Is Acupuncture Becoming Mainstream?
All signs point to yes.
Acupuncture in recent years is quickly making its way into the hearts and minds of patients. The benefits of acupuncture alone are enough to appeal to anyone from all walks of life. Some appealing benefits are promoting relaxation, improving sleep, boosting energy, decreasing all kinds of pain, treating headaches, improving mood, boosting the immune system, improving digestion…. just to name a few.
The baby boomer generation was all about seeing the doctor when they got sick. The current generation is eating better, getting physical activity, and is all about living their best life. They are on the hunt for a more natural remedies, focusing on preventative healthcare, and actively seeking out the tools that allow them to take ownership of their lives and health. Enter, acupuncture.
What’s The Cost of Your Health?
The current generation also wants a healthcare option that is cost-effective. They have the highest amount of debt and the least income being they came of age during the recession, and nothing is harder on the wallet than healthcare in the US. They are not the only ones looking for alternatives to traditional western medicine. Those in the generations prior are also hitting their 60’s and are spending more than ever on prescription medications and opioids. When taking a look at the numbers of acupuncture treatment for pain management compared to that of going to a primary doctor or pain management center, the numbers are shocking:
- Average cost of acupuncture: $60-$175 per session (pain, smoking, weight loss, headaches/migraines, anxiety, etc.)
I hope you’re ready for these numbers….
- Average cost of medication for mild short-term pain (depending if the patient chooses the brand name or generic): $5-$25 per month. $53 for 30 Tegretol (ongoing severe pain), antidepressants: $12 for 30, opiate pain relievers like hydrocodone: $18 for 30.
After medication is attempted, a patient may be referred to a pain management center…
- Average cost of a pain program according to Marketdata Enterprises (a market research firm) is $4,783. Initial consult is around $225 with monthly visits averaging $195 each with additional treatment possibly needed.
Still, if these do not work, surgery is the next step…
- There are 31,000 lumbar surgeries performed each year for pain with an estimated cost of $27,577 per patient. If the patient has insurance, out of pocket costs consist of a specialist copay and potentially a hospital copay of $100 or more, and a coinsurance of 10%-50% depending on their plan coverage.
- Some patients may require nerve stimulators to alleviate pain which cost around $100 or more.
- There are also those that have devices surgically implanted that deliver medications automatically to the body and are usually only considered when all other options fail. These cost around $27-$55 and are usually covered by insurance if the patient meets certain criteria.
These numbers, when compared to alternative forms of pain relief like acupuncture are truly unbelievable. A 2014 study found a surprising amount of overall savings when using acupuncture for treatment:
- $48,562 per year per patient is saved when acupuncture is used for pain management of all kinds.
- $18,960 in addition in savings was found if the acupuncture treatment alleviated depression at the same time as being treated for pain management.
Why do we keep turning to standard forms of western medicine? There are probably a couple reasons for this. It is drilled in our heads throughout our lives and especially when entering adulthood that you should go to the doctor, get medication to fix a problem, and get good health insurance to cover your visits.
The problem with this is, that while there are some conditions that absolutely need medication, there are others that could use practices of eastern medicine to address their issues, but are forced to spend an outrageous amount of money on healthcare because of lack of coverage for alternatives like acupuncture. The world is heading in the right direction with several insurance companies dropping coverage of opioids and picking up acupuncture as an accepted and effective treatment. An increase in coverage of acupuncture would be a step toward blending eastern and western medicine for cost-effective treatment for everyone.
How Does Acupuncture Help Us?
Today’s world is more stressful, anxious and depressed and there’s no doubt that acupuncture aids in that. Having long-term stress is annoying and has lasting effects on the body’s organs and immune system. We’re also at a much higher risk for developing other health issues like anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and more.
Acupuncture can remedy all of these stressors without the potential harmful side-effects of medications. Many believe that acupuncture treatment is painful and scary as it involves needles. In reality, it is quite painless and a good way to relax. Many patients even fall asleep during treatment. Acupuncturists use what they call meridians on the body which correspond with certain organs to release endorphins and serotonin to treat things like anxiety and stress providing instant relief.
Treatment can also alleviate things associated with stress like headaches, mental fogginess, lack of energy, inflammation, neck and back tension, and stress-induced cravings. Patients experience the effects of the treatment long after their visit and acupuncturists will usually provide an ongoing plan to maintain the patients sense of calm moving forward.
These acupuncture points are used most often for relaxation and de-stressing:
- Liver channel: LV3 Taichong-located at the top of the foot used to balance emotional energy, regulate menstruation, relieve pain in the chest, treat eye disorders, alleviate headaches, and reduce high blood pressure.
- Heart Channel: HT7 Shenmen-located on the outer side of the wrist and used to treat insomnia, nightmares, hysteria, depression, agitation and mental illness. Also, treatment for heart disease and fatigue.
- Urinary Bladder channel: BL40 Weizhong- located at the back of the knee and treats back, hip, leg, and abdominal pain along with nausea and other ailments.
- Small Intestine Channel: SI3 Houxi-located on the side of the hand and treats mental disorders and pain in the neck.
- Governing Vessel: GV20 Baihui-located at the top of the head and treats various mental disorders as well as headache and vertigo.
Stress and anxiety along with many other mental disorders are ramped in the modern world. As much as 77% of people in the workplace admit to experiencing the physical symptoms of stress. Acupuncture can and does deliver on these problems we’re facing, and leave each session feeling like a much better version of ourselves.
Where is the Proof?
There have been continuously more studies performed to evaluate the effects of acupuncture for a variety of ailments. Two studies in 2018 take a look at the effects of acupuncture on the two most common reasons patients seek out treatment, chronic pain and anxiety.
- The main goal of the study done in regards to chronic pain was to determine the effect of acupuncture for pain and function. Using data from 20,827 patients from 39 trials, they found acupuncture to be superior to sham acupuncture and no acupuncture at all. Additionally, they found evidence that the effects from the treatment persist over time with only small decrease of 15% at the one-year mark after the procedure. This study concluded that acupuncture is effective for treatment of chronic pain with effects persisting over time. There was no evidence found that pointed to the placebo effect causing the positive results.
- The second study took a look at published clinical trials examining acupuncture for anxiety. Although they found the results to be positive, this research has many limitations, including small sample sizes and limited ways to measure outcomes. Nonetheless, there is good scientific evidence for using acupuncture as a valid treatment therapy for anxiety bringing positive outcomes with little side effects.
Needless to say, although we still have a long way to go as far as research, the results are positive, and patients are starting to see and experience the benefits of acupuncture.
What Are You Waiting For?
In short, acupuncture meets the needs of today’s world. We’re more stressed, anxious, cutting costs, and addicted to painkillers. We’re looking for the easiest and best way to live and constantly searching for the “new.” Acupuncture is far from new being over a millennia old, but it has hit the ground running in recent years with the opioid epidemic in the US as well as patients fighting back for alternative care after not getting what they need from traditional western medicine treatments.
Acupuncture is pointing us toward the future of healthcare which involves a method for anyone to receive the best care possible. Why is acupuncture truly becoming mainstream? Well, everything said above is a tip of the iceberg as to why, but why take our word for it? Give it a try and see.