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Acupuncture has been in practice for thousands of years, but its benefits are gradually gaining popularity, as people consciously choose treatments that do not involve medications. Turning out to be a safe, medication-free option, numerous studies have shown that acupuncture is effective in relieving knee pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain and neck pain. As the world continues to adapt to the 'new normal' brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, work from home schedules are leading to a rise in cases involving lower back pain, hip pain, and stiffness in the neck and shoulders. Though prescribed pain medications or OTC (over-the-counter) medications can bring some pain relief, they mostly treat the symptoms without treating the actual cause of the pain. Acupuncture works by regulating the energy within the body and can be a safe bet for those who are suffering from bone- or muscle-related pain.
As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), one out of every six persons in India suffers from some form of arthritis. This roughly accounts for 15-17 per cent of the entire population. Apart from arthritis, back pain affects another 25-30 per cent of people in India and musculoskeletal disorders account for a further 20-25 per cent of chronic pain that affects the nerves, tendons, joints, muscles, and ligaments. To add to the woes, the International Osteoporosis Foundation reports that almost 50 million people in the country are vulnerable to fractures. As compared to westerners, the bone mineral levels in Indians are 15 per cent lower, which can lead to early fractures.
The existing pain prevalence in the Indian population has been further exaggerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bone health of our nation's population is taking a beating as people continue to spend more time indoors. Lack of activity, changing lifestyle, poor posture, inadequate workspace inside the home, and Vitamin D deficiency are all causing multiple bone problems across different age groups. The youth are especially vulnerable to Osteoarthritis, or Degenerative Joint Disease, as nearly 30 million of them are either overweight or obese. With India having the world's largest youth population, this comes as a big worry as they'll continue to bear the disability and pain way longer.
Acupuncture is an alternative treatment form that uses thin needles which are inserted at specific points on the body to different depths. When the needles are well-placed, they can trigger the release of neurotransmitters also known as enkephalins and endorphins, which reduce the pain sensation. Research has also proved that when an acupuncture needle is inserted, it helps in the production of cortisol that controls inflammation.
From 1974 to 2018, a total of 43 studies on the benefits of acupuncture were conducted and the review of the studies was published in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. It was concluded that when used alone or in combination with various other treatment procedures, acupuncture can be useful for rheumatoid arthritis and improves the overall quality of life. Also, as per NIH's (National Institute of Health) consensus statement released in 1997, acupuncture, when combined with a comprehensive treatment procedure, helped in relieving pain resulting from osteoarthritis, myofascial pain, and fibromyalgia.
The World Health Organisation in 2003 came out with a list of conditions where acupuncture can bring positive results. Some of the conditions listed are:
How much a person can benefit from acupuncture depends on the severity of the condition. Usually, a number of acupuncture therapy sessions are required to get the desired benefits. However, it is always recommended to find an experienced, licensed practitioner to administer acupuncture therapy, as needles in the wrong places can lead to further complications.
(The article is contributed by Dr Vinoda Kumary, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jindal Naturecure Institute
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