By Judy Xu, Acupuncturist, AdvanceWellness
Acupuncture as a treatment for pain
In 1997, the National Institute of Health (U.S.) officially recognized Acupuncture as an effective treatment for pain.
According to the 1997 NIH panel, clinical studies showed that Acupuncture therapy is helpful in treating many types of chronic pain, including headaches, migraines, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, neck pain and lower back pain.
Acute pain versus Chronic pain
There are two primary types of pain.
Acute pain is defined as pain that is created by inflammation, tissue damage, injury, illness or recent surgery.
Acute pain usually ends after the underlying cause is treated or has been resolved.
Chronic pain persists for weeks, months or years.
It overwhelms all other symptoms and may become the problem in and of itself.
It can cause people to lose their appetites and become exhausted by any physical activity.
Many people suffer from chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of illness.
The most common type of chronic pain is from an abnormal function in the nervous system, described as “neuropathic pain.”
This is a major medical condition, and should be treated accordingly.
A person preoccupied with chronic pain may become depressed and irritable.
This depression and irritability often leads to insomnia and weariness, which in turn compounds the emotional distress and pain.
This vicious cycle is called the “terrible triad” of suffering, sleeplessness and sadness.
The urge to stop the pain can make some people drug dependent, and may drive others to have repeated surgeries, or resort to questionable treatments.
Treatment of Chronic Pain
In the treatment of Chronic pain, the primary difference between Traditional Chinese Medicine and western medicine is that traditional Chinese methods such as Acupuncture treatment, have virtually no side effects.
This is because Acupuncture works in an entirely different manner.
Acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system, which in turn releases chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord and brain.
These chemicals either alter the perception of pain or release other chemicals that influence the body’s self-regulating systems.
These biochemical changes support the body’s natural healing abilities, improve circulation, and promote physical and emotional well-being.
When circulation in the tissue improves, muscles relax and pain is reduced.
Proper circulation is important not only for the blood to nourish the tissue, but also for eliminating muscle fatigue and pain-causing substances such as lactic acid.
How does Acupuncture work?
Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body, followed by gentle manual or electrical stimulation of the needles.
Blood flow in the tissues increases when small vessels around the area of the needle dilate.
These actions designed to increase circulation are generally an excellent treatment for pain.