An Alternative Cure for Pain: Biopuncture

By Lee Wolfer, MD Integrative Sports, Spine and Wellness Medicine

Posted on | By Lee Wolfer, MD

What kind of physician can practice biopuncture?

Make sure you work with an experienced doctor or skilled CAM (complementary alternative medicine) practitioner. The physician must be knowledgeable about biopuncture. They must have superior knowledge of anatomy and great skill with injections. Each case must be individualized.

It is also important to note that plant-based or herbal medications should only be given by a qualified physician or licensed professional. (Remember, just because a product uses the word “natural” does not necessarily make it safe and effective.) In a few states, the medical boards have granted injection privileges to non-MDs, such as licensed acupuncturists. Biopuncture is not covered by insurance at this time and prices vary by state and practitioner.

How safe and effective is biopuncture as compared to conventional treatments?

Common over the counter and prescription NSAIDs and steroid injections in fact may not help (particularly in the longterm) and may cause harm. The current best evidence for use of NSAIDs suggests it may be helpful in the short-term for 1-2 weeks, but longterm use is associated with increased risk of gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, kidney complications and death. Also, increasingly, animal research is showing that use of NSAIDs may interfere with the normal tissue repair process and ultimately weaken the tissue and increase the chances of a recurrent problem.  In terms of safety and side effects, we know that steroids are sometimes necessary; however, a single knee injection can suppress the immune system for a month. 

What can a patient expect if they choose to pursue biopuncture treatment?

Most people, unless they have a true needle phobia, are surprised by how well they tolerate the injections. Very small needles are used for the majority of injections. The number of injections per session depends on the nature and severity of your problem. 

An elbow problem typically requires 5-10 specific injections. Common ankle sprains or acute injury heal within a few weeks, usually more quickly than if left without treatment. Chronic pain over many months or years may require several weeks or a few months of treatments.  I tell most of my patients that they will have treatments up to about 2 months; usually by week 4, both the patient and I can see objective results.  If a patient has significant medical illnesses, the course may be longer or ineffective. This treatment does require more patience than cortisone injections for instance because we are trying to heal the problem and not simply suppress the symptoms.  Biopuncture is not meant to treat serious illnesses such as infections or cancer. Patients with severe depression, fibromyalgia, auto immune disease (lupus), multiple sclerosis or other major illness may not respond at all or may only be partial responders.

Symptomatic relief may take a while, especially when the problem has been there for months or years. However, when dealing with fresh injuries, these injections can give results very quickly.

Article written by Lee Wolfer, MD
Integrative Sports, Spine and Wellness Medicine