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Stuck on Accupuncture
How many brothers do you know would associate needles with relaxation?
In Chinese medicine, there is a saying: where there is blockage there is pain, but where there is no blockage there is no pain. We know this to be true in western medicine, as well. When we are hurt, inflammation effectively blocks and redirects our body’s healing resources to the site of an injury or infection. As a result, we often manipulate inflammation as a tool to bring about healing.
The traditional Chinese practice of acupuncture works in much the same way: it creates minute traumas along the skin’s surface to bring a beneficial inflammatory response. Acupuncture does more than simply irritate local tissue, though. By directing inflammation to areas that stimulate orthopedic trigger points and our neural pain sensors, the effect of each needle can bring widespread and lasting relief. In my own practice I’ve found acupuncture to be a boon to chronic pain sufferers.
The traditional Chinese practice of acupuncture centers on the stimulation of ahsi points (literally means, “Oh, that’s the point”), which are key points within a system of meridians that are thought to link energy “traffic” within the body. Acupuncture was controversial for years because modern science couldn’t find any evidence for these meridians. Yet a 1977 study by Melzack and his colleagues showed that most ahsi points coincide with trigger points, and we know that stimulating trigger points causes lasting pain relief far from the trigger point itself.
Acupuncture is a great complement to Western medicine because it boosts the healing and pain relief process in situations that we’d usually wait out. Adding acupuncture makes the recuperation faster and less uncomfortable. Ahsi point stimulation and scalp acupuncture could provide pain relief, while meridian acupuncture could reduce the inflammation so that physical therapy would be more effective.
Other Types of Acupuncture In pop culture, acupuncture is synonymous with needles, and lots of them. In actual practice, acupuncture’s strategic stimulation can be achieved many different ways—great news for needlephobes! If you dislike needles, what about suction cups and spoons? Cupping, a favorite of celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, creates suction along the body surface to increase blood flow to the underlying tissue. Though all forms of acupuncture are relaxing, techniques that resemble massage therapy are an excellent way to feel pampered while improving health. Acupuncture effectively relieves pain, increases range of movement, reduces muscle spasms, and aids in the treatment of acute and chronic injuries. Though it is often dismissively labeled as “alternative medicine”, acupuncture is actually a conservative therapy– it can be prescribed as a low-risk, non-invasive alternative to surgeries or interventions. Best of all, it can complement western surgical techniques by speeding up the healing process and reducing recovery time.
Moshe Lewis MD, MPH, MBA is currently on the Volunteer Clinical Faculty of UCSF. Dr. Lewis also serves as the Chief Medical Officer for Blackwomenshealth.com and is a Medical Contributor for healthyblackmen.org.
References for this article: Melzack, R et al. “Trigger Points And Acupuncture Points for Pain: Correlations and Implications”. Pain. Volume 3, Issue 1, February 1977, Pages 3-23 Wu, MT et al. “Neuronal Specificity of Acupuncture Response: a fMRI study with electro acupuncture”. Neuroimage. 2002 Volume 16, 1028-1037.