How Does Acupuncture Work?
The Eastern explanation of acupuncture is that we are inserting acupuncture needles into points on the meridians that carry Qi and Blood through the body in order to bring Yin and Yang into balance. We assess each person’s unique balance of Yin and Yang, Excess and Deficiency, Heat and Cold, Internal and External and choose points on the body that are appropriate for that person’s constitution and health in order to help the body to heal itself. Acupuncture is supporting the body’s own resources so that it can better function and heal.
The Western explanation is still being developed. Researchers have found that acupuncture can influence the release of dopamine & other chemicals to increase a sense of well-being & diminish pain.
Acupuncture has also been shown to shift our nervous system out of “fight or flight” sympathetic mode into the “rest and digest” parasympathetic mode. Even if a person doesn’t believe in the Chinese concept of “Qi” or the meridian system, they can get relief from many health challenges just by spending time getting acupuncture and being in the calming parasympathetic mode of their nervous system.
When patients leave a treatment, they usually experience a very tranquil feeling that allows them to have some mental space from their normal daily stress. This can help them to have better perspective and a better sense of control over their emotional response to life’s challenges.
If a person has some health challenges, spending more time in the reparative “rest and digest” or parasympathetic mode can be beneficial to them, particularly if they have been losing sleep, the body’s normal time to heal and relax.
How is Orthopedic Acupuncture different from Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture?
Orthopedic Acupuncture takes a neuromuscular approach to physical pain conditions. Pain is often caused by tight bands of muscle (trigger points) or muscle shortening which happens over time (i.e. from long time sitting or repetitive stress from sports activities). When muscles are tight or short they pull on the tendons which are near the joints. The pain is usually felt at the joint but by looking at the mechanics of the body we can determine which muscles are tight and causing the pain. Trigger points in the muscles can also cause something called referred pain which is when we feel pain in a location other than the source of the pain.
Orthopedic acupuncture treats the motor point of the muscle (the location where the nerve first touches the muscle) to create a quick twitch of the muscle which can reset the tight bands of muscle. The release is typically painless and can bring dramatic effects very rapidly. Trigger points are also located and can be released rapidly with acupuncture. Some call this technique “dry needling”, but it’s still acupuncture.
When combined, the Eastern and Western approaches work very well together. The muscle imbalances that are causing pain are treated directly by the Orthopedic approach and the resources of the body to speed healing and calm the mind are supported by the Chinese Medicine approach.