Does Acupuncture work? Or more specifically “Will acupuncture help me with…?” is often the first question I am asked and my answer is ‘Everyone is different, but ultimately I have to say yes!’ Acupuncture helps in many ways for all manner of illness signs and symptoms. By working holistically acupuncture treats you as a whole person. The various tests, checks and diagnoses we undertake throughout a session, help identify imbalances and indicate where to focus treatment.
What does this mean exactly you may be asking?! For example, someone might feel that their quality of life is affected by on-going pain and painkillers no longer work for them. Which in turn reduces their physical movement, reducing their strength, which can lead to feeling isolated and alone, causing negative feelings about themselves, “I can’t do this or that anymore” arriving at the conclusion “Why try or bother?” A humble over the counter painkiller has a lot to overcome here! As acupuncture works to restore balance for the whole person it can help with the physical pain as well as these feelings and emotions. Acupuncture can help reduce pain*, therefore movement, ability and strength can be improved, which in turn helps give confidence, hope and self-belief restoring overall balance and improving quality of life.
The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recognises acupuncture for treatment of Chronic Pain
The NICE Chronic Pain assessment and management guidelines were updated in April 2021 and now includes acupuncture as an option to treat chronic pain. The treatment of chronic pain has undergone a major review, where analgesics and anti-inflammatories are no longer recommended, but instead lifestyle changes are encouraged including exercise and physical activity, as well as psychological therapy (including anti-depressants) and acupuncture.
So, what is chronic pain? NICE has defined chronic pain as “pain of more than a 3 month duration with no clear underlying condition or where symptoms may seem to be out of proportion to any observable injury or disease”.
If you have chronic pain and medication is no longer is working for you, it may well be worthwhile asking your medical practitioner for a review of your treatment.
Growing body of evidence
There is a huge growing body of quality evidence showing that acupuncture works.
Evidence Based Acupuncture is a fantastic resource and team of experts providing a growing and influential body of evidence that pools global studies and findings. Here’s a link to their Evidence Based Summary on pain* which influenced the recent NICE (April 2021) review of the treatment for chronic pain. Great news, painkillers are no longer recommended and acupuncture along with physio and exercise is!
The British Acupuncture Council website has lots of Fact Sheets, covering conditions such as: anxiety, headache, neck pain, back pain, knee pain, osteoarthritis, sports injuries, fertility and hormones, which are useful references.
How do I measure treatment performance?
In my own practice I am keen to measure treatment performance and one of the tools I use is a MYMOP questionnaire, a ‘measure yourself medical outcome performance’ tool. The MYMOP provides objective benchmarks tailored to individual needs agreed with each patient, examples include: to reduce shoulder pain, to carry out everyday household chores, to reduce anxiety, to reduce body tension, to sleep better, to balance hormones, etc. An easy to use 0-6 scoring system, gauges how treatment is progressing. Comparisons can then be made with how the patient felt before and during the course of treatment.
I find this tool really helpful in understanding the impact of treatment and more importantly to understand what other factors may have made an impact on overall health and well-being since the last treatment. Working together in this way helps empower the patient to understand the impacts there lifestyle maybe having on their health and we can jointly work to improving quality of life together.