Chronic Pain Relief

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It can be safely stated that one of the true failures of Western Medicine is in it’s inability to effectively treat pain. Essentially, if the condition is not serious enough for surgical intervention (and most conditions aren’t) the two options of treatment are drugs or physical therapy.

In short, the strength of physical therapy is in rehabilitating atrophied muscles post-surgery. It is for the most part, ineffective for providing pain relief other than providing postural advice and exercises that can be performed at home. Often strengthening exercises only exacerbate painful conditions, particularly for repetitive-use type injuries. To place additional stress on an already overworked tendon only serves to cause a flare up of the condition. I can’t tell you how many patients I’ve seen with tendinitis of the elbow or wrist who have had their condition worsen after a course of physical therapy.

The alternative option is to be placed on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) which have horrific side effects, probably the worst in the western pharmacopoeia. If you value your kidneys and liver, I would strongly avoid long term use of pain medicines. It has been estimated that approximately 25% of the people on kidney dialysis, end-stage kidney failure, are there because of the excess use of MSAID’s. So not only are these drugs not treating the cause of the pain and simply masking the symptoms, they are creating much more severe, life-threatening disease.

If there is a black mark on Western Medicine, it is in how it treats chronic pain. So what is the most powerful natural method of pain relief in the history of medicine?

Acupuncture is far and away the most effective, time-tested pain relieving technique in the world for the past 2,000 years.

Forty years ago, acupuncture became even more effective for relieving pain with the discovery of electro-acupuncture, which simply adds an electrical connection to the inserted needles. By doing so the Chinese discovered the phenomena of needle induced anesthesia. Surgeries began to take place using electro-acupuncture in lieu of anesthesia during many procedures requiring pain intervention. Scientists also discovered that there was an acceleration of the body’s healing response and recovery of most pain related conditions. In short, electro-acupuncture acts as a natural anti-inflammatory producing the ideal environment to recover in the shortest amount of time.

Another consequence of needle therapy is that acupuncture has a profound anti-spasmodic effect. It is believed that up to 80% of low back pain is muscle related. Although it is very common for x-rays to show degenerative or bulging discs, seldom are they the cause of the pain. MRI x-rays of 100 people asymptomatic for back pain were taken at Harvard Medical School. Seventy five percent of this group tested positive for some significant pathology, whether it be a bulging disc, degenerative disc space, etc. This simply demonstrated that x-rays, in many cases, do not reveal the true cause of spinal pain. Changes in the tension/structure of a muscle simply is not perceptible through these diagnostic procedures. As muscles become tense over a sustained period of time, focal muscle spasms or “trigger-points” are formed. These trigger-points compress nerves and inhibit blood flow to the muscle. One of the reasons acupuncture is so effective for back pain, is because of the ability of the needle to go into the belly of the muscle and relax it at its deepest point. Acupuncture is the only healing system in the world that can do this. As the muscle relaxes, nerve function is restored, and blood flow to the soft tissue is returned. There simply can be no healing of any pathology without proper blood flow to the diseased area.

The neurologic explanation on the mechanism of acupuncture is that superficial nodes, or acupoints, represent neurovascular concentrations of fine vascular structures and related nerves. By inserting a needle in a superficial point, nociceptive neurons are stimulated which relay the message to the spinal cord and ultimately the mid-brain, where proprieceptor neurons are also activated telling the body where the sensation is originating. The mid-brain releases enkephalins which plug up pain receptor sites and pain cannot travel along this pathway anymore. In addition, muscles which are organized in longitudinal distributions along with these neural pathways, are affected by needling these nodes (acupoints). Simultaneous muscle relaxation and increased blood flow have a profound effect on alleviating pain associated with muscle tension, which again, accounts for most spinal pain.

One of the truly unique discoveries of the Chinese, and a testament to their genius, was their recognition that these neurovascular nodes (acupoints) located on the body were associated with deeper vascular vessels and structures, and could reflect disease conditions I the internal organs. The Chinese further realized that nodes distributed along the body surface could be physically stimulated to relieve pain and treat internal organ problems. Research in neurophysiology over the past two decades is providing evidence that the insertion of fine needles can bring about profound restorative reactions I the human body. This is the essence of needling therapy.

Approximately 80% of spinal pain, whether it be cervical, thoracic, or lumbar will show significant improvement within 4 treatments (2x weekly for 2 weeks). The Chinese discovered that there is a very strong cumulative effect, and if treatments were too dispersed, efficacy was diminished. As with any physical modality, success depends on the cumulative effect of successive treatments in a specified amount of time. If there are no changes within 4 treatments then there is a deeper structural problem that needs to be addressed. Relief for most conditions occurs within 12 treatments. However, correction of the condition so that it does not return may require additional care. Like “wearing a retainer after braces”, you must stabilize the body and reinforce the positive change. Acupuncture is extremely effective for low back, neck, and shoulder pain. It can also effectively treat tennis elbow, Dequervain’s syndrome, carpal tunnel, and many other painful conditions.

If you have given up and believe you have to learn to live with your pain, you are not alone. Thousands of people have carried the same belief, including yours truly, until acupuncture restored their hope and their health in a relatively short amount of time.

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