Do you tell your doctor that you get acupuncture and how it helps you? Seeking acupuncture for chronic back or joint pain is common nowadays, but most people don’t mention it to their doctors. A study published in The American Journal of Managed Care in July 2015 found through surveys that a majority of people in an HMO were using acupuncture and/or chiropractic care irrespective of their insurance coverage in order to manage chronic musculoskeletal pain. 35% of acupuncture users did not however discuss this care with their doctors at all and it wasn’t in their medical records.
When we are working with patients who have chronic pain, it is a routine question to ask them what medicine they take to control symptoms. More often than not, patients reply with, “My doctor prescribed muscle relaxers (and/or narcotics or strong NSAIDS) but I don’t take them because of the side effects.” Which is why they are now at Triangle Acupuncture Clinic’s office instead of feeling better. However, the loop is usually left hanging open as patients don’t go back to their doctor to let them know they got better with acupuncture, not with the medications that were prescribed.
On the other side of that scenario, when a patient does take prescribed painkillers for their pain, we have an enormous problem very close to home. In a study that came out this year, researchers show that one out of every three opioid prescriptions is being abused. In the report, North Carolina showed up 4 times in the top 25 worst cities for opioid abuse in the United States. Wilmington ranked #1, Hickory #5, Jacksonville #12 and Fayetteville #18. Heroin deaths in North Carolina have skyrocketed more than 584% as people turn to cheaper and in some cases more easily obtained means to continue their addiction to opioids that began innocently with a quest for pain relief. These are staggering statistics that should wake us all up. While you can point your finger at doctors and drug companies, what really needs to change is for there to be more acceptable options - such as acupuncture - for doctors to utilize instead of defaulting to writing a prescription for addictive drugs.
Here in the Triangle we are lucky to live in a progressive area where many doctors are open to the benefits of acupuncture. Many know that acupuncture not only relieves pain but it helps the tissues and joints heal, something painkillers can’t do. But many doctors don’t have first hand experience with acupuncture and need to be exposed to its benefits, and this is where you come in. Lend your voice and make sure you let your doctors know how much you value acupuncture and what it’s done for you. If more patients reported back that they didn’t like or need their pain meds but acupuncture really made a difference, more doctors will recommend the acupuncture option to their patients. And maybe if we spread the word about acupuncture far enough, North Carolina won’t make next year’s list of opioid abuse at all.