Anyone using Acupuncture for pain management?

First, the SDMB Disclaimer: I am soliciting personal opinions, experiences and suggestions. I am not soliciting definitive medical advice. I am not using the Straight Dope as a doctor. Please do not urge me to get off of the Internet and call a real doctor. This thread has been opened so that I can gather first-hand patient-based responses to the use of Acupuncture as a method of pain management, and so that others can learn about this treatment as well. M’kay?

Now then. Pain is entirely subjective, which makes its management a very tricky thing. I’m interested in trying acupuncture. Who has tried it, and to the limit of your comfort level in sharing such things with the entire planet, what is the source of the pain? Is the treatment useful? How often do you have to go for treatment to maintain a pain-free or pain-reduced lifestyle? Is it covered by your insurance? Are you supported by your Primary Care Physician in your choice to use this method of pain management?

I broke my L-3 in 2000. Since that moment, asleep or awake, I’ve got varying levels of pain. The pain is entirely centered around the site of the fracture, and does not radiate anywhere.

Would love to be pain free.

Opiates as an entire category are off the table. Similarly, Bextra Vioxx and Celebrex and such are off the table. That whole stroke/ heart attack thing. Acupuncture is appealing and so I open this thread by way of soliciting end-user patient responses.

Thank you in advance for posting your story.

I use it for TMJD. The acupuncture works both on the muscular disorder that causes the problem, as well as the pain. I was living with pain that made my whole head feel like it was being crushed in a vise.

I had tremendous relief after my first session. I really think it’s worth checking out. My first visit cost $100, and follow-up visits cost around $75. Some people can get their insurer to cover it.

I had a friend who was rabid about it, to the point of getting it for her pets. I have a lot of headaches and a hatred and fear of pain meds. I thought it was worth a shot, but went in assuming it would not be successful. My friend said it wouldn’t matter because it wasn’t a placebo effect.

I used a nurse practitioner who had a small spa-like office. I can’t remember if it was every other week or once a month. I think my insurance covered it, but I had a high deductible plan and didn’t submit it. In addition to the needles, she burned something and rubbed something hot over my sinuses. She also put magnets on my ears.

The thing she rubbed over my sinuses really helped my headache on the day of treatment. I can’t say if anything else had an effect at all. But I bleed at some of the points and I was really allergic to the glue she used with the magnets.

I noticed a pattern of debilitating headaches the following day, much worse than normal. I can’t say for sure that I was getting some sort of rebound headaches, but either way, a headache the next day wasn’t really better than what I was dealing with before, so I quit going. No reason to pay $60 bucks for less than a day of relief.

I also know of at least one person who felt that it worsened the symptoms of an autoimmune disorder. Apparently, increased pain is a thing. A google search finds that some call this a “healing crisis.” I wasn’t willing to wait it out to see if it got better in time.

If it works for you, that’s great. I didn’t think it would work, but I also didn’t think it would make anything worse. I just wanted to throw that possibility out there so you can go in better informed than I was.

I had about 8 sessions to treat pain from fibromyalgia. I found it ineffective.

Did your doctor ever have you use a TENS machine? It’s just a little machine with electrodes that you put on your muscles and gives you little electrical current to your muscle that you can control (the strength).

I never got prescribed one for my TMJD but one time when I was about to have a procedure - I think maybe braces - and my doc knew that it’d be hella painful for me to have my mouth open that long, he put the TENS on my jaw muscles and kind of…shocked them into submission. Until I was loose enough to have my jaw open for a long time.

My dad got prescribed a TENS machine for his back pain. He used it forever. It must have made him feel better since he used it so much! He stopped using it after he had surgery.

Anyway, the idea of acupuncture for TMJD reminded me of using the TENS for TMJD, and then for back pain, and I am wondering if TENS might be a similar but cheaper option for someone wanting to use acupuncture for pain. Or…a cheaper first step? Didn’t realize acupuncture was so expensive!

I own a TENS Unit that I bought in 2004 or so. When I’m having a very difficult day, I’ll use it for 2 or 3 10-minute cycles. It delivers very little relief, but since it has zero side-effects it is always worth trying.

It sounds like you had a crappy practitioner. It definitely pays to investigate them first. I got someone who doesn’t believe in woo. Her work relies on evidence-based Western medicine principles. I have never bled or had rebound pain.

No. Despite having seen many different kinds of medical practitioners for this problem, nobody has ever been willing to prescribe me a TENS unit. I don’t know why.

I don’t really see acupuncture as “expensive” because it improves more than just my TMJD, but also my neck/back/shoulder tension. I have also noticed it is stress-reducing. I am almost unable to feel anxiety about anything for a few days afterward (which is nice for someone who is chronically anxious). Once she got me out of regular/constant pain, I only need to go for follow-up visits, 1-2 times per month. Plus, it’s enjoyable for me. The effect is like a really good massage, only it lasts longer.

Not to mention, all the mainstream practitioners (including PT) did nothing to help me or improve my problem, but billed me and my insurance for many thousands of dollars. By comparison, acupuncture is cheap.

I’ll let you know next week!

I’m not an expert on this and I can’t give a “cite”, but I did hear about studies on acupuncture. They studied 3 different cohorts: those given “real” acupuncture, those given “sham” acupuncture, and those given no acupuncture.

Real acupuncture: using needles on the “real and correct” spots as dictated by the alleged meridians.
Sham acupuncture: using needles but intentionally not on the meridians and correct spots.
no acupuncture: they had created retracting needles that (somehow) stuck to the skin where they were placed. These retracting needles were placed on skin at random (i.e. not “real and correct”) places.

The results? All methods performed about equally.

You might also try googling “acupuncture simon singh”.