Q: . I have been in quite severe pain in my back and also my stomach area due to scoliosis. The pain killers the doctors given me for the last 4 odd years make me drowsy and constipated. Would acupuncture ease my pain and what kind of price am I to expect for treatment. I'm a student single mother so this worrys me.
A: The use of acupuncture for pain relief has a long and interesting history. After President Nixon visited China in the 1970s and the world saw acupuncture being used for operations it started a huge amount of research into acupuncture for pain relief. Fortunately the markers for pain relief, the release of the body's own endorphins and enkephalins, are very easily measured, and it was soon established that treatment could stimulate the release of these. Many Pain Clinics now use acupuncture as a standard treatment, and the main question is usually not whether it works but the extent to which it works and how sustainable the results might be.
As you have probably already worked out, the answer can eventually become a financial one - if treatment works for a week, is it possible to keep paying weekly for treatment? For someone with deep pockets and a need to be at work this might be a worthwhile deal, but for someone on a tight budget this could price it out of reach. Many of our members feel quite strongly that acupuncture treatment should not be a middle class preserve, and following a model set up in the States have opened multibed clinics where treatment is offered in a groups setting with three or four couches in a large room for a very much lower fee. The normal safeguards apply for dignity and privacy, but obviously this is not quite the same as being in a private space. For many people, though, this is a good deal, and a list of these clinics can be found here http://www.acmac.net/ on the website of a special interest group set up to develop this concept.
There is also every chance that most BAcC members will be prepared to offer a fee reduction in circumstances of need. Obviously we don't openly advertise this because it always leads to people who can well afford treatment starting to bargain us down, but I am not aware of many colleagues who have not treated someone as cheaply as they can because they recognise a case of genuine need. This is far easier for those with their own treatment space - if you are renting on a sessional basis you have to cover the overhead - but asking costs nothing.
The only caveat is that problems like scoliosis are generally not fully fixable, however good the treatment is, and it pays to be realistic about the outcomes. Most people we have seen are mainly concerned with managing the pain rather than looking for dramatic change, but it is always really important to be clear about outcomes when dealing with a chronic and potentially irreversible condition. However, we are confident that if you could reduce your reliance on painkillers you would probably be well pleased; being permanently tired and constipated is not much fun.
That said, sometimes the best and unexpected happens, as here