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Acupuncture: A promising, and local option to the opioid crisis

What's Your Beef?

Thursday Dec. 1st, 2016

In a Bozeman Daily Chronicle article published on October 21, 2016 Mike Cotter, U.S. attorney for the district of Montana, reminded us that Montana is not immune to the current national opioid crisis and expressed hope for developing solutions to the problem. The crisis is multi-faceted and includes over-prescribing opioids for pain management, amelioration of drug side-effects, the propensity for addiction and abuse, and the escalation to the use of illicit drugs like heroine. Acupuncture is one of the more promising solutions both for addressing pain and as part of a comprehensive strategy to treat addiction. The Joint Commission is the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care which evaluates, accredits and certifies more than 21,000 hospitals, health care organizations and programs in the United States. Recently, The Joint Commission updated its Pain Management Standard to include acupuncture as an effective non-pharmacological strategy for managing pain.

Acupuncture’s analgesic effects are well documented. A 2012 meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association evaluated acupuncture for the treatment of chronic pain in 17,922 people suffering from a variety of painful conditions. The authors concluded, “Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option.” Acupuncture reduces or eliminates the need for opioids and other addictive drugs by stimulating the production of the body’s own “endogenous opioids” like endorphins (responsible for the “runner’s high”) and natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Acupuncture also plays an important role in addiction treatment. Though not proven as a standalone treatment, acupuncture is used as an adjunctive therapy in an estimated 700 addiction treatment centers.

Acupuncture’s holistic approach can be leveraged to treat pain without the risk of addiction or side effects, help ease the road to addiction recovery, and enhance overall health and well-being. Many insurance companies cover acupuncture especially when applied to chronic pain.

The Montana Association for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine participates in the annual Montana Pain Initiative Conference and is dedicated to continued solutions-based collaboration. Fortunately, Bozeman is home to many of the state’s 100 licensed acupuncturists. That means anyone suffering with pain and seeking an alternative to prescription pills has plenty of options to find a practitioner who is a good fit for them.

Acupuncture by any other name is not the same. Licensed Acupuncturists in Montana hold a minimum of a Masters Degree, are governed by the Board of Medical Examiners, and have passed national boards administered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. You can find some of your local practitioners at montanamaaom.org    

Angela Kociolek, L.Ac. and Lauren Oechsli, L.Ac. are Licensed Acupuncturists (L.Ac.) practicing in Bozeman and are active members of Montana Association for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.