Chronic pain is a truly miserable plight. A bad back, aching joints, post-operative pain — any of these conditions has the power to drain the joy out of daily life.
However, opioid pain medications have become the problem instead of the solution. Sadly, Matt Mannegia, owner of Connecticut Family Acupuncture in West Hartford and Bolton, speaks from devastating personal experience.
His older brother, Billy, fought and lost a long battle with heroin addiction. The entire family did their best to support and encourage his recovery. His brother fought valiantly, checking into countless detox and rehabilitation programs.
But the power of Billy’s addiction to opiates was almost unfathomable.
“I watched my big brother gradually transform into nothing less than a slave to heroin,” said Maneggia. “While the pain, shame, and regret our family dealt with was excruciating, I can only imagine how agonizing those feelings were for Billy.”
During National Pain Awareness Month in September, Maneggia wants people and medical professionals to shift their thinking from prescribing addictive medications to using one of the most effective natural treatments: Acupuncture.
“My path to acupuncture practice was largely a consequence of my brother’s tragedy,” explained Maneggia.
“I had watched Billy be bounced from medication to medication and referred from specialist to specialist. I saw firsthand the failings and limitations of modern medicine when it comes to treating chronic pain. I knew there had to be a better way.”
Why acupuncture? Acupuncture causes the brain to pump out a bunch of “feel-good” neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. These naturally produced brain chemicals actually have pain-relieving properties similar to morphine.
Endorphins not only make a person feel nice and relaxed, they bind to pain receptors to block pain signals. Acupuncture also dilates blood vessels, increasing blood flow to get all that good stuff where it needs to go.
Acupuncture excels at treating almost any type of pain, both chronic and acute. It is used for everything from headaches to gastritis, from arthritis to neuropathy.
An acupuncture treatment is simple, safe and extremely effective. Unlike hypodermic needles, acupuncture needles are so tiny you can fit 8-10 of the needles into the hole of a common hypodermic needle. They are sterile and disposed of after each use.
The sensation can vary, with some people reporting a light pressure, tingling, or warmth- but it’s never a sharp pain like you feel with a hypodermic needle.
Once the needles are inserted, the patient relaxes on a massage table for about 30-40 minutes.
“For a long time physicians would roll their eyes when patients inquired about acupuncture treatment, but many doctors are starting to come around to recognizing the benefits,” states Maneggia. “In fact, our practice now receives handfuls of unsolicited referrals from doctors every week.”
And although many health insurance policies now cover acupuncture, with some states even mandating coverage for acupuncture, recently some major insurance providers have drastically slashed the level of acupuncture reimbursement in their policies.
Maneggia believes this is short-sighted and has been advocating for insurance companies to expand their coverage of this safe and completely non-addictive form of pain treatment. “As anybody can see, the cumulative long-term expense of opiate addiction is devastating for public health. And here I use the word ‘expense’ only in the monetary sense of the word.
The psychological and emotional expense of opiate addiction to individuals and families is beyond measure.”
For those who suffer from addiction, acupuncture has been used as a treatment for drug and alcohol detoxification in the U.S. for over 30 years.
National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) formed a protocol of 5 specific acupuncture points on the ear. This protocol is used at over 250 hospitals in the U.S. and the U.K. and over 700 addiction treatment centers to help people withdraw from drugs and alcohol.
The endorphins released from the protocol mirror the effects of the synthetic opioids the body is so used to having and is craving. Basically, these endorphins bind to the same receptors that the heroin or Vicodin or Oxycontin were binding to. This significantly reduces the intensity of the craving for the drug and eases the transition from being an active user to being clean and sober.
Additionally, many of the withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, insomnia, muscle aches and digestive disturbances are relieved by acupuncture.
“The best use of acupuncture in the current opioid epidemic is using it preventative as a first-choice, go-to treatment for any type of pain,” concludes Maneggia. “It just makes sense to encourage patients to explore non-addictive forms of pain treatment.”
Since 2007, Connecticut Family Acupuncture has utilized acupuncture, TCM work, cupping, and naturopathic medicine to help thousands of people realize their optimum health naturally, without the use of pharmaceutical or surgical interventions.
All practitioners exceed state and national requirements for licensure in acupuncture combined with an extensive knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
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