According to a recent research, acupuncture may help relieve chronic pain. However, the research which covered 29 studies on the effect of acupuncture on chronic pain indicated that the benefit is most likely because of the “placebo effect”. Participants in the different studies typically reported some kind of pain relief after acupuncture treatment. But patients who were treated with “sham acupuncture” wherein the needles are retractable and don’t stick to the skin also reported pain relief. This led to the conclusion that acupuncture has limited benefit to chronic pain.
The Placebo Effect
The placebo effect is still a big mystery wherein a fake treatment like sugar water or any fake treatment makes a patient feel better just for the reason that he thinks it will. Researchers and doctors find it to be helpful sometimes but in other cases it can get in the way. Experts believe that the placebo effect is a part of the mind-body connection.
For example, if you put a bandage on a child’s wound, he/she will usually feel better right away although there is really no scientific or medical reason for this. Many researchers are still trying to figure out how the placebo effect works and how it can be harnessed to treat illnesses. The human mind-body connection is still a great mystery even though science is highly advanced today.
The Acupuncture Controversy
Acupuncture is still a controversial subject among doctors as treatment for various illnesses including chronic pain. Some think that it can complement standard treatment but others strongly believe that it can be used as an alternative. In fact, some doctors suggest acupuncture treatment to their patients and some doctors have already studied how to perform acupuncture offering it as an alternative for some patients. Acupuncture is so popular today that about three million Americans get acupuncture every year for different reasons like chronic pain.
To try to determine if acupuncture has limited benefit to chronic pain or not researchers analyzed 29 studies with about 18,000 patients in Europe and the United States. The patients were suffering from back, neck, shoulder, joint and/or chronic headaches. They were either treated with fake acupuncture, acupuncture or not treated at all.
The results were pretty surprising wherein 50% of patients treated with acupuncture had their symptoms cut in half. Meanwhile, 43% of patients treated with sham acupuncture also had their symptoms cut in half. 30% of patients who didn’t have any kind of acupuncture treatment also had their symptoms cut in half.
The research leads to the conclusion that acupuncture has limited benefit to chronic pain. Since acupuncture sessions usually run about $100 per session and is often not covered by health insurance, you may just be wasting your money if you’re treating your chronic pain with acupuncture. It may be a better idea for you to look for other treatments for your chronic pain.