We live in a time in history that we have access to the best of all evidence-based medicine. With that said, there are times that medication is the only option. Other times, the only alternative is non-pharmaceutical therapies such as biomedical-based acupuncture for reasons such as adverse reactions to medications or simply a patient preference.
More often, we are seeing that patients can have access to both which clearly has a synergist effect, leading to increased effectiveness of medication and/or a reduced need for medication. According to Harvard Medical School, one out of every two people in the United States between 35 and 49 years of age has made a visit to an alternative medicine practitioner in 1997. This is a growth of 47.3 percent since 1990. “With such a significant increased use of alternative therapies, it’s obvious that there is a greater demand for non-pharmaceutical options.”
Doctors in California’s workers’ compensation system are required to provide evidence-based medical treatment. This means they must choose treatments scientifically proven to cure or relieve work-related injuries and illnesses. Those treatments are laid out in the Medical Treatment Utilization Schedule (MTUS), which contains a set of guidelines that provide details on which treatment should be given, the extent of treatment and for how long. Acupuncture has been recognized and adopted by the MTUS as scientific and evidenced based. Within the guidelines it states:
“Acupuncture is used as an option when pain medication is reduced or not tolerated and may be used as an adjunct to physical rehabilitation and/or surgical intervention to hasten functional recovery.’ It goes on to state, ‘Acupuncture can be used to reduce pain, reduce inflammation, increase blood flow, increase range of motion, decrease the side effect of medication-induced nausea, promote relaxation in an anxious patient, and reduce muscle spasm.’
Furthermore it states, ‘Physiological effects can include endorphin release for pain relief, reduction of inflammation, increased blood circulation, analgesia through interruption of pain stimulus, and muscle relaxation. It is indicated to treat chronic pain conditions, radiating pain along a nerve pathway, muscle spasm, inflammation, scar tissue pain, and pain located in multiple sites.”
In 1999, a review and analysis of reports on controlled clinical trials was done on acupuncture. The following conclusion was stated: “Acupuncture’s effective rate in the treatment of chronic pain is comparable with that of morphine. Because of the side-effects of long-term drug therapy for pain and the risks of dependence, acupuncture analgesia can be regarded as the method of choice for treating many chronically painful conditions.”
Among dozens of peer reviewed journals, in the 2005 SPINE journal the outcome of a study was done on ‘Acupuncture for low back pain: An updated systematic review within the framework of the Cochrane Collaboration.’ This paper systematically reviewing acupuncture for chronic low back pain concluded that adding acupuncture plus conventional treatment produced better analgesia and functional improvement than conventional treatments alone.
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