Chinese Acupuncture and Dry Needling for Acute and Chronic Pain
One of the most common reasons people seek help from Chinese Acupuncture and Dry Needling is for the treatment of pain.
The great thing about Chinese Acupuncture and Dry Needling is that they provide rapid healing of from the causes as well as the symptoms of pain conditions without the damaging and dangerous use of drugs. All drugs have side affects. None of them are beneficial side effects. Whether it is the liver toxicity of Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and Naprasyn, the damage to the lining of the stomach and risk for GI bleeding from aspirin, or the weight gain of Gabapentin, or the depression, constipation, fatigue, and risks for addiction of opiate drugs, all drugs have side affects. And what is worse, is that the drugs to nothing to cure the cause of the pain. They do relieve the symptom, with some degree of success, but it comes at two costs–one, the side affects, and two, the tendency to neglect the causes and leave them untreated.
Whether its lack of exercise, over-exercise, insufficient post-workout stretching, bad biomechanics, bad alignment, shortened muscles and fascia, what ever, unless you treat the causes, you have not cured the problem. Acupuncture, along with therapeutic exercises, Chinese herbs, mindfulness meditation, and corrections in ergonomics and posture, go along way towards correcting the causes of your pain. Whether its herniated discs, bulging discs, nerve entrapment syndromes, or tendinites, Myofascial Dry Needling Acupuncture and traditional Chinese acupuncture have an amazing success rate.
Trigger Point Pain
Back, neck, and overuse injuries involve damage to various body tissues.Chronically tense muscles develop tender areas called trigger points by Western medicine. These are the places on your shoulder or leg or back you just want someone to press real hard on. Generally feels better with pressure and heat. Trigger points arise through overuse or excessive tightness and when the myo-neural unit of a muscle gets activated into an excessively coiled state, like a rubber band that needs to snap, as a result of chronic physical or emotional tension, poor posture, or due to sudden unusual exertion like lifting a heavy weight. Even a sudden pull by a large dog on her lease can trigger a rebound activation of trigger points. This causes irritation, inflammation and pain in a specific area, like between the shoulder blades, or at the hip.
Trigger points can be excruciatingly painful, and often people will think they have some kind of nerve pain, because trigger points have pain referral patterns, another words pain can radiate away from the trigger point to other parts of the body. One of the most common cases is with headache, where trigger points in the upper trapezius and base of the skull refer pain all the way to the inner eyebrow. Another common example of this is Piriformis syndrome, where the person has pain in the buttock and down the leg, and they think they have sciatic pain. This is the most commonly misdiagnosed trigger point pattern, even by M.D.s. And as soon as you release the pirifomis and quadratus femoris muscles the pain goes away, sometimes even in just one treatment. Carpal tunnel is often misdiagnosed this way, too, or, the person has Carpal tunnel syndrome, but also has trigger points in l the forearm flexor muscles; they have the surgery, but ignore the muscles and fascia, and the surgery is unsuccessful, or they need it again in 3 years.
Areas where trigger points are found feel tense, tight, are tender to pressure, and often refer or radiate pain down the arm or leg away from the area the T.P. s are found in. Typically people have multiple trigger points. Release, or deactivation of Trigger points is a key component in the treatment of headaches, TMJ, shoulder pain, back pain, neck pain, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Types of Injuries Treated by Myofascial Dry Needling and Classical Chinese Acupuncture:
Tendinitis is inflammation of tissues that connect muscles to bones. Our muscles are essentially “glued” to the bones by tendons. The muscle tissue actually changes into tendon tissue as it gets close to the bone. Think of a chicken drumstick. The part you like is the muscle, the long pieces of gelatinous grizzle as it approaches the bone are the tendons. Tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon) and Tendosynovitis (inflammation of the protective sheath the tendon glides through occur a lot in overuse injuries such as wrist and forearm pain from excessive typing, tennis elbow, golfers elbow (lateral and medial epicondylitis, respectively) knee pain due to patellar tendonitis. Here the cause is frequently trigger points occuring in tight, shortened muscles, where the blood flow has been restricted restricted due to tightness, or through overuse the muscles have had to switch to anerobic respiration for their energy needs, and lactic acid and other natural toxic by-products have builds up in the muscles and in the tendons where they attach to the bone, leading to inflammation, pain, weakness, and swelling.
Back and neck pain injuries involve various combinations of tense, shortened irritated muscles, trigger points, and can also include nerve entrapment or compression either at their roots by bulging or herniated discs, or at the periphery by shortened tense muscles. Back and neck pain are the number one reason people seek acupuncture treatment.
Nerve pain, called Sciatica, when involving the large nerve that runs through the buttock and leg, the Sciatic Nerve, involves intense pain that radiates down the arm or leg, with possible numbness or tingling. Numbness and tingling usually signal that an entrapped nerve is involved. Muscle weakness tells us the nerve is beginning to be damaged, and if not treated immediately, irrevocably. Nerve pain can be due to herniated or bulging disc, but again what led you to the disc, other than acute trauma is often tight shortened muscles that compress the spinal vertabrae. When you release the muscles through Myofascial Acupuncture, by releasing trigger points and also motor points, you actually relieve the pressure on the disc.
Nerve Entrapment Syndromes such as piriformis syndrome and ulnar nerve entrapment respond very very well to myofascial dry needling, because when we release the motor point of the muscle the entrapment goes away. Now the nerve has a chance to heal, especially if the patient is good about stretching properly. I generally teach my patients therapeutic stretches, and if need be refer them to a specialist like the good folk at Function First.
Bursitis involves swelling of the bursae, which are small fluid filled sacs around the joints that act as ball bearings do; if not for bursae our tendons would have to glide directly over bone, which would cause them to fray over time, instead our tendons glide over them, they serve as a lubricated buffer between bone and tendon. Most of the time bursa become inflamed because of shortened muscles which tug on the tendon, as someone pulling on a rope attached to a wall would. Over time the friction that results leads both tendon and bursa to become inflamed, and inflammation involves swelling, and since bursa and ends of tendons find themselves together in closed spaces, the swelling is counterproductive and initiates further pressure on the swollen bursae and tendon end tissues. Myofascial Acupuncture is so helpful here because when you release the motor points of the muscles, for example the supraspinatus that attached underneath the bone at the top of the shoulder, now there is more “wiggle room” for the tendon and the pressure is relieved. At the same time we needle right into the tendon (but never the bursa) and that relieve the inflammation. So you have accomplished two things–you have removed the cause of the inflammation that causes the pain, and you have relieved the inflammation itself that causes the pain, and, because of the natural opiates released by acupuncture, you have relieved the pain itself.
Fibromyalgia is a complex syndrome involving insomnia, fatigue, depression, and tender point pain in predictable locations of the body. I love treating fibromylagia, but it is a bit of a long slog, so the patient has to a) totally committed to getting better, and, b) willing to give it the time it takes. My starting point in the treatment of Fibromyalgia with Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, and Ayurveda is two-fold. First to work on pain relief, by deactivating the trigger points where the pain is, and by using Classical Chinese acupuncture principles to unblock the Qi that causes the pain. Second is to get the person sleeping well again. Sleep has such enormous restorative value. Its hard to cure any disease, let alone pain, when there is poor sleep.
How Acupuncture Helps
Chinese medicine treatment of pain includes the use of Acupuncture, Cupping, Chinese Herbal Medicines, compresses and plasters. Acupuncture is especially valuable for the treatment of pain because it accomplishes so many tasks at once. Myofascial Dry Needling is anatomy based, and relies on deactivating painful trigger points, and also the Motor points that are the “brain” cell of the muscle; its how your brain tells your muscles what to do, whether to contract of relax.
Muscles work by contracting, which is another way to say they work by shortening. You want to touch your nose with your index finger, you do that by an elaborate system of muscle contractions, the most important being the biceps, which shortens to bring the arm close to the face. At the same time other muscles lgngthen. Where the problem comes in is when muscles are chronically tense, they are chronically shortened. That forces our joints closer together, or compresses them And when we overuse, either from exercise or work, like typing all day, without compensatory stretching under relaxed conditions, our muscle are again left shortened.
The process by which this shortening occurs, in sum, is that the brain sends a signal to the muscle through a nerve. Where the nerve meets the muscle is called the motor point. The motor point is a specialized bundle of tissue that tells the muscle when to shorten or lengthen. Through overuse or chronic tension or injury such as from a car accident or sleeping funny, or also imbalances in posture or gait, a motor point can be left turned on.
- Acupuncture stimulates the secretion of the natural opiate-like neurotransmitters called endorphins that have been proven to relieve pain in the same way opiate pain meds do, but without the side affects. The also help take the body out of the stress responsese and the body into the Relaxation Response. This relaxes muscles and improves blood circulation, bringing new oxygen to tissues and reducing inflammation and pain.
- Acupuncture stimulates the adrenal glands to secrete our body’s own natural hormone called cortisol that powerfully fights inflammation throughout the body.
- Acupuncture has a direct localized anti-inflammatory effect on the specific tissues of an actual injury site. For example,if you have a painful tennis elbow or low back pain, and you place ultrathin, sterile acupuncture needles in the muscles surrounding the joint, it has an anti-inflammatory effect that is caused by the direct relationship between the the needles and the inflamed tissues themselves. Scientists believe this is accomplished via the endocrine system.
- Acupuncture deactivates muscular “motor points” causing your muscles to actually lengthen, thereby releasing mechanical pressures on tendons, ligaments, nerve roots, and vertebral spaces.
- Acupuncture deactivates the painful trigger points that are at the root of many repetitive use injuries and much back and neck pain.
- For chronic pain , acupuncture helps “turn the pain messages to the brain off, and is combined with therapeutic exercises that creats new neural pathways without pain.
Next: Pain Treated by Chinese Herbal Medicine and Ayurveda
copyright eyton shalom, march 2014 san diego ca usa all rights reserved use with permission
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