Have you considered every option for treating back pain? Medical acupuncture is being used more often in the United States as part of conventional Western medicine to treat back pain and other ailments.
Ryan Isherwood, M.D., a board-certified family medicine physician, is an Alegent Health Clinic (Gretna) expert on medical acupuncture. He completed a six-month training course (300 hours) on medical acupuncture, required by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Check out this Q-and-A with Dr. Isherwood:
Q: How Does Medical Acupuncture Work?
Dr. Isherwood: During the procedure, small, hair-thin needles are placed in certain points along the body to relieve muscular pains and other conditions. After placement, the needles are manipulated in the body’s natural energy pathways, and then the patient is allowed to relax for about 20 to 45 minutes.
Q: OK, Why Does Medical Acupuncture Work?
Dr. Isherwood: Simply put, the acupuncture needles are used to access the body's natural energy channels and either reset them or unblock their flow. Acupuncture treatments can be given at the same time other techniques are being used, such as conventional Western medicine, osteopathic adjustments, and homeopathic prescriptions. It is important to tell your physician-acupuncturist everything that you are doing to get the most benefit from all your treatments.
Q: Can Medical Acupuncture Help With Anxiety?
Dr. Isherwood: Yes, unless of course that anxiety involves doctors’ offices and needles. Acupuncture is particularly useful in resolving physical problems related to tension and stress and emotional conditions.
Q: Can It Help Me Lose Weight?
Dr. Isherwood: While it’s not so effective with weight loss, it can help you manage the cravings associated with overeating. Special ear points used to manage addictions, like smoking and drugs, can also be used to manage those cravings.
Q: What Other Conditions Can Be Treated?
Dr. Isherwood: Musculoskeletal pain, back pain, headaches, digestive problems, asthma, anxiety issues, depression, reproductive problems and even morning sickness. The World Health Organization has a more extensive list of approved uses.
Q: What Are The Risks?
Dr. Isherwood: I always use sterile, single-use needles, so there is little risk of infection from the treatments. Other risks could be: bleeding, but if anything, there is usually only a pinpoint drop of blood; and damage to internal organs – but a skilled practitioner is not often needling over an internal organ, and can easily avoid one. The needles are very small and often can’t penetrate that far into the body.
Q: Are There Any Side Effects?
Dr. Isherwood: Usually not, but you may feel tired and groggy after acupuncture, much like after a massage. After the treatment, get some rest, and don’t have any big plans for the following day. As energy is redirected in the body, internal chemicals and hormones are stimulated and healing begins to take place. Occasionally, the original symptoms worsen for a few days, which indicate that the acupuncture is starting to work. Keep track of your response to the treatment. This is important for your doctor to know so that the follow-up treatments can be designed to best help you and your problem.
Q: If a Patient Feels Pain After Cortisone Shot, Is Acupuncture a Better Choice?
Dr. Isherwood: Usually the pain following a Cortisone shot is due to the Cortisone itself, which burns when injected, and the proximity to the nerve point being injected. Acupuncture is not pain free, but the pain is minimal, tolerable and won’t last like the shot can.
Q: Is Acupuncture Covered By My Health Insurance?
Dr. Isherwood: Some, but not all, health plans recognize the value of providing coverage for medical acupuncture. Contact your health plan to see if acupuncture is covered. In some cases, you can have your insurance company write medical acupuncture coverage into your plan before you accept their policy.