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Acupuncture, Opioids, and Pain Management

“Pain is such an uncomfortable feeling that even a tiny amount of it is enough to ruin every enjoyment.’” Will Rogers

Chasing a pain-free existence is a daily challenge for many who live with chronic pain.  Those who undergo any procedure and experience intermittent pain also struggle to deal with their options in the wake of today’s opioid crisis.

The treatment of pain management has always been historically controversial. The opioid crisis we are experiencing at the moment is relative to the times, opioids being the latest thing.

In western medicine, this dilemma can be traced back to the early 1900s with the introduction of morphine and heroin as pain medications. Even though these medications could greatly improve the quality of life for people living with pain, they could leave people vulnerable to addiction.

Eastern medicine has held fast and steady on the practice of acupuncture for pain management. Documentation of acupuncture recognized as a treatment dates back to 2600 BC in China to a medical journal titled The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine.

Acupuncture began to gain popularity in the United States in the 1970s. It became recognized and utilized in most of the United States as a holistic treatment or Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM).

“Acupuncture can address a multitude of issues,” said Dr. Marissa McCarthy of the USF Health Neurology department.

Acupuncture defined

Acupuncture is well known for alleviating pain, what many do not know is that, and in doing so, the process also helps to boost overall wellness. It is believed that any interruptions in energy flow can cause pain or disease.

Acupuncture works with the natural flow of energy in the body or qi(chee) by stimulating points under the skin, acupressure points, with fine needles to stimulate the qi throughout the body.

The flow of energy travels in pathways in the body referred to as meridians. 

This positive flow of energy promotes balance, as referred to in traditional Chinese medicine as the ying and yang.

In western medicine, many believe that by stimulating the muscles, nerves, and connective tissue at acupuncture points, your body can produce its natural painkillers holistically.

“Acupuncture is hypothesized to increase the release of CNS neurotransmitters: B-endorphin, encephalin, seratonin, NE, Acetycholine, dopamin, GABA, Substance P,” Dr. McCarthy said.

The Power of Acupuncture

At USF Health our practitioners are trained and licensed to administer acupuncture.

Every patient receives a personalized care plan based on their specific needs.

Acupuncture is used for many ailments including, but not limited to:

• Arthritis
• Depression
• Headache
• Insomnia
• Nausea
• Sinus issues
• Stress and anxiety
• Weight loss

If you would like to introduce acupuncture into your health care regimen as a complementary treatment for your medical condition, consult with your doctor to see if you are a candidate for acupuncture.

The Confusion Between Narcotics and Opioids.

Chronic pain management is a way of life for many, and prescription pain medications for many are essential to maintain quality of life.  Acupuncture, in conjunction with pain relief medications, may reduce the need or quantity of medication.

What Are Narcotics?

The word narcotic refers to substances that relieve pain and blur the senses, causing lethargy and similar side effects. The word narcotic is of Greek origin and translates into daze or stupor. People today identify narcotics with opioids such as OxyContin, codeine, methadone, fentanyl, etc.

Acupuncture can be complementary to prescription pain medications, which are proven to have many adverse side effects, including addiction. This form of treatment continues to gain acceptance as people look for a more holistic way to treat pain and deal with chronic medical conditions in the wake of the opioid crisis.

When being prescribed, ask your doctor or pharmacist the facts about your medications.

Talk to your doctor to see if you are a eligible for acupuncture and other holistic forms of treatment.

Children can also benefit from acupuncture and other forms of holistic treatments, to learn more visit Acupuncture for Kids at USF Health.

To book an appointment call (813) 974-2201

USF Health Making Life Better


Written by Ercilia Colón

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