Acupuncture for Pain Relief

By Ann Brandt

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Acupuncture as a healing tool is becoming increasingly popular for relieving pain. Although this modality began in China thousands of years ago and spread to other Asian countries, it only became popular in the West the last quarter of the 20th century. The World Health Organization (WHO) now recognizes acupuncture as an effective treatment.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the philosophy of qi (pronounced chee). Qi is a life energy flowing through the body. One’s health depends on a balance of qi, carried by meridian pathways. Fourteen main meridians lead to various parts of the body, each with its own set of acupuncture points. Inserting needles at selected points and applying heat or electrical stimulation is a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and improve functioning.

The needles are solid, usually stainless steel and very thin because they are not hollow like hypodermic needles. Acupuncture needles are designed to slide smoothly through tissues without causing bleeding or damage to muscles. Many practitioners use disposable needles. One may feel a dull, heavy or aching feeling when the needles are inserted. After the needles are placed, heat is applied with low frequency electrical stimulation. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners often use moxibustion to heat the needles for greater penetration after insertion. “Moxa” is a weed grown in China, dried and used for acupuncture treatments.

After needles are inserted and heat applied, patients lie still for 15 to 30 minutes and feel relaxed and sleepy. The practitioner will rotate the needles once or twice during this time to adjust the flow of qi. For maximum benefit, several treatments are required over a period of four to six weeks.

While energy flow is the term used in Chinese medicine, modern Western medicine defines this method of healing by explaining that the needles at specific points stimulate the nervous system to release endorphins in the muscles, spinal cord and brain. Physicians trained in Western medicine offer medical acupuncture.

While students of Traditional Chinese Medicine attend classes and clinics for three years or more, medical acupuncture training demands fewer hours on the premise that physicians have already experienced instruction and practise in their field. Physicians in Canada may enroll in programs such as the Certificate Program in Medical Acupuncture (CPMA) at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Similar programs exist in other parts of Canada, the United States and other countries. Physician acupuncturists can readily integrate acupuncture procedures into their practice.

Acupuncture is especially effective in treating pain from sports injuries. Some of the treatment techniques originated from the need to keep ancient Chinese martial arts participants in top condition. Acupuncture as a treatment for sports injuries became recognized during the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing when it was offered free to athletes in the Olympic Village. Common injuries treatable with acupuncture: shoulder rotator cuff tears and sprains, wrist or ankle sprains and tears, knee ligament and meniscus (the disc that cushions the knee) injuries, vertebral disc inflammation in the back or neck.

Injuries in these areas result in decreased circulation and stagnation of energy. Acupuncture stimulates the circulation of blood and lymph fluid, which means fresh vital nutrients are more readily available to tissues, facilitating the healing process. Enhanced circulation carries the dead cells and cellular waste products away from the injury. Relief from pain is facilitated by improved blood circulation that cleanses the muscles of lactic acid, the substance that causes the sensation of soreness and fatigue. Thus, the body enjoys natural healing without commercial painkillers and possible side-effects.

However, Dr. Tim Tanaka of the Pacific Wellness Institute in Toronto cautions against returning to exercise activity too soon after an injury. With the advice of a practitioner, practise controlled motion early to promote proper healing.

Acupuncture is not a magic overnight cure, but it can be an important tool for pain relief and enhanced well-being.

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Showing 1 to 4 of 4 comments.

Really great article! Numerous scientific studies have provided solid evidence regarding the potential of acupuncture in pain therapy.

Posted by Saint John Acupuncture | January 18, 2016 Report Violation

Lowering cholesterol, sugar and stress by Yoga and Acupuncture ---by Paramjit S Tappia and Yan Jun Xu, Winnipeg, Canada, CV Network,2013 Elevations in LDL-cholesterol, obesity and stress are major cardiovascular disease risk factors (1). Due to the side effects of a number of pharmacological agents, the potential of Yoga and acupuncture on cholesterol levels as alternative therapies has been explored, particularly in the Western world. Yoga is an ancient type of mental and physical exercise originating in India, and has been reported to reduce oxidative stress, body weight and blood cholesterol. Acupuncture has been used in China to treat a variety of diseases since about two thousands years ago. In ancient times, people used a sharp stone to pressure some points for pain relief. Subsequently, acupuncture has been found to be effective in the reversal of coma and stroke as well as for the treatment of chest pain, irregular heart beat, hypertension and other conditions including asthma and insomnia. Recently it has been found that acupuncture is also effective for the control of blood lipids, glucose and oxidative stress. A literature review of 220 publications conducted by Peplow and Bater (2) has revealed that acupuncture with electrical stimulation (electro-acupuncture) can control elevations in blood sugar in obese women. In animal studies, electrical stimulation (15Hz) for 30-60 minutes is required for positive results. From the literature available on Traditional Chinese Medicine books, Zhongwan, Zusanli, Yishu and Geshu acupuncture points appear to be most frequently used for diabetic patients. Liang and Koya (3) reviewed acupuncture literature between 1979 and 2009; it was evidenced that acupuncture can reduce insulin resistance, hypertension, metabolic disorder, obesity and improve blood lipid profile. Furthermore, frequently used acupuncture points were Zusanli, Fenglong, Tianshu, Neiting, Sanyinjiao, Quchi, Qihai, Zhongwan, Guanyuan, Yinlingquan and Pishu. Siu et al (4) have reported that electro-acupuncture is able to lower oxidative stress by stimulation of the Zusanli point. It appears that electrical stimulation at low frequency (2 Hertz), 30 min/day for 4 weeks yields beneficial effects. It is pointed out that different frequencies of stimulation can exert different effects. The underlying mechanism of acupuncture is that stimulation of different points release different neuropeptides and hormones. In addition, it has also been suggested that resistance of nerve fibres and electrical signals are altered in different disease that can be re-balanced by acupuncture. Acupuncture and yoga promote well-being and health and have the potential to be used as a complimentary therapeutic regimen to improve blood lipid and glucose profiles as well as attenuate oxidative stress. Comment: More studies are needed to confirm the beneficial effect. References 1. Adameova A, Xu YJ, Duhamel TA, Tappia PS, Shan L and Dhalla NS. Anti-atherosclerotic molecules targeting oxidative stress and inflammation. 2009; 15: 3094-3107. 2. Peplow PV and Baxter GD. Electro-acupuncture for control of blood glucose in diabetes: Literature revies. J Acupunct Meridian Stud 2012; 5:1-10. 3. Liang F and Koya D. Acupuncture: is it effective for the treatment of insulin resistance? Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism. 2010; 12:555-569. 4. Siu FKW, Lo SCL, and Leung MCP. Effectiveness of multiple pre-ischemia electro-acupuncture on attenuating lipid peroxidation induced by cerebral ischemia in adults rats. Life Sciences. 2004; 75:1323-1332.

Posted by David | April 15, 2013 Report Violation Acupuncture treatment can help the circulation of blood, not just that but can really helps ease the body pain.

Posted by Felina | April 24, 2012 Report Violation

Thank you for this wonderful article. I have come to realize that acupuncture does really do a great deal of wellness in the body I have had friends talking about acupuncture to lessen the stress and pains that they have. I must try this. I just haven't believed it because I never really understood the purpose of having needles inserted in your body for taking away pains as well as healing illness. Thank you again for the very well informative content.

Posted by Sandra | April 2, 2012 Report Violation

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