According to the British Pain Society, around 10 million people in the UK suffer from pain on a daily basis. At least 8 million of these people suffer from chronic pain, which is defined as continuous, long-term pain of more than 12 weeks. Chronic pain is a serious condition that can hugely impact on the quality of life of individuals, on people’s psychology as well as their physical, social and economic lives.  People can become isolated, frustrated and depressed with long-term pain.

The NHS Choices website has a page on Living with Pain with ’10 pain self-help tips’, advice on painkillers, and tips on how to avoid back pain at work. The 10 pain self-help tips include advice like doing gentle exercise, breathing more deeply and slowly, staying positive, sharing your story and relaxation techniques like meditation. Witness for example the increasing availability of courses on mindfulness meditation for pain relief.

A recently published article in JAMA – the world’s third most respected scientific medical journal – provides the most up-to-date and thorough analysis of the effect of acupuncture on helping patients with chronic pain. In Acupunture for Chronic Pain, the authors analyse 31 studies of acupuncture and chronic pain, studies which together include evidence from almost 20,000 patients and their acupuncture treatments. Some patients received acupuncture treatment, others received a ‘sham’ treatment – where the needles are not inserted in the same way as for an actual acupuncture treatment – and other patients received no treatment since they were the control.

This enormous meta-analysis of acupuncture for chronic pain, carried out across five countries in both hospital and community settings, concludes that acupuncture is associated with significant pain reductions compared to both the ‘sham’ treatment and no treatment whatsoever. The kinds of pain treated included: headaches, muscular skeletal pain, osteoarthritis, and shoulder pain. This article clearly shows in a systematic and scientific manner, that acupuncture can help people with chronic pain of various kinds. It suggests that current scepticism of acupuncture as a valuable treatment might be down to the lack of a clear mechanism of benefit. That is to say, acupuncture does indeed seem to work. But western science isn’t quite sure how or why.

To seek an acupuncture practitioner in the York area, see http://www.yorkclinic.com/therapies/acupuncture.aspx.

References

Vickers AJ & Linde K (2014) Acupuncture for chronic pain. JAMA, 311 (9), p.pp.955–956.