Acupuncture Offers Alternative Treatment for Chronic Pain

October 17th, 2018
Ira Kutner, Acupuncture Physician, in his office at the Rosomoff Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center at Miami Jewish Health.

Ask Ira Kutner about needles and he uses words like “filiform.” When he talks about health, he discusses things like “body balance” and “natural healing.”

Step into his office at the Rosomoff Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center at Miami Jewish Health and you’re likely to whiff the cloying scent of exotic Chinese herbs. It’s here, using acupuncture, that Kutner helps those in chronic pain regain control of their lives.

“People usually see an acupuncturist as a last resort. They are seeing that nothing else has really helped and so they have given you a try,” Kutner said. “It’s nice to be part of a medical team that can make a difference.”

Kutner is part of a multi-disciplinary medical team that provides a wide range of non-surgical therapies to patients that experience ongoing, chronic pain. In addition to acupuncture, other treatments at Rosomoff include occupational and physical therapy, neuro-muscular massage, biofeedback and psychology.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), acupuncture is a family of procedures involving the stimulation of specific points on the body using a variety of techniques, most commonly using thin, solid, metal needles to penetrate the skin.

Several studies indicate acupuncture may ease the chronic discomfort associated with lower-back pain, neck pain and osteoarthritis/knee pain. However, the clinical effects of acupuncture on the brain and body and how to best measure them are only beginning to be understood, the NIH says. Many factors, including life expectancy and belief, may play significant roles in the beneficial effect of acupuncture on pain.

Needle Phobias Often Stem From Painful Vaccinations

Acupuncture physician Ira Kutner, Doctor of Oriental Medicine, holds up an acupuncture needle to show how tiny the needles really are.

Getting many patients past their fear of needles is Kutner’s biggest hurdle.

“We are all afraid of needles because of the injections we have had all of our lives and those injections are not very comfortable. Some are very painful,” Kutner explained. “This is not an injection, it’s the introduction of a thin, filiform needle.”

Needles used for injections are rigid, thicker and hollow because they are used to administer medicine. Acupuncture needles are hair-thin and flexible, from as short as a half inch to about four inches long.

“The needles are really, really thin,” explained Kutner, as he tore open a paper packet that contained a single-use needle and held it up. The needle, which look as thin as fishing line, came packaged in a slender, plastic application tube. The tube’s diameter was just great enough to contain the needle.

Acupuncture treatments use a varying number of needles in varying lengths, depending on the reason for the treatment. Typically, patients undergo several treatments to achieve satisfaction.

Although very few complications arise from acupuncture, there are some risks to consider;

  • Complications have resulted from use of non-sterile needles and improper needle placement.
  • When not inserted properly, acupuncture can cause serious adverse effects, including infections, punctured organs, collapsed lungs, and injury to the central nervous system.

Multiple Therapies Contribute to Chronic Pain Relief

Successful pain relief can’t always be attributed to one protocol because Rosomoff patients always receive multiple types of therapies to combat chronic pain.

“Nothing works 100 percent for everybody but the majority of folks who come through here get significant benefits,” said Shaun Corbett, M.D., Medical Director of Rehabilitation services and the Rosomoff Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center. “Someone who is very motivated tends to do very well. We teach them other things to help manage their pain.”

Kutner, who has a master’s degree in Oriental Medicine and is a Diplomate in Acupuncture, turned to alternative medicine after working as a rehabilitation manager for doctors who treated patients with traditional pain medications, surgeries and injectables with limited progress.

He began his practice in New York and since 2001 has been practicing in Florida as an Acupuncture Physician and Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

“I had heard a report from the National Institute of Health that it had been proven that acupuncture could benefit a variety of problems. I decided I wanted to get involved in order to benefit patients,” Kutner said.

“You are using very thin stainless steel needles as a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve function which actually treats the person, not the disease.”

A Chinese lamp and acupuncture charts decorate his office. A small globe rotates on a lucite pedestal across the room from a miniature model skeleton. A paper fan decorated with dolphins adorns one wall and a teapot and cups sits on a tray near another.

The peacefulness is all part of healing.

“I try and create an atmosphere that allows people to alleviate some fear and helps them to relax by just the ambience,” Kutner said. “I think the interaction helps the patient to minimize some of their disease convictions. People have different problems — anxiety, acid reflux … This is a soothing atmosphere.”

And these days, many types of insurance cover acupuncture, so it’s becoming more and more accessible, he said.

“We incorporate all our therapies together in such a way we can see a benefit in a very short amount of time,” Kutner explained. “I think of the staff here as if they are all personal trainers in their specialty areas.”

Acupuncture is recognized by the NIH and the World Health Organization to be effective in the treatment of a wide variety of medical problems.

If you are considering acupuncture, ask the practitioner about how many treatments might be needed and how much each treatment will cost. Some insurance companies may cover the costs of acupuncture, while others may not.

National acupuncture organizations may also provide referrals to acupuncturists. Make sure to ask about your practitioner’s training and experience.

For more information about Rosomoff Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center, call 305.532.7246.

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