Getting Started with Acupuncture

Question: My pain specialist wants me to add acupuncture to my treatment regimen. I’ve made an appointment to see a provider, but I don’t under­stand, how does acupuncture help chronic pain? (I have neuropathy in my legs and feet.) Can you help me with a simple explanation that I can use when talking to my family and friends?

Answer: Acupuncture, originally known as a Chinese medicine, dates back more than 2,000 years. The tradition was passed down through generations of physician teachers and has evolved into widespread contemporary practice. As a standard and mainstream method for a host of conditions recognized by the National Institutes of Health, it has been integrated into western medicine and is frequently prescribed as an adjunct to pain management, cancer supportive care, and infertility.

Laura Bowman, M.D., is an acupuncture specialist practicing in Decatur, Georgia. She says that acupuncture treatment involves putting tiny solid needles in specific points of your body to treat various medical conditions and promote health. “Acupuncture points are physical locations at ‘communication bundles’ of nerves, blood vessels, and muscle planes,” she explains. “Acupuncture works by changing the specific communication pathway where the needle is inserted. Whatever the physical cause, the treatment can help relieve neuropathic pain.” For chronic pain, she recommends an initial series of weekly treatments for four to six weeks, then continued treatment at longer intervals as the problem comes under control. As part of a preventive health strategy, acupuncture treatments are recommended twice a year when the seasons change.

Our expert: Jackson Rainer is a board-certified clinical psychologist who practices with the Care and Counseling Center in Decatur, Georgia, helping people living with chronic illnesses. He consults with a variety of experts to answer a selection of readers’ questions in each issue of Pain-Free Living.

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