There is evidence that chronic pain has negative effects on physical and psychological health, daily activity, employment and economic wellbeing. For example, in the United Kingdom, it has been estimated that back pain leads to 45 million working days being lost each year (REFRNC). Furthermore, the National Health Service (NHS) spends substantial funds on the treatment of chronic pain; in 1991 the Office of Health Economics estimated an NHS expenditure on this of £1 billion per year.
Patients with such conditions also often seek help from complementary and alternative medicine, which is a recent phenomenon in the West. As the number of patient consultations for such medication rises rapidly, there has been an increased interest in non-pharmacological modulation and its efficacy. Such treatments include traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), in particular acupuncture, which can provide analgesia for chronic pain. For instance, patients who suffer from peripheral joint osteoarthritis and neck pain have ta...
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...gesia, but that it may be helped by the body’s own pain reduction system as it stimulates the release of endorphins, enkephalins and serotonin, as well as GABA.
The position of acupuncture has been strengthened by the detection of both endorphins and enkephalins. Many experiments on humans and animals have shown that acupuncture causes the release of endorphins and enkephalins, directing opiates into different areas of the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system.
The side effects of acupuncture which have been identified are nerve injury, brain damage, kidney damage and pneumothorax. However, the risk of these complications can be avoided by proper training of acupuncturists and by the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques. There is evidence that MRI can identify the CNS pathways which acupuncture stimulates (GUIDELINES).
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