San Diego Health - Spring 2024


that acupuncture also works at the brain level in areas, such as the limbic system, to reduce ampli fi cation of the pain caused by conditions that include migraine, fi bromyalgia and low back pain,” says Robert Bonakdar, MD, director of pain management, Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, Scripps Clinic. Acupuncture can be used on its own to treat many forms of acute or chronic pain, but works best when combined with other therapies, such as medication or physical therapy. At Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, doctors combine conventional Western medicine with evidence-based alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, to prevent, heal and reverse disease. “ Th ere’s very strong evidence supporting the use of acupuncture as a singular therapy, but it’s even more impactful when used as an adjunct therapy. It's something that can be personalized based on a patient’s needs,” says Sarah Dalhoumi, MD, integrative women’s health specialist with expertise in medical acupuncture, Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, Scripps Clinic. “When we tackle pain through an interdisciplinary approach, using a lot of di ff erent treatments that work synergistically well together, we get the best outcome.” In addition to reducing pain, acupuncture has been found, in some studies, to also lessen a patient’s need for pain medication. But it’s not a quick fi x. Th e doctors note that while acupuncture is a safe and e ff ective way to help manage pain, it does require a trial period of at least six to eight treatments and must be continued regularly for ongoing bene fi ts. Most commercial insurance plans have covered acupuncture for some time, and in 2020, Medicare followed suit for Part B enrollees with lower back pain. Speak to your primary care physician or pain management specialist about any concerns you may have. “Keep an open mind. With any new treatment, you’re always going to assess the risk-to-bene fi t pro fi le, and with some standard treatments, like medications, the risks are greater than the bene fi ts,” says Dr. Dalhoumi. “When you're looking at acupuncture, there's great bene fi t to be had for many, and the risk is pretty negligible. Research supports the use, and if we're trying to treat from a whole-body approach with the best outcome and least side e ff ects possible, we need to be thinking about acupuncture as a mainstay treatment.”

WELLNESS Acupuncture and Pain Management

The practice may help chronic pain sufferers find relief


OR THOUSANDS OF YEARS, practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine have been using acupuncture to treat various conditions and relieve pain. Now, in an e ff ort to deal with increasing rates

of chronic pain, as well as ongoing issues related to the opioid epidemic, many people are turning to the practice for a natural approach to pain management without narcotics. Acupuncture is the relatively painless practice of inserting very thin sterile needles into strategic points on the body and leaving them in for a predetermined period of time. It’s thought that the therapy balances energy fl ow, stimulates the central nervous system, triggers the release of endorphins and activates the body’s natural healing abilities. Studies have shown that acupuncture can be e ff ective in treating chronic or recurring pain, such as migraine headaches and back injuries. “Acupuncture is an ideal option for those dealing with chronic pain, because we know that it can provide local relief by reducing muscle tension or tissue in fl ammation. What is less appreciated is



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