Acupuncture is probably best known for the relief from pain that most patients experience after having acupuncture treatment. Pain is the way our body tells us there is something wrong that needs our attention. Most of us have pain from time to time which resolves on its own. Pain that recurs, or becomes worse, should be evaluated by a physician to rule out any serious medical problems.
Patients are often prescribed pain medication which helps for a short period of time, but often has side effects. The medication usually does not address the underlying cause of the pain. Acupuncture helps alleviate the pain as well as correct the underlying problem which is causing pain.
How acupuncture affects pain
Our body has built in mechanism to heal itself. Think of a broken bone. We don`t take medications to make the body heal the bone, but the natural healing mechanism of the body turns on, in this instance when the bone is broken, to create the cascade of physiological reactions which causes the broken bone to heal. Acupuncture stimulates this natural healing mechanism in the body. What research has shown is that acupuncture helps relax muscles, increase circulation to localized areas where needles are placed, decrease inflammation and swelling, and raises endorphin levels (the "feel good" hormone). When people are in pain they often experience insomnia, irritability, and fatigue. Acupuncture helps reduce or eliminate these symptoms.
Most people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain is often caused by muscle sprain or disc problems which may cause pain down the hip and/or leg.
Acupuncture can help with both acute and chronic pain. It accomplishes this by relaxing the muscles where the needles are placed, reducing swelling and inflammation, and causing the body to release chemicals which reduce or eliminate the pain. Patients can experience immediate relief of symptoms, especially where there is muscle spasms. Most people will have a response within the first 3-4 treatments. For some people this will correct the problem. Patients who suffer from chronic back pain, or have had surgery on their back may need a few more treatments. The number of treatments is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Knee pain often results when there is inflammation of the knee joint due to overuse or age. Acupuncture by itself or in combination with neutraceuticals and/or herbs can bring about significant pain relief. Acupuncture helps increase local circulation to the area as well as reduce inflammation. Some patients scheduled to have knee replacement surgery have had very good results with acupuncture and have been able to delay or cancel surgery.
Arthritis is a general term used to describe inflammation of the joints. There are 2 types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a condition where the cartilage in joints have worn away and results in pain. This is often seen with age and or excessive wear and tear. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammation of the joints which is an immune system disorder. The immune system attacks the tissue in the joint, resulting in inflammation and pain.
Acupuncture increases blood circulation to the joints and can increase the fluid which lubricates the joints. Acupuncture also reduced the inflammation associated with both types of arthritis. People who have had arthritis for a long period of time may take 6-10 treatments to feel the positive effects of acupuncture, where those individuals who are just beginning to experience arthritic pain may have a faster response to acupuncture treatment. The benefit of using acupuncture to control pain is that there are no side effects normally associated with the long term use of anti-inflammatory medications.
Neck pain is often the result of normal "wear and tear," which happens as we age, as well as a result of falls and accidents. Acupuncture helps relax the muscles, improve blood circulation , decrease stiffness, and relieve pain. Most patients notice an improvement in 1-3 treatments.
Most people experience a headache from time to time. Many people suffer from chronic headaches due to migraines, tension, or sinus pressure. Several research studies have shown that people who receive acupuncture for headache pain have fewer headaches, make 25% less visits to their physicians, take fewer sick days from work, and use less medication to treat their headaches. Most patients begin experiencing a decrease in headache pain after 2-3 acupuncture treatments and continue to improve with several additional treatments.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic problem which includes symptoms of multiple site pain, fatigue, and oftentimes, depression. Additional symptoms include poor sleep, and digestive disorders. Acupuncture can help decrease pain, improve sleep, digestive function, and energy. Each patient will also be evaluated for lifestyle issues which may contribute to the symptoms of fibromyalgia and receive supportive care.
The immune system is constantly "on guard" to protect the body from potentially harmful viruses, bacteria, and other substances. Pollen, from trees, flowers, grass, and other sources, is breathed through the nose. When these substances land on mucus membranes such as those in the nasal lining the immune system is stimulated to "go into action." Pollens and other allergens are determined by the body to be invaders which need to be attacked and destroyed, thus the immune system gets stimulated. By products such as histamine gets released in large quantities, thus contributing to the symptoms of runny nose, red itchy eyes, etc.
Several studies show that acupuncture has a positive effect on regulating the immune system; there are several more research articles which support the use of acupuncture to help reduce and control allergy symptoms.
Acupuncture can safely relieve the symptoms of allergies without the side effects often associated with allergy medications. Most people receive a significant amount of relief within 1-3 treatments. The best time to have acupuncture to prevent allergic symptoms is several weeks prior to the time you normally experience symptoms. For example, if you normally have allergies in April, it's probably best to have acupuncture treatment in March.
The sinus cavities are located above the eyes and in the upper part of the face. They can become swollen and inflamed due to allergies. They can also be a great place for bacterial infections to become established and be difficult to treat with antibiotics.
Acupuncture helps reduce the inflammation to the sinus cavities and reduces or eliminates pressure and pain by allowing the sinuses to drain normally. Patients who have had several "rounds" of cortisone and antibiotics with little or no relief have been helped with acupuncture.
TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) pain is often caused by chronic teeth clenching. Clenching the teeth over time leads to muscle fatigue and spasm. This makes it difficult to open the mouth very wide, and can make chewing food uncomfortable. Acupuncture helps relax these muscles and reduce inflammation in the joint. Acupuncture can also help reduce the general effects of stress on the body, which is often the underlying cause of TMJ.
Bell's Palsy is a weakness, often sudden in nature, usually of the facial muscles. Acupuncture can be a relatively quick and effective treatment for this condition, especially if treated within the first few weeks of symptoms. Most patients notice positive results within 3-5 treatments.
Trigeminal Neuralgia is intense pain causes from an inflammation of the trigeminal nerve which covers the facial area. Patients often experience sharp, intense pain on one side of their face which can be aggravated by wind, or slight touch. Acupuncture can help minimize or eliminate the pain and help people return to a normal life.
Stress, depression and anxiety and sleepless nights
Most of us experience stress from time to time which is related to work, family/friends, or finances. Stress in and of itself is not harmful; it is the body's way of alerting us to potential danger. Prolonged periods of stress can cause insomnia, anxiety, depression, weight gain, digestive disturbances, and more.
Acupuncture can help relieve tight muscles, and cause the brain to release endorphins and other neurohormones which help the body relax naturally and relieve stress. Additionally, people receiving regular acupuncture tend to sleep better and longer, thus helping restore the body and mind.
A study at the University of Arizona found that acupuncture helped reduce the relapse rates of women who experienced depression. Twenty-six women with depression were treated with acupuncture in a double-blind, randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for 8 weeks. The study concluded that 17 of the 26 women achieved a full remission of their condition; 4 of the 26 women had a relapse of their depression within 6 months of acupuncture treatment.
The treatment of depression includes lifestyle changes such as exercise and diet, as well as acupuncture. Some patients will start feeling better with 2-3 treatments, while longer lasting benefits will be seen with continued acupuncture treatment for 4-8 weeks.
Digestive concerns range from acid reflux ("heartburn") to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn's Disease, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Acupuncture can be helpful in dealing with the effects of stress on the digestive system. Most patients notice some improvement within 3-5 treatments. In certain cases the addition of neutraceuticals can provide additional support to the digestive system.
Acupuncture: it's not just for the adults
Children respond quite well and quickly to acupuncture treatment. It can be used with older children and adolescents to help with all types of pain, sports injuries, and the emotional changes which often accompany adolescence. Parents often report that their child is more cooperative and seems more emotionally balanced following acupuncture treatments.
Recent research has shown that acupuncture can help with weight loss. In a study published by The Journal of Medical Acupuncture (2003), 20 obese female participants were given the same 2,000 calorie per day diet, and agreed to walk 15 minutes per day. They were then divided into two groups. One group was assigned to receive regular acupuncture treatments; the other group did not receive acupuncture. At the end of an 8 week study, all of the 10 women who received acupuncture lost an average of 10.3 pounds while the women who did not receive acupuncture lost an average of 3 pounds. All of the women who received acupuncture reported a decrease in appetite, while only 1 person in the non-acupuncture group reported a decrease in appetite.
Abingdon Acupuncture offers a unique program to help people reduce their weight called "The Best Weight" program. It is a comprehensive program which includes acupuncture to help with stress, correct digestive weaknesses which may be contributing to weight gain, improve sleep, reduce cortisol levels in the blood, and minimize food/carbohydrate cravings. In addition to acupuncture, Chinese herbs may be used which help with food cravings and digestive issues. This 3 month program includes acupuncture, herbs, and dietary/lifestyle counseling.
Addiction to nicotine includes both physical and psychological components. Acupuncture can help reduce the physical cravings of nicotine, as well as address the stress (psychological component) associated with quitting smoking. Acupuncture will only help when an individual is ready to quit smoking...it is not a "magic bullet." Our Smoking Cessation Program includes the initial consultation with acupuncture treatment, and 3 follow-up acupuncture treatments as well as herbal supplements which may help decrease nicotine cravings.