The Pain Dilemma Complicating the Opioid Crisis

Patients seeking relief from legitimate pain is often noted as the origin of the opioid crisis; in a 2013 study, 80% of heroin users reported using prescription pain killers before becoming addicted to heroin[1]. As with any developing crisis that shows up on the new outlets, people wanted to know who or what was responsible for the opioid epidemic. There was plenty of blame to go around: the doctors were blamed; the manufacturers were blamed; even the patients who had become dependent on opioids were blamed. This led states in the U.S. to enact new laws limiting opioid use[2] [3].

The result is that chronic pain patients have been left in a precarious situation with many patients cut off from their medications abruptly without an alternative care plan offered. Treating pain effectively without the use of narcotics is tricky for Western medical practitioners. While there are some invasive techniques that can possibly result in good outcomes, the chances of a bad outcome can be very high and patients do not want to take the risk. Medications such as steroids also have notable side effects and risks. This has left people suffering from pain few viable treatment options. Understandably, these pain sufferers are angry and demanding viable solutions from our healthcare system.

Luckily, a large number of studies reviewing the effectiveness of acupuncture have recently been published demonstrating the ability of acupuncture to manage chronic and acute pain[4] [5] [6] Furthermore, acupuncture has been proven an effective analgesic for post-operative pain, thus reducing the need for opioid medication and reducing the risk of opioid dependency developing. [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] he U.S. government National Institute for complimentary and Integrative Health website states: “Results from a number of studies suggest that acupuncture may help ease types of pain that are often chronic such as lower back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis and knee pain. It also may help reduce the frequency of tension headaches and prevent migraine headaches. Therefore, acupuncture appears to be a reasonable option for people with chronic pain to consider[12].”

Learn How to Use Chinese Medicine to Treat Pain Effectively Here!

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has many ways of delineating and alleviating pain syndromes; thus, TCM can provide more specific solutions for pain syndromes than simple pain relievers that block pain signals. In Chinese medicine, pain in the body cannot occur without the presence of Qi Stagnation and/or Blood Stagnation. Herbs and acupuncture are used to break up this stagnation and treat the underlying cause of pain rather than simply mask it as pain killers do. Because so many peer-reviewed studies have brought the benefits of acupuncture to light, Chinese medicine is now being recommended by MD’s and incorporated into hospitals.

[1] Jones CM. Heroin use and heroin use risk behaviors among nonmedical users of prescription opioid pain relievers – United States, 2002-2004 and 2008-2010. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013;132(1-2):95-100.

[2] Llorente E.  New Jersey’s new opioid law raises concerns among doctors retrieved May 2017 from: New Jersey’s new opioid law raises concerns among doctors

[3] Russell, E. Legislators urged to clarify opioid law that restricts long-term use of painkillers. Retrieved May 2017 from: http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/20/chronic-pain-patients-say-new-law-regulating-opioid-prescriptions-is-harming-them/.

[4] Nahin RL1, Boineau R2, Khalsa PS2, Stussman BJ2, Weber WJ2. Evidence-Based Evaluation of Complementary Health Approaches for Pain Management in the United States. Mayo Clin Proc. 2016 Sep;91(9):1292-306. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2016.06.007

[5] Villarreal Santiago M1, Tumilty S2, Mącznik A2, Mani R2. Does Acupuncture Alter Pain-related Functional Connectivity of the Central Nervous System? A Systematic Review. J Acupuncture Meridian Stud. 2016 Aug;9(4):167-77. doi: 10.1016/j.jams.2015.11.038. Epub 2015 Dec 17.

[6] Ondrejkovicova A1, Petrovics G1, Svitkova K1, Bajtekova B1, Bangha O1. Why acupuncture in pain treatment? Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2016 Jul;37(3):163-168.

[7] An LX, Chen X, Ren XJ, Wu HF. Electro-Acupuncture Decreases Postoperative Pain and Improves Recovery in Patients Undergoing Supratentorial Craniotomy. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 2014;42(5):1099-109.

[8] Chen CC, Yang CC, Hu CC, Shih HN, Chang YH, Hsieh PH. Acupuncture for Pain Relief after Total Knee Arthroplasty: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine. 2015;40(1):31-6.

[9] Cho HK, Park IJ, Jeong YM, Lee YJ, Hwang SH. Can Perioperative Acupuncture Reduce the Pain and Vomiting Experienced after Tonsillectomy? A Meta-Analysis. The Laryngoscope. 2015.

[10] Cho YH, Kim CK, Heo KH, Lee MS, Ha IH, Son DW, et al. Acupuncture for Acute Postoperative Pain after Back Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Pain Practice: The Official Journal of World Institute of Pain. 2015;15(3):279-91.

[11] Crespin DJ, Griffin KH, Johnson JR, Miller C, Finch MD, Rivard RL, et al. Acupuncture Provides ShortTerm Pain Relief for Patients in a Total Joint Replacement Program. Pain Medicine (Malden, Mass). 2015;16(6):1195-203.

[12] Retrieved May 2017 from: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/introduction

[13] Retrieved June 2017 from http://www.drugabuse.gov

[14] Eric L. Garland, Ph.D.,1 Brett Froeliger, Ph.D.,2 Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D.,3 Kaitlyn Partin, M.S.W.,4 and Matthew O. Howard, Ph.D.5. The Downward Spiral of Chronic Pain, Prescription Opioid Misuse, and Addiction: Cognitive, Affective, and Neuropsychopharmacologic Pathways. Neuroscience Biobehavioral Review. 2013 Dec; 37(10 0 2): 2597–2607.

[15] Katz, J. Drug Deaths in America Are Rising Faster Than Ever. June 5, 2017 (Retrieved from nytimes.com June 2017)

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