It is disconcertingly more common to see patients taking a plethora of drugs to combat the side effects of other drugs! It is depressing to ask a new patient what medications they are currently taking and have them respond by placing a grocery sack of vials on the desk!
Despite that we are seeing growing evidence that acupuncture can outperform traditional pain therapies including pharmaceutical drugs in the area of pain relief. A study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine reviewed research performed by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and numerous universities in Germany and England. The study found there was robust evidence that acupuncture could be a reasonable option in the management of chronic and acute pain complaints.
Acupuncture was originally written down by the Chinese over four thousand years ago. But its history predates even that. Egyptian mummies have been unearthed with burn marks over the pain points for spinal pain… and who would have more back & neck pain than the pyramid builders?
The Chinese researchers found that there are channels flowing throughout the body. They call these ‘meridians’. They found that if you stimulate these meridians in certain patterns you can make changes in the function of the body. Traditionally hair thin needles are used to stimulate points but in modern times hand held lasers, microstim units & percussion are also employed. Modern practitioners of Traditional Chinese medicine also employ medicinal herbs, supplements, and dietary advice to help their patients heal from the inside out.
Traditional Chinese medicine techniques, like acupuncture, are becoming much more wildly accepted in the West. Patients are demanding less dangerous treatments and better control of their own health. Insurance companies are gradually incorporating coverage for chiropractic, acupuncture and nutritional guidance in their health plans to better cater to these demands. In California the legislature has recommended that acupuncture be included in any insurance plan by 2014’. State drug court programs in New York, Virginia, Florida, District of Columbia and many others are utilizing acupuncture as alternative drug treatment programs for addiction as an alternative to incarceration.
Many patients and researchers inquire as to just how acupuncture works. Eastern practitioners would say that the energy of the body can be manipulated in such a way that optimum health can be expressed. Western practitioners would point to complex neurological ‘Gating’nerve circuits that are known to be switched on & off by acupuncture stimulation.
Alternative medicine practitioners will continue to provide whatever benefits we can for our patients, while we strive to figure out just how these treatments help heal the body. Afterall, Captain Cook gave limes to his crew long before we knew about Vitamin C.