Surgery is a serious, painful business, even when successful, and managing your recovery can be as delicate and important as the procedure itself. Currently, the use of opioids is the most broadly accepted way to treat postoperative pain, but the benefits of these drugs come with a host of side effects that range from the unpleasantness of nausea and itchiness, to the danger of addiction. Luckily, acupuncture is steadily emerging as an alternative and supplementary treatment to postoperative pain, minimizing opioid side effects and jump-starting the body’s natural mechanisms for recovery.

How traditional pain management falls short

When your body is in pain, your nerves transmit this information to your spinal cord and brain by releasing neurotransmitters. Opioids work by binding to these neurotransmitter receptors, preventing your nervous system from sending and receiving these chemical messages. The trouble is, popular opioids like morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone and fentanyl, often have side effects. These commonly include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • drowsiness
  • itchiness
  • constipation

In addition, opioid usage over time can lead to increased tolerance, which requires people who have a long recovery ahead of them to take larger and larger doses for effective pain management. In certain cases, this can lead to dependence, not to mention the additional medley of drugs that often need to be taken to treat the side effects of the pain medication itself.

And pain is not the sole concern. Often in the aftermath of surgery, lingering pain, prolonged hospitalization, immobility and other types of bodily discomfort can undermine sleep patterns, immunity, and other elements of your body’s efforts to heal and return to its normal rhythms.

How acupuncture can help

With its long history as an effective painkiller, muscle relaxant and nausea-reducer, acupuncture is a logical replacement or accompaniment to more traditional postoperative treatment plans. Not only has it been consistently observed in clinical trials and medical literature to reduce pain directly, but when used in concert with opioids, it’s been shown to decrease patients’ reliance on them overall, lowering their required dosages and time spent taking the drugs after surgery.

Beyond pain reduction itself, acupuncture’s benefits for postoperative patients are often cited as holistic and cumulative, from decreasing stress pre- and post-surgery (many practitioners recommend asking for ear seeds to prolong the positive effects of a pre-surgery acupuncture session), boosting your immune system during long hospital stays, minimizing drug side-effects, and even reducing internal and external scarring.

Consistently cited as having little to no negative side effects itself, many doctors are embracing acupuncture’s benefits and recommending its inclusion in postoperative care–even if researchers are still studying how the science supports acupuncture’s results.

Why wait? If you are suffering from postoperative pain or discomfort and looking to decrease your reliance on opioid painkillers, get in touch to see how acupuncture can help.

Our Acupuncturist, Andrea Gurciullo, LAc, MTOM has over 20 years in clinical practice and has successfully treated thousands of patients. Her expertise includes acupuncture and sports medicine as well as post operative pain and rehabilitation. Feel free to call and or email her with any questions… [email protected] or call 973-744-2770

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