Stephen Newman of Cleveland, Ohio has for years dealt with two rare and painful conditions. Ankylosing Spondylitis is an inflammatory arthritis of the spine, and common variable immunodeficiency, which is an inherited immune disorder. Both conditions bring with them painful side effects, which Stephen had been dealing with since his teens—back then, he was told it was probably merely growing pains.
But the pain continued into adulthood. Primarily, Stephen had been treating the discomfort with prescription painkillers. Additionally, he received infusions of antibodies to support his weak immune system.
Of the medications, Stephen said: "They don't address the underlying cause, so I was still in pain and the damage is being done from the inflammation and autoimmune disorder It was only treating the surface symptom.”
Eventually, Stephen tried acupuncture. "Once I started doing the acupuncture and everything to treat the underlying cause, that's when I really started to get better…my doctors can't believe how well I'm doing now." Acupuncture has helped Stephen so much that his immune disorder recently went into remission.
Hopefully, there will be many more Stephens out there in the future who turn to acupuncture to treat pain and discomfort rather than rely on opioids. In Ohio, Medicaid has recently expanded to cover acupuncture treatments after an opioid task force determined that additional treatments be available for people dealing with chronic pain.
The trend appears to be going in the right direction. According to government surveys, 1 in 67 people say they get acupuncture every year; it may not seem like a lot, but that’s up from 1 in 91 people just a decade ago.
“We have a really serious problem here,” said Dr. Mary Applegate, medical director for Ohio’s Medicaid department. “If it’s proven to be effective, we don’t want to have barriers in the way of what could work.”
The evidence is certainly showing that acupuncture does work, and is much safer than opioids for treating pain.