Introduction – At Las Vegas Recovery Center our evidence-based inpatient Pain Recovery treatment program is grounded in helping clients establish four points of balance by treating them physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Our treatment program consists of multiple modalities including chiropractic care, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, yoga, personal training, chi kung, pilates and nutrition. This month, we would like to talk about acupuncture, what it is, how it works, and how it benefits our clients in pain recovery. What is Acupuncture? – Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice that applies small, fine-pointed needles to specific points along the body’s “meridian” system in order to dislodge blockages and increase the overall flow of energy throughout the body. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are twenty such meridians, or energy pathways in the human body, twelve main, and eight secondary. The purpose of these pathways is to conduct “chi,” or life force energy, to and from other parts of the body. Up to 2,000 acupuncture points are believed to exist along these meridians, each having a different effect on the energy that passes through it. By applying fine needles to these points in various combinations the acupuncture practitioner seeks to stimulate energy where it is lagging, and calm or dissipate it where an excessive amount has accumulated. Thus acupuncture is based on the underlying assumption that all health is a matter of harmony, and that everything ultimately boils down to energy–a view which modern Western physics is beginning to verify. Acupuncture and Chronic Pain – A variety of systematic reviews and meta-analyses have shown that acupuncture is superior to usual treatment for a number of chronic pain conditions, including back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, and headaches. Most notable is a recent NCCAM-funded study1 which yielded the most rigorous evidence to date that the positive effects of acupuncture for patients with chronic pain are significantly higher than those for control groups who received sham treatments. In other words, even though we still don’t know exactly how it works, it is now proven that it does. Data from 29 high-quality randomized controlled trials, including a total of 17,922 people, was synthesized by a group of researchers from the Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaborations, who found that the total effects of acupuncture on patients is clinically relevant, making it a reasonable referral option for chronic pain. Already back in 1997, the National Institutes of Health Consensus Development reviewed the scientific evidence of acupuncture’s effectiveness and concluded that it was effective for postoperative dental pain, as well as helpful as an additional treatment for headache, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact, a recent study revealed that acupuncture is most frequently used both in China and the U.S. for musculoskeletal pain relief, with other common uses for pain including migraine and peripheral nerve neuralgia2–the latter often being associated with chronic pain conditions. IHow Does It Work? – In Western medical terms acupuncture works by stimulating specific points located near or on the surface of the skin which have the ability to alter various biochemical and physiological conditions. Inserting needles at these points stimulates various sensory receptors that, in turn, stimulate nerves that transmit impulses to the hypothalamic-pituitary system at the base of the brain. The hypothalamus-pituitary glands are responsible for releasing neurotransmitters and endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killing hormones. It is estimated that different endorphins are between 18 to 500 times more potent than morphine as pain-inhibitors. The substances released as a result of acupuncture not only relax the whole body, they also regulate serotonin in the brain which plays a major role in our mental and emotional disposition. This is why depression is often treated with acupuncture, and why people suffering from chronic pain may experience multiple benefits that address not only their experience of physical pain, but also their emotional and mental state. The Benefits – Regardless of the theories used to explain its effects, acupuncture is widely agreed to provide these general, three highly beneficial health results:
- Regulating the body: It raises some brain chemicals and hormones when they need to be raised and lowers others when they need to be lowered.
- Offering a general calming effect: Acupuncture appears to offset the body’s reactions to stress, not only calming the person temporarily but possibly protecting the person from damage from stress over extended periods of time.
- Reducing inflammation locally and throughout the body: Especially in pain patients, it appears that acupuncture reduces inflammation and promotes healing. Acupuncture’s ability to treat the detrimental effects of chronic systemic inflammation (fibromyalgia, parkinson’s, heart disease, diabetes, and others) must be related to offsetting these systemic responses.
Acupuncture at Las Vegas Recovery Center Acupuncture at Las Vegas Recovery Center is offered by Dr. Stephanie Jordan, a licensed Oriental Medicine Doctor in Nevada who is also licensed in Acupuncture and Psychology in Florida. Dr. Jordan has had a private practice specializing in Traditional Chinese Medicine for the past twelve years both in Florida and in Las Vegas. She is a Diplomate in Acupuncture and in Chinese Herbology from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, and she is an Acupuncture Detoxification Specialist trained by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA). Prior to starting her acupuncture practice, Dr. Jordan had a private practice as a psychologist for more than twenty years, making her uniquely qualified to skillfully address any emotional issues that may come up during treatment.
- Vickers AJ, Cronin AM, Maschino AC, et al., “Acupuncture for chronic pain: individual patient data meta-analysis,” Archives of Internal Medicine, September 10, 2012.
- Xu X, “Acupuncture in an outpatient clinic in China: a comparison with the use of acupuncture in North America,” Southern Medical Journal, 2001, 94(8): 813-816.