Why Pain is Necessary

By Bill Reddy, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.

People FEAR pain. To make matters worse, the stress from pain will make it feel more intense. Consider taking a step back and asking yourself why pain is necessary for survival? When a caveman fell and struck his elbow on a rock, his first reaction was to cradle it in his opposite hand – to protect it. If the injury is severe enough, chronic pain will result. This pain is a reminder to avoid further injury to the joint.

Pain in today's modern society is still necessary and protective – you immediately pull the thorn from your foot and disinfect it well before infection sets in. So what about that old shoulder injury from college football? Must you be continually reminded to take it easy? In the past three decades, there have been many advances in allopathic (Western) medicine in researching the etiology (cause) and pathogenesis (development) of pain syndromes; but there has been remarkably little advancement in ways to manage chronic pain beyond opiates, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxants. None of these medications will resolve chronic pain. This is where acupuncture shines. The reason why pain remains long after we're healed is due to a neurotransmitter called substance P, which is responsible for sending pain signals to your brain, increasing in that neural pathway (the shoulder for instance).

Acupuncture has been shown through randomized controlled trials (RCTs), the "gold standard" in medical research, to reduce substance P and resolve the root cause of chronic pain. Physicians are frustrated by patients suffering with chronic pain due to their inability to treat the cause; they can only address the symptoms. There are over 16,000 deaths and 60,000 hospitalizations per year due to the use of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as Advil or Motrin. In comparison, the number of deaths due to acupuncture and oriental medicine in the past year in this country is zero. Acupuncture is one of the oldest known healing modalities on the planet; and one of the best suited for chronic pain management, supported by the World Health Organization. To find an acupuncturist near you, go to www.NCCAOM.org and click on "Find a Practitioner."

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