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Many patients try all types of pain relief options before resorting to surgery. A question that is frequently asked in my clinic is, “Can acupuncture prevent me from having surgery?” The answer to this question is not always a simple one.

The purpose of surgery in most cases are due to traumatic injury and to relieve pain. If acupuncture can provide long lasting pain relief, surgery usually isn’t necessary. For example, if a patient comes in twice a week for acupuncture treatments and only has a few hours of pain relief after each treatment, that may be an indication that surgical intervention is necessary. If a patient comes in twice a week for an acupuncture treatment and they have days of pain relief following each treatment that is a positive sign the surgery is not necessary. That being said, acupuncture works on functional medicine not structural medicine. There may be a structural issue in the body that cannot be fixed with acupuncture alone.

How many treatments will it take until I see improvement?

The rate of improvement depends on many different factors such as the age of a patient, the severity of the pain, the severity of the injury, and the duration of the pain. Acupuncture has a cumulative effect. Just like meditation or exercise, you cannot expect to receive acupuncture a few times and see the full benefit. We should see steady improvement with each subsequent treatment. There are also different phases of care that a patient must go through to see the best results.

Phase 1: Our goal is to get your pain down to a more manageable level in phase 1 (acute care phase). In this phase it is suggested that patients come in for treatments 1-2 times per week until pain level becomes lower.

Phase 2: Our goal in this phase of treatment is to get a patient’s pain level as low as possible. During this phase patients usually come into the office once a week or once every other week.

Phase 3: During this phase of care patients routinely come in for treatments once a month or as needed to make sure their pain level stays low.

What other therapies are used during an acupuncture treatment?

Many acupuncturists offer additional modalities to help relieve pain. Here are some examples:

  • Herbal liniments – Herbal liniments such as Dit Da Jiao or Zheng Gu Shui are made with pain relieving and healing herbs that can speed up the recovery process.
  • Acupuncture Point Injection Therapy – Depending on what state you live in, some acupuncturists are certified to give injections. The most commonly used injections are as B-12 and homeopathic solutions.
  • Cupping – Cupping uses suction which provides a myo-fascial (muscle and connective tissue) release.
  • Chinese medical massage – Tui na uses other techniques and hand movements that are not utilized in traditional massage.
  • Moxibustion – Moxibustion provides heat therapy using the dried mugwort plant. To learn more about moxibustion check out our other blog post!

What if I do not see improvements after consistent acupuncture treatments?

If all modalities have been exhausted and we still do not see improvement then it can be an indication that surgery is necessary to reduce pain. Please consult with your primary care physician or specialist about how to proceed with your treatment.

Did we answer your question, “Can acupuncture prevent surgery?” Leave us a comment below and let us know!

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