We interviewed acupuncturist Brian Jackson, LAc about how acupuncture can help with pain management. Here's what he told us:
Q: Studies show that acupuncture can be helpful for relieving many kinds of pain. Is it better for general aches or can it help with chronic conditions?
A: We have had success in treating both acute and chronic pain within the clinic. I think this is due to the fact that the mechanism of how acupuncture works is still the same regardless of the condition. It is important to note however that the number of treatments required can vary based on the condition. For acute musculoskeletal injuries these may require only 3-10 visits to achieve complete pain relief, for chronic conditions where there might be arthritic changes within the joints the course of treatment is generally 20-30 treatments before the best results are achieved. Healthy individuals generally need fewer treatments and get results faster whereas long standing conditions for those individuals that may have other health complications and increased scar tissue within the area will generally take longer and may not respond as well to treatment.
Q: What makes acupuncture an effective treatment?
A: Acupuncture is effective because it can modulate and regulate many of the body’s basic physiological systems. Acupuncture research has shown that it can increase local blood circulation, regulate the endocrine system, increase and improve the release of neurotransmitters, improve immune system function, reduce inflammation and regulate neurochemical function within the spinal cord and the brain. It affects a number of the body’s basic systems at the same time which increases the chances of the treatment or any other treatments being used simultaneously to be more effective.
Q: How quickly can a patient expect to feel results?
A: This can vary based on some of the factors mentioned above and how aggressive we choose to be with treatment. As a general rule you should expect some significant changes in the condition within the first five treatments if you are regularly getting treatment.
Q: How long does the pain relief last?
A: This is also hard to gauge unless you know the nature of the injury. We have had patients with debilitating pain recover and not come back to the clinic for five to six years after finishing a course of treatment and we have patients that require regular treatment sometimes even once a week because their pain level is not manageable without acupuncture in conjunction with their normal care. Every type of injury and how often it gets aggravated due to normal activity is different and requires a different care plan.
Q: Do you have any advice for patients trying acupuncture for the first time?
A: Make sure that you seek out an acupuncturist that is fully qualified and has experience in treating the condition that you are suffering from.
About the Expert: Brian Jackson, LAc
Brian is nationally certified as a Diplomate in Acupuncture by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). He received his Master's degree in acupuncture and tuina (MS) from the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and completed his residency training at the Jiangsu Provincial Hospital of Chinese Medicine. He holds an acupuncture license in both the state of Maryland and New York and has been practicing acupuncture, tuina, and herbal medicine in the Baltimore area for the last several years. He also serves as the team physio for the US national cricket teams. Brian's research interests include post-stroke rehabilitation and understanding the physiochemical response within the spinal cord during acupuncture.
To schedule an appointment with Brian, please call the Center for Integrative Health & Healing, the clinical practice of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine at 410-448-6361. To aks him additional questions, please email CIMClinicInfo@som.umaryland.edu.
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