One hundred million Americans are experiencing chronic pain, and of those, 25 million have chronic pain syndrome. While pain is a perfectly normal reaction to certain events, when persists for over 12 weeks and additional debilitating symptoms arise, the condition is pathological and treated as chronic.
Chronic pain syndrome is not just a longstanding battle with pain. Over time, the constant discomfort and progressive disability take a mental and emotional toll and may cause anxiety, depression, sleeping issues, guilt, fatigue, thoughts of suicide, or substance abuse.
Typically pain starts after a traumatic event, injury, surgery, or during a chronic illness such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, cancer, or irritable bowel syndrome. Some times the cause of chronic pain is a mystery. The risk for developing chronic pain increases if you are a female over the age of 65, smoke, or already have a painful condition such as osteoarthritis.
According to acupuncture and Oriental medicine theory, pain is caused by the stagnation of Qi, Blood, or both. When Qi, the most basic unit of energy found in all living beings is dormant, pain moves around and can feel like a distending, dull or crampy sensation. Sluggish Blood is more visible, such as when bruising occurs on the skin and the pain felt is fixed, sharp or stabbing. Once the type and severity of pain are assessed, treatment may consist of cupping therapy.
Cupping is application of special cups which suction onto the body and cause devitalized, toxic and congested blood vessels to burst open. Healthy blood vessels remain untouched and do not rupture. Noxious contents force their way to the skin level, where they are harmlessly released. This may be a great option for patients who suffer from back-related or repetitive stress injury pain, for example. Cupping releases tension from the muscles and increases the healthy flow of nourishing, vitalized blood into problem areas minimizing any immense discomfort and pain. An Oriental medicine adage states 'where there is stagnation, there is pain, so remove the stagnation and thus remove the pain.'
Another way to address chronic pain and associated symptoms is with electroacupuncture, a form of acupuncture where a small electrical current runs between two needles inserted on specific points of the body. It has gained notoriety as a modern way to enhance the effectiveness of a regular acupuncture treatment and has been found especially effective in treating the symptoms of fibromyalgia, according to a 2006 study called "Improvement in Fibromyalgia Symptoms With Acupuncture: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial" published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
The trial involved 50 patients who all presented with symptoms of pain, fatigue, and anxiety. Half of the group received real electroacupuncture treatments while the other half received sham therapies. Treatments occurred 2 times a week for a total of 3 weeks.
Evaluations of each patient took place at the end of the trial and again one month after the test was over. The group that received real electroacupuncture showed a statistically significant improvement in their levels of pain, lethargy, and anxiety when compared to the sham therapy group. Researchers concluded that acupuncture with electrical stimulation is a valuable therapy to address symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Chronic pain syndrome always involves more symptoms than pain--acupuncture coordinates the entire body to restore the balance between opposing forces on a physical, mental and emotional level. Even complex cases that include a combination of chronic headaches, insomnia, and mood swings are addressed in a single, eloquent treatment plan.
Martin, DP. Sletten, CD. Williams BA. Berger IH. (2006). Improvement in Fibromyalgia Symptoms With Acupuncture: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 81, Issue 6, 749-757 Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16770975
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About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.