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Understanding The Power of Acupuncture In The Opioid Crisis

As our society continues to ferociously debate the issue of chronic pain management vs. the opioid epidemic, there has been one (1)  “silver lining” that has emerged that can make a difference and it’s been around for thousands of years. Acupuncture is increasingly being embraced by chronic pain patients as well as some physicians as an alternative to the popular and powerful painkillers behind our opioid epidemic.


Acupuncture in the Opioid Crisis

According to an inspiring Associated Press article entitled: Stuck in an opioids crisis, officials turn to acupuncture a Marine Veteran, who did not like taking prescription painkillers, preferred the alternative method of acupuncture and now insurance companies are starting to embrace it. “The military and Veterans Affairs medical system has been offering acupuncture for pain for several years, some insurance companies cover it and now a small but growing number of Medicaid programs in states hit hard by opioid overdoses have started providing it for low-income patients. Ohio’s Medicaid program recently expanded its coverage after an opioid task force urged state officials to explore alternative pain therapies.

On the other hand,  there has been push back from doctors saying that Acupuncture is “exploiting the opioid crisis to try to promote acupuncture as an alternative treatment“. Interestingly, even though Medicare does not pay for acupuncture, Veterans Affair Facilities offer it and are now charging no more than a copay. In fact, Addiction Recovery clinics such as BrainSpark Health have adapted acupuncture as a key element of their holistic approach of combining NAD IV Therapy, The Bridge Device and NeuroRecover™ for their patients.


What is Acupuncture and How Does it Help?

According to the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, Acupuncture is a “method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve functioning. This is done by inserting needles and applying heat or electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture points.  The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up in others.

The meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body’s internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy production activities, and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians.

The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system.

The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.