Acupuncture Instead of Opioids for Pain Relief

A recent advisory recommends opioid-free, non-addictive alternatives, like acupuncture, as a first step in relieving pain.

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CLEVELAND – Not all pain needs to be treated with prescription medication.

That’s why a recent advisory recommends opioid-free, non-addictive alternatives, like acupuncture, as a first step in relieving pain.

Jamie Starkey, LAC, is an acupuncturist at Cleveland Clinic and said studies have shown that acupuncture can be effective for treating many types of pain. 

“We’re able to treat a host of pain-related issues such as chronic pain, neck pain, migraines,” she said. “Any pain condition can really be nicely addressed with acupuncture with minimal side effects, if any side effects,” she said. 

During acupuncture treatment, a trained medical professional gently inserts very fine needles into various parts of the body.

Starkey said research shows the pain relieving effect is three-fold.

First, acupuncture manipulates the nervous system to release natural pain relieving chemicals, called endorphins.

Next, there’s a reduction of inflammation.

Finally, specific areas of the muscles, called trigger points, can be targeted to calm spasms.

On average, Starkey recommends five to eight consecutive acupuncture visits for best results.

Not only do most people have less pain, but Starkey said they also have better function, sleep and mood.

“We not only see changes in their primary complaint, which would be improvement in pain scores, but we also see a lot of secondary improvement as well as an improvement in overall quality of life,” she said. 

According to Starkey, many insurance companies will cover acupuncture to treat pain but if people have questions or concerns, she recommends calling the insurance provider for additional information.

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