How acupuncture can help you regain balance
What type of injuries does acupuncture treat?
The main reason not to seek acupuncture treatment is if serious injury is suspected. If a concussion, internal bleed, bone fracture, dislocation or a massive tear of soft tissue is suspected then ALWAYS get it checked out by the appropriate medical professionals - usually this will mean a visit to A&E.
Beyond serious injury, acupuncture is well worth considering for injuries and musculo-skeletal issues. Even serious injuries, after appropriate treatment such as surgery or immobilization, are still good candidates for acupuncture treatment in the recovery stage. It is helpful for our treatment to also know the results of your scans/ tests, so feel free to bring results along.
Read on to learn about;
- Acute Injuries
- Chronic Injuries
- Overuse Injuries
- How acupuncture helps
- Treating the whole body
Acute injuries often respond well to acupuncture treatment. It might seem a bit scary getting acupuncture treatment for a tender, swollen area, but keep in mind that your acupuncturist may not even be needling directly into the area, but work to decrease inflammation and swelling in other ways. Often the best result can be achieved by needling other parts of the body that correspond to the affected area. This means it is even possible to treat an injury that is in a cast!
A chronic injury is one that is long lasting. As a rule of thumb this is one that has lasted longer than three months. In some cases this will be an acute injury that hasn’t healed properly. In other cases it will come on gradually as a result of overuse, such as tennis elbow.
In the case of chronic injuries, it can seem that the body heals to a point and then feels its job is done - even though there is still some degree of dysfunction left. In this case we see acupuncture as a way to give the body a push, effectively instructing it to finish off the job.
In the case of chronic injuries, the body may well have developed layers of dysfunction around the original problem. These could include muscles that have tightened up to try and protect the painful area, or overuse in areas not originally affected. Chronic tension and pain could also have damaged blood supply and nerves in the area. This means that chronic injuries can take longer to treat.
Overuse injuries are a form of chronic injury where there was not necessarily an initial traumatic event, but rather a history of ongoing, micro-traumas. These are often related to work, or a task that is repeated often such as texting or typing.
Overuse injuries can affect the young and old, but the likelihood of these types of injuries rise with age. In part this is simply because older people have more time to cause injury, but changes in physiology also mean that injuries can tend to be slower to heal and also damage is more easily done.
How acupuncture helps with injury recovery - the science
Acupuncture is well known for the treatment of musculo-skeletal problems. It works through a number of different biochemical pathways, some of which are well understood, while others are still being studied.
Fundamentally, when an acupuncture needle is inserted into the skin, it stimulates the local immune system and nerves in the area, promoting the release of vasoactive agents (such as histamine) that increase micro circulation, stimulate nerve regeneration, suppress inflammation, and stimulate healing.
The nerves in the area needled feed back to the spinal cord, causing it to release neurotransmitters that down regulate the transmission of pain on to the brain, and endorphins that activate the bodies opiate receptors, causing an analgesic (pain relief) response. This effect takes minutes to come on and can last for days. The analgesia created can relax tense muscles, improve joint mobility and improve blood flow.
Acupuncture has also been shown to effect the limbic system. Acupuncture is shown to induce a calming effect on the limbic system, which in tern can alter the recipient’s perception of pain and increases feelings of wellbeing.
Treating the whole body
For chronic and overuse injuries that are not recovering, an acupuncturist will often look at the overall health and healing ability of a patient. Addressing underlying imbalances in the body so that the body is in a better position to recover from injuries.
Additional Reading & Research
The Efficacy of Acupuncture in Post-Operative Pain Management: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Acupuncture for chronic pain: an update and critical overview.
Acupuncture therapy: mechanism of action, efficacy, and safety: a potential intervention for psychogenic disorders?
Acupuncture increases the diameter and re-organisation of collagen fibrils during rat tendon healing.
Ultrasonographic Evaluation of Acupuncture Effect on Common Extensor Tendon Thickness in Patients with Lateral Epicondylitis: A Randomized Controlled Study.
Efficacy of acupuncture as a treatment for chronic shoulder pain.
Applications of Acupuncture Therapy in Modulating Plasticity of Central Nervous System.
Anti-Apoptotic Mechanisms of Acupuncture in Neurological Diseases: A Review.
Perioperative acupuncture modulation: more than anaesthesia