Acupuncture May Actually Work for Pain After All

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"The problem with acupuncture is that it doesn't last very long; it's like taking a pill," said Dr. Joshua Prager, a board-certified pain specialist at UCLA. "I do see it as something worth trying, but it only works in a small percentage of my patients."

Dr. Doris Cope, director of pain medicine at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, agrees that "by itself it rarely, in my patients, is 100 percent effective or long-lasting, requires multiple visits and time commitment and often patients find lack of insurance coverage as a practical barrier."

Additionally, Medicaid and Medicare often do not cover therapies such as acupuncture, so patients may end up having to pay out-of-pocket.

"Overall, [this review] is still far from being the final word," said Dr. Brent Bauer from the Mayo Clinic.

Still, the researchers do not advocate for replacing mainstream pain management with acupuncture, but instead stress that it should be used in conjunction with other therapies.

And for some like Fran Zierler, whose unbearable pain lasted for years before she started acupuncture, adding this therapy might make a big difference.

"[It was] a miracle," Zierler said. "An absolute miracle."

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