Regular readers to our blog know that, in addition to noting recent court decisions involving workers’ compensation matters in Pennsylvania, we also try to keep injured workers informed about any developments in diagnosing or treating work injuries. Along these lines, one of the frequent topics we blog on is pain, and how it can be relieved. We’ve looked at what methods may be coming in the future, and at other possible contributions to pain.
We have also discussed acupuncture in the past. This treatment method has always been controversial, perhaps even more so in the workers’ compensation setting. Like chiropractic treatment, acupuncture is frequently met by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier with Utilization Review (to challenge whether the treatment is “reasonable and necessary”). According to a recent article published on the website of the International Anesthesia Research Society, there is proof that acupuncture actually can help with certain physical ailments, including post-operative pain, and chronic pain.
This article cited various studies, where acupuncture was tested against a placebo (sort of faked acupuncture). In at least one of these controlled studies, it was definitively shown that “acupuncture is more effective than placebo.” This result led the authors of that study to conclude that, “acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable treatment option.” In fact, at least one study showed that the difference between acupuncture and placebo is similar to the difference between medication and placebo, in relieving pain with arthritic knee conditions.
There were some studies, however, which cast doubt on whether acupuncture provides actual pain relief. Given the fact that acupuncture has far fewer side effects than other treatment options, such as medications, and there are studies demonstrating the value of acupuncture in relieving chronic pain as well as these other methods, there seems little reason why injured workers in Pennsylvania would not try acupuncture as a method of managing their chronic pain.