Pain management is a big issue these days. With many people developing drug dependencies from using prescribed opioids to help with pain, doctors are prescribing these medications less and less, leading patients to look for other, more natural options to treat their pain.

Acupuncture is growing in popularity around the country because of its success with pain management. Though it’s been around for thousands of years — originating in China — it wasn’t introduced to the United States until the 1800s. In earlier times, before needles existed, sharp stones or bones were used.

It is believed in ancient Chinese medicine that disease is caused by disruptions in the flow of energy through the body. The energy flowing can be channeled to create balance and health. This energy flow is called qi (pronounced “chee”). The qi moves through 12 main channels in the body known as meridians. Each meridian represents different organs and functions of the body. Acupuncture is said to help unblock those energy flow disruptions causing disease and increase natural healing throughout the body. This works by sticking very thin needles into specific points in the body to help stimulate the meridian channel for specific organs or functions that need help.

Pain management and disease are not the only things acupuncture is good for. It can help heal sports and other injuries or bring balance to women’s hormones. It is also often used to treat a variety of ailments including stress, anxiety, insomnia or depression. And it can increase the body’s ability to self-heal or improve the body’s natural functions. Acupuncture can improve circulation, increase endorphins and help release anti-inflammatory compounds. Even people with migraines or weight issues have had success by being treated with acupuncture. The options are endless.

Of course, acupuncture might not be for everyone. Specifically, if you have a metal allergy, a bleeding disorder, immune disorders or a skin infection at the site where the acupuncture needles may be placed. It is always a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure you are a good candidate for this treatment. It is also advised not to operate heavy machinery right after an appointment, as many patients can become tired or drowsy.

But what if you’re afraid of needles or really sensitive to pain? Most acupuncturists will agree the needles are not as intimidating as a hypodermic needle used to give a person a shot, or even a tattoo needle. Most acupuncture needles used are almost hair-like. So thin, in fact, that they don’t usually even break the skin — they slide in between skin cells. All acupuncture needles are FDA approved and are packaged sterile for individual use. When inserted into the skin, the depth at which they are inserted is anywhere from one-quarter to one inch.

The sensation of the needle inserted can vary from person to person and even vary by where it is placed on the body. It has been described anywhere from a slightly tingling or warm sensation, to a pinch or a dull ache. Usually after the needle has been removed, many people claim a feeling of relief. Depending on the ailment you are trying to treat, acupuncture can work in as little as one appointment, or many, but usually weekly or monthly appointments are recommended for treatment.

Acupuncture treatments can cost anywhere from $50 to $100 per appointment. Many insurance companies cover all or a portion of acupuncture and most offices accept flexible spending account debit cards for payments.

Keene and the surrounding areas have a number of acupuncture businesses, including two that are currently accepting new patients during the pandemic:

Basic Balance, PLLC, Acupuncture and Asian Healing Arts, with Allison Millar, BS, MS, L.Ac. Basic Balance also offers acupuncture for facial rejuvenation, which can show some cosmetic, hormonal and sinus benefits. The office is located at 67 Winter St. (second floor) in Keene. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (603) 721-9388 or email allison_lac@basicbalancekeene.com.

Five Element Acupuncture, LLC, with Pamela Bys, RN, BNS, L.Ac. Bys has had success in treating many ailments in people of all ages — sports injuries, panic attacks, chronic illnesses and different pain issues, among them. The office is located at 800 Park Ave., Suite 114, Keene. For more information, to check if acupuncture is accepted by your insurance or to make an appointment, call (603) 369-7965 or email pamelabys@gmail.com.