Avera Medical Minute: Using acupuncture to help relieve pain

MARSHALL, MN Some may think that if they're afraid of needles, acupuncture isn't right. But one woman in Marshall, MN, Abby Ahmann, overcame her fears to get relief from the pain she was experiencing.

"Scared to death. I am deathly afraid of needles. I will pass out at the site of a needle," Ahmann said.

She never thought she would seek out acupuncture treatment. But, after suffering severe post-surgical pain, she decided it could be a good fit.
She had shoulder surgery in October and didn't want to take opioids for the pain anymore. So, she decided to visit Dr. Josh Bruning.

"After the first one, I thought, 'Well, okay.' The second one I came in and that was the one that really kind of sold me because both of my shoulders really hurt that day that I came in, and when he was done taking care of just the left side, which is where I had surgery, the left side felt very relaxed and the right side still really hurt. So, that was my moment of, this really does work," Ahmann said.

Dr. Bruning uses acupuncture to stimulate the nervous system. That releases chemicals to promote natural healing.

"What we found out through research is that you can attenuate that pain response a half by having that needle in there for a long period of time. So, basically you are mixing one response with another one and confusing the signal," Dr. Bruning said.

Not only did Abby have shoulder pain, she also had lower back pain after throwing out her back earlier this winter.

"I spent a good day laying on the floor on my back and for that four to five weeks before I had the acupuncture, I really couldn't walk very far distances. Sitting or standing hurt. I was taking a lot of over-the-counter pain meds to try and manage the pain. So, I was pretty limited of what I could do just on the pain perspective," she said.

But after only two treatments, Abby is now able to sit and walk without pain. Acupuncture isn't just for muscle pain. It can help with headaches and with the effects of chemotherapy as well.

"Chemotherapy is hard on the body. It is, but the acupuncture is proven to decrease that nausea response afterwards. I'd say just anecdotally in office here, I've been able to show a 40 to 50% reduction in those symptoms in office," Dr. Bruning said.

Abby is now telling her friends to consider the possibilities of those needles.

"I've actually referred several people, who have had problems to have acupuncture and have shared most people know I'm afraid of needles. So, I like to share my story and say if I can do it, anybody can do it," she said.

Dr. Bruning said he uses between 5 and 20 needles during a patient's visit, but it all depends on each specific case. For each case, the needles will remain in place for around 10 to 20 minutes while you relax.