MIT Acupuncture, LLC.
Acupuncture & Pain
PAIN - For millions of people who live with pain, acupuncture is no longer an exotic curiosity. It's now widely accepted among the medical community, and it is pretty popular with patients as well. A recent survey found almost 3.5 million Americans said they'd had acupuncture in the previous year.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, your overall health is determined by the quality of the Qi (energy) flow through the natural pathways of your body (meridians). Energy or "Qi" needs to flow smoothly throughout the body to maintain its normal function, balance and health. From the Chinese medicine perspective, pain is caused by two energy imbalances. One is caused by the blockage of energy in a channel (meridian), which can result from physical trauma, emotional distress, or exposure to excessive pathogenic factors from the environment, such as heat, cold, or dampness. In addition, excess consumption of certain foods or drinks often contribute to the problem. This type of pain is usually acute, severe, or intermittent, and can present as migrating or fixed. The second is principally caused by a deficient amount of Qi - energy, when there is not enough Qi in the body. This type of pain is normally dull, chronic, consistent and fixed in location. Very often, people have pain caused by both conditions. Acupuncture treatment is often used after the evaluation of energy channels and after determining the types of energy imbalances that are present.
How does acupuncture work? - Most agree that it works by balancing the Qi, and enhancing the body's self-healing mechanisms. A more modern explanation derived from clinical research is that acupuncture of certain points on the body cause the release of hormones and chemicals that reduce pain, regulate the endocrine system, enhance immune function, and calm the nervous system, this has been shown in scientific research. The fact is that Oriental medicine is the most researched of all complementary health systems, and is recognized by the National Institute of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) which lists more than 90 conditions where controlled clinical trials have proven acupuncture as an effective treatment or proven to have a therapeutic effect.
BACK PAIN - Nearly 8 out of every 10 people will have low back pain at some point in life. Back pain is one of the top reasons people seek medical treatment. It is also the No. 1 reported reason for seeking acupuncture. The good news is chronic low back pain is one of the conditions that research suggests acupuncture may be an effective tool for treating. One recent review of 22 acupuncture studies showed that it provided short-term relief from chronic back pain.
SCIATICA is a common type of pain due to inflammation of the sciatic nerve, a large nerve extending from the lower back down the back of each leg. It is one of the most common disorders effectively treated with acupuncture, because getting rid of inflammation is what acupuncture does best. It does so without any known side effects.
Sciatica is not a conventional medical diagnosis, it has several possible causes and these may lead to different treatments. The term sciatica, describes a set of symptoms. Common symptoms of sciatica include: Lower back pain, pain in the rear or leg that is worse when sitting, hip pain, burning or tingling down the leg, weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot, a constant pain on one side of the rear, a shooting pain that makes it difficult to move or stand up. Depending on where the sciatic nerve is affected, the pain may also extend to the foot or toes. There may be aching, stabbing or burning pains and sometimes spasms.
Sciatica is caused by irritation of the root(s) of the lower lumbar and lumbosacral spine. Several reasons explain the inflammation of the nerve, most frequently, compression of the root from a herniated disc. Additional common causes of sciatica include: Lumbar spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back) Degenerative disc disease (breakdown of discs, which act as cushions between the vertebrae). Although structural causes may cause the inflammation of the nerve, it is rare that permanent sciatic nerve damage (tissue damage) will result, and spinal cord involvement is possible but rare. Sciatic pain can vary from infrequent and irritating to constant and incapacitating. Symptoms are usually based on the location of the inflammation. The pressure may come near the spine where the nerves that feed the legs emanate. It may occur in the hip joint or near the muscle known as piriformis. In most cases, the inflammatory process itself, encourages increased pressure, by causing the tissues to swell.
Many different therapies have been used over the years. Everything from simple postural adjustments to reconstructive spinal surgery may be considered. One stubborn case was traced to the patient carrying a large wallet in their back pocket. Sitting on it, especially while driving, caused pressure on the nerve and initiated the syndrome. Transferring the wallet to a front pocket solved the problem.
For some patients, sitting in a “C” shape for prolonged periods of time triggers the condition. Posture should be addressed first as we look for the root of the problem. Sitting is a very un-natural state and it is really hard on the back. Tremendous strain is placed on the low back and hips especially when slouching (“C” shape). Maintaining a lumbar curve ( “S” shape) while seated often improves the outcome. In some cases it was all that is needed.
More invasive treatments include spinal manipulation or massage, hot or cold packs, stretching or strengthening exercises, ointments and liniments as well as injections of various types and in various locations and of course surgery. Any treatment strategy that does not include a differential diagnosis, the attempt to figure out why the nerve is inflamed, should be carefully considered.
The pain from the inflammation of the sciatic nerve can be incapacitating. A patient may be willing to take any risk for the chance of a quick relief, it is our responsibility as practitioners to try the most effective and most conservative modalities first. For this purpose, acupuncture is unrivaled. It is without risk, highly effective and not difficult to endure, as it is painless. It is also accessible to all, whether or not they have medical insurance. It doesn’t work 100% of the time, but when it does, the relief comes quickly and often results in a permanent solution without any known side effects.
FIBROMYALGIA: Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by the feeling of widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way the brain process pain signals. Studies show that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry. It appears to do this by changing the release of neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters stimulate or inhibit nerve impulses in the brain that relay information about external stimuli and sensations such as pain. In this way, the patient's pain tolerance is increased. One acupuncture treatment in some patients may last weeks to help alleviate or neutralize chronic pain. It does so, very quickly, effectively and without any known side effect.