“Sharp.” “Throbbing.” “Shooting.” “Dull.” “Burning.” “Like an electric shock.” “Debilitating.” “Overwhelming.” “Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in my heel.”
These are just a few of the real-life ways patients describe their physical pain when seeking medical attention. When we look at both acute and chronic types of pain, back pain and headaches are the most commonly reported, followed by neck pain and facial aches and pain. Every year chronic pain affects 100 million Americans. This is more than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.
Pain can significantly affect quality of life by contributing to or causing depression, insomnia, lack of concentration and low energy. The total annual cost of health care due to pain is shocking. In 2011, the Institute of Medicine published its report from the Committee on Advancing Pain Research, Care, and Education, which estimated that the medical costs of pain care — and the economic costs related to disability, lost wages and productivity in the United States — are between $560 billion to $635 billion. This is an amount equal to about $2,000 for every person in the U.S.
What if there was a safe and natural way to lower or eliminate pain — one that could reduce the costs; lower the enormous number of patient visits to emergency rooms, primary care doctors and pain specialists; and even decrease prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics?
That's just what the practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, also known as acupuncturists, are already doing. Armed with the principles of Asian medicine as practiced for thousands of years — along with a kit of tiny steel needles — acupuncturists not only provide pain relief, but often get to the root of the problem and prevent it from recurring.
The principle of acupuncture is based on the free-flowing circulation in the body of the vital energy, qi (pronounced”chee”). Physical or emotional stress and trauma, poor diet, lack of exercise and inadequate sleep can interrupt the qi flow. When that happens, qi becomes stuck. The body sends a signal in the form of pain.
“I treat injured young athletes who have suffered injuries, elderly with arthritic joints and middle-aged office workers with chronic back and neck pain,” says Victoria Risovanny, licensed acupuncturist at Sharp Coronado Hospital. “Here at the hospital, we also use acupuncture to help patients experiencing pain before or after undergoing a surgery. This helps prepare them, mentally and physically, for the procedure ahead; and we can significantly reduce their later reliance on pain medications during recovery.”
Acupuncture is increasingly offered as both outpatient treatment and in hospital recovery rooms, as it is believed to increase blood flow to the surgical site, and to decrease inflammation. Whether pain is chronic or acute, related to an injury or surgery, acupuncture can provide significant pain relief without unwanted or unhealthful side effects.