Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine and Pain
Pain needs no introduction. Everyone has experienced pain in their lives, but what happens after an injury isn’t recovering and the pain turns chronic? . In mainstream medicine the most common treatment for pain is NSAIDs (pain killers) or prescription pain medication, which long term have undesirable side effects. One of the best solutions for pain is acupuncture. Pain can often interfere in a patient’s quality of life, disrupting sleep and causing fatigue, affecting concentration at work and affecting home and family life.
Acupuncture is an ancient technique from China and other parts of Asia, using thin, sterile needles to stimulate acupuncture points. These points have been proven to be centers in the nervous system that will stimulate the body to heal.
Chinese Medicine and acupuncture combined is a different approach than dry needling (commonly done by physiotherapists and chiropractors). In the initial consultation the patient will be asked their full health history, as well as the history of the pain and/or injury. These thorough questions help to understand the root cause of the pain and treat any inflammation or imbalance in the body that can be a contributing factor. For example, in Chinese Medicine, inflammation in the liver from toxicity (pollution, poor diet, heavy metal toxicity, infections, etc.) can cause the muscles to be tight and leave the patient prone to injuries, and they will be extremely uncomfortable. This is just an example of an underlining cause that can contribute to inflammation. By treating patterns such as this, the pain and injury will heal faster.
Acupuncture is famous for helping with back pain. This pain can be low back pain, or neck and shoulder pain. The pain can be caused by an acute injury, be chronic (pain lasting more than three months), caused by sitting too long, stress or anxiety, be a result of arthritis (Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylosis), disc degeneration, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Autoimmunity, Lyme Disease, the result of a muscle imbalance creating poor posture, muscle strain or sprain, motor vehicle accident (MVA/car accident) or other accidents like slipping on ice, or from regular wear and tear.
Acupuncture can also help with other pain conditions including (but not limited to):
arthritis, arthralgia, back and pelvic pain, back pain in pregnancy, Bell’s Palsy, concussions, cancer pain and related fatigue, disc problems, facial spasms, Fibromyalgia, gout, headaches, Interstitial Cystitis, Intercostal neuralgia, knee pain, elbow pain, migraines, musculoskeletal pain, Osteoarthritis, pain in dentistry, plantar fasciitis, peripheral neuropathies, post-operative pain, post-stroke symptoms, shoulder pain, renal colic, restless leg syndrome, Rheumatoid Arthritis, sprains, stiff neck, tennis elbow, trigeminal neuralgia, TMJ Disorders (Temporomandibular joint dysfunction), and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS).
We often encourage those with acute injuries to book an acupuncture session right away, as that can help the healing process and hopefully prevent it from being a chronic injury. Often when a patient has an acute injury they are asked not to receive any treatment that will exacerbate the injury, and to wait for some healing and inflammation to go down. One of the bonuses of acupuncture is that it is non-invasive, and does not irritate the injured site. It is safe to receive acupuncture immediately after an injury, and up to the point of healing. It is recommended to get X-Rays or other imaging to make sure the injury isn’t serious, and to help the acupuncturist with treatment.
Patients are asked to have a series of sessions to see long-standing results. Acupuncture works best when it is built up over time. As the body is encouraged to heal, the patient will be able to have less and less visits, and eventually just move to maintenance. Maintenance involves one treatment a month or as needed to keep the pain under control.
Listen to Dr. Risk's shows on acupuncture (more shows can be found here):