Acupuncture as an Alternative to Opioids

Opioid addiction is one of the fastest growing epidemics in the United States.

Pain medications are prescribed at alarmingly high rates, for anything from a simple dental procedure to a major surgery or chronic illness. While opioids tend to be safe when taken as prescribed by the person for whom they are intended, it is incredibly easy to develop dependencies that make them difficult to stop using. The frequency at which they are prescribed means these medications can be found in most households, making it easier for them to fall into the wrong hands and be misused.

Acupuncture: An Alternative to Painkillers

The risks associated with use of prescription opioids has caused many to explore safer alternative pain management solutions. Holistic approaches to pain management have grown increasingly popular in recent years to eliminate risk factors associated with use of painkillers.

Acupuncturists and other alternative medical providers have lobbied for a bigger role in treating long term pain on a Federal level and recently won a preliminary endorsement from federal health officials.

The Food and Drug Administration released proposed changes to its blueprint on educating healthcare providers about treating pain. The guidelines now recommend that doctors get information about chiropractic care and acupuncture as therapies that might help patients avoid prescription opioids.

“[Health care providers] should be knowledgeable about the range of available therapies, when they may be helpful, and when they should be used as part of a multidisciplinary approach to pain management,” the agency wrote in the proposal.

The suggested changes come as alternative medicine providers have stepped up lobbying Congress and state legislatures to elevate their role in treating chronic pain.

Many find acupuncture functions as a safe alternative to painkillers. There are several reasons why people favor acupuncture and similar treatment approaches over medication.

  • It encourages the body to heal itself: Rather than relying on medications to suppress pain and essentially mask the condition, acupuncture stimulates the body to heal itself. The body is able to heal itself naturally, and acupuncture can help encourage that process.
  • Studies show that it is effective: Painkillers can temporarily relieve pain and mask symptoms, but they do not cure the condition. While it may seem easier to go to a doctor who will prescribe medications, research published in Archives of Internal Medicine found that in over 29 studies involving 18,000 participants, acupuncture relieved common forms of pain by 50 percent.
  • Acupuncture can help treat numerous conditions: Acupuncture is commonly practiced outside the realm of addiction. It is used to alleviate symptoms of multiple conditions from cramps to anxiety. Many attest to its ability to improve overall health.
  • Unlike opioids, acupuncture does not produce extreme side effects or withdrawal symptoms. Many who use opioids for pain management experience side effects such as nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and fainting.

Acupuncture is becoming a favored alternative for pain management because it is safe. In a world where the idea of taking a pill and being healed is constantly being advertised, the risks associated with opioid use have caused many to consider safer solutions. While opioids can provide relief from chronic pain, the relief is often accompanied by side effects that can actually worsen the initial condition. Even in cases where a person has been using opioids for pain management and has become dependent, acupuncture is effective in helping ease the withdrawal process and provide relief, both physically and mentally.

Opioids can be effective, but the risks associated with use can often outweigh the benefits. Although some people may be hesitant due to a fear of needles, our licensed acupuncturists can walk our clients through the process and minimize anxiety. With the potential for relief and minimal side effects, acupuncture is growing in popularity and becoming more widely recommended alternative to prescription painkillers.


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