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November 28, 2017

AIMC Event: Acupuncture as an Alternative to Opioid Overuse Dr. Kazunori Itoh


At Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine College (AIMC), Berkeley, we host workshops and events every month to further educate acupuncture students, licensed acupuncturists, and the local community about holistic health & integrative medicine. In order to broaden our knowledge about modern health topics, we often enlist the help of outside researchers and teachers. A myofascial pain specialist and researcher, Dr. Kazunori Itoh, came and spoke about using trigger point therapy and a holistic approach to treat pain in the modern world.
Today, the overuse of opioids to treat pain has become so dangerous that on October 26th, 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency. AIMC recognizes this problem and believes that acupuncture for pain management is a better option than prescription pain medications, which can be addictive and dangerous, so we offered a seminar to help educate our community.

How Did We Get Here?

The rise of the opioid epidemic began with the over-prescription of these highly addictive medications. According to the CDC, at one point in 2017 more than 17% of Americans had at least one opioid prescription filled. Since then, healthcare institutions have made a conscious effort to curtail the prescription of these addicting painkillers.
Unfortunately, due to its cheaper cost and accessibility, many addicts turn to illegal opioids like heroin. Many cite the prescription of painkillers as the gateway drug that pushed them toward heroin and over 80% of heroin users previously used prescription painkillers.

Acupuncture As an Alternative

With the decrease in painkiller prescriptions and the epidemic warning people about the addictive nature of many kinds of drugs, a new approach to pain relief is needed. This need has created a new awareness in alternative pain management care like acupuncture & traditional chinese medicine.
Acupuncture can be a safe, effective, and non-pharmacological treatment for the management of various types of acute and chronic pain. Acupuncture has even proven successful as a pain management tool by the U.S. Military and the Veterans Administration.
Not only can acupuncture relieve pain and help avoid unnecessary opiate prescriptions, it is also useful to combat the epidemic of addiction. Today, according to a study on Acupuncture therapy for drug addiction, 700 addiction centers offer acupuncture as an alternative and/or adjudicative therapy. In treating addiction specifically, acupuncture has been shown to ease symptoms of withdrawal by reducing cravings, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. This is most effective when used in addition to a holistic healing approach that includes counseling, therapy, and mental health education.
Japanese and Chinese acupuncture banner

Seminar With Dr. Kazunori Itoh

AIMC Berkeley’s training seminar by myofascial pain specialist, Dr. Kazunori Itoh of Meiji International Medical University in Japan focused on using alternative treatments for pain as a solution to the opioid crisis. Dr. Itoh shared his expertise and treatment strategies for how to treat musculoskeletal and myofascial pain with acupuncture using trigger points and brain-balancing points.
Dr. Itoh explained that trigger points are not just tender points, which is a common misunderstanding. In simple terms, these are “hyperirritable spots” on the body that are painful on compression and often give rise to referred and recurring pain. They have identifiable characteristics, some of which are taut bands and/or local twitch responses (LTR).

Treating Hyperirritable Spots

The approach we learned from Dr. Itoh is gentle and precisely on point. He first locates trigger points and needles at an angle without causing muscle damage. This results in safe, effective, and long-lasting pain relief for the patient. The practitioner can easily check whether the acupuncture treatment was successful by simply testing the range of motion of the involved muscles after the treatment.
Dr. Itoh explained that the recurrence of pain can be best prevented by a “lifestyle approach” to health, applying integrative medicine methods like Yojo therapy. Yojo is well-known for its balanced approach of integrating:
– Acupuncture
Moxibustion
– Meditation
– Physical exercise
– Yoga
– Attention to diet
– Aromatherapy
– Esthetics
– Living according to the seasons

Treating the Cause

Dr. Itoh’s research has led to the creation of a comprehensive acupuncture treatment for chronic low back, neck pain and fibromyalgia, which is a condition of widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by muscle stiffness, fatigue, functional impairment, and insomnia.
He shared that a combination of certain acupuncture points on the limbs, face, scalp, and ears have a brain-balancing effect that relieves fibromyalgia pain rather than using just a single acupuncture modality alone, e.g. auricular acupuncture.
Rather than addressing symptoms of pain, it is worth the time to find the cause and treat it as a whole. Patients today are looking for holistic options that can treat the body, mind, and spirit. As future acupuncture professionals, we owe it to our patients and ourselves to create holistic healing treatments that address the cause of their symptoms.

Why It Works

A holistic approach to pain is a much more effective treatment. Acupuncture eliminates the dangers of over-reliance on drugs and can treat more than one symptom. In 2012, conventional practices wrote over 259 million prescriptions for opioids. This has resulted in the over-prescription of opioids and the current public health emergency.
Acupuncture is now being recommended by many western medical clinics today as an alternative to pharmaceuticals like opioids. The American College of Physicians recommends acupuncture as an alternative pain management treatment for low back pain before pain medications are prescribed.

Discover Your Own Path as a Healer

For future workshops and events, please check our website. AIMC Berkeley offers many different seminars throughout the year, some of which are open to the public as well as our students.
If you are struggling with unresolved pain, call our clinic to schedule your own acupuncture appointment and see what treatments may be recommended.
*{All services provided by student interns supervised by a licensed practitioner.}

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