Acupuncture, like all alternative medicine, remains controversial. There are deep divides between those who believe it is effective and those who call it a pseudoscience. But people suffering from chronic pain will explore any avenue that may lead to relief.
Although people often use acupuncture to treat chronic pain, evidence that it is effective has been scarce. But a recent study from the University of York has contributed new data that may change some minds.
Acupuncture and Chronic Pain
Researchers from the UK and US recently reviewed the data from 29 different acupuncture trials on patients with chronic pain. Most of these trials compared the effectiveness of acupuncture versus standard medicine, such as anti-inflammatories and physiotherapy. These trials included data on around 18,000 patients with chronic pain in the neck, lower back, head, or knee.
The results showed that patients who received acupuncture treatments generally saw improvement. Patients reported a reduction in headaches and migraines, less severe neck and back pain, and even decreased disability from osteoarthritis.
Of course, many are quick to cry placebo effect in such trials. This is an especially relevant concern considering that placebos have actually become more effective in the last few decades. However, some of the trials that the University of York researchers reviewed included “sham” acupuncture to control for the placebo effect, and found that true acupuncture was more effective.
Is Acupuncture a Pseudoscience?
As interesting as these results are, the majority of the medical community considers acupuncture to be a pseudoscience. One problem with combining the results of 29 different trials and examining that data is that any one or more of those trials could have been poorly conducted, affecting overall results. Plenty of controlled studies have disproven the effectiveness of acupuncture as well. These mixed results show that we should remain skeptical of acupuncture as a treatment for chronic pain until evidence can overwhelmingly support it.
For people who suffer from chronic pain and want drug-free treatments, this might sound like bad news. Prescription opioids are extremely dangerous, accounting for 60% of all drug overdose deaths in the United States.
But if your chronic pain is rooted in TMJ, there are still treatment options available that don’t utilize prescription painkillers. If you suffer from jaw pain, neck pain, or migraines as a result of TMJ, a neuromuscular dentist can provide TMJ treatment options that tackle the actual cause of the pain, rather than just dulling you to it.
Periodic TENS treatments can help the muscles of your jaw relax into a healthy position within just an hour. Or if you need more intensive treatment, your dentist can create a custom orthotic appliance that can retrain your jaw to rest in a position that doesn’t put strain on your jaw.