Many patients come to see me as they suffering from pain. Often they complain from one of more of these symptoms:
Back Pain / Stiff Back
Knee Pain / Weak Knees
Shoulder Pain / Frozen Shoulder
Headaches / Migraines
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Tennis Elbow / Golf Elbow / Sprained Ankle / Ankle Pain / Arthritis / Wrist Pain / Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / Plantar Fasciitis / / Foot Pain / Stiff Neck / Neck Pain / Sore Throat / Throat Pain / Tendonitis / Muscle Pain / Muscle Weakness / Sciatica / Fibromyalsia / Eye Pain / Dry Eyes / Painful Periods / Haemorrhoids (Piles) / Hip Pain / Leg Pain / Arm Pain / Peripheral Neuropathy / Bell’s Palsy
Acupuncture can reduce both pain and swelling and is successful in treating pain no matter where it is in the body and whether it is acute or chronic. If you have an old injury that never properly healed, a new injury, a recent surgery, or muscle tension, acupuncture can help. It increases the circulation of blood and other important fluids, bringing nutrients and oxygen to the area of pain or tension, stimulates nerve activity, and relaxes muscles and tendons, all leading to a reduction in both pain and inflammation.
As back pain afflicts around 85% of adults at some point during their lives, I am going to focus on this condition:
Happily, the NHS has recently looked at the evidence for acupuncture in treating lower back pain and has decided to allow GPs to refer patients of persistent, non specific lower back pain for the treatment. They are advised to offer a course of up to 10 sessions over a period of up to 12 weeks. This includes people who have been in pain for longer than 6 weeks but for less than one year and where the pain might be linked to issues in the joints, muscles or ligaments.
Why is it so common to injure our back?
The human back is made up of many muscles, bones, nerves, ligaments and other soft tissue. We are required to use our back with almost every movement we make. Although it is the workhorse of the body, the back is as sensitive as any part of the body, and injury to it may cause pain throughout the body.
Research studies note, over 80% of back pain is caused by muscle strain. This is often the diagnosis given when there is no injury visible under an x-ray or MRI. Because the back is composed of many short, extensor muscles that connect each vertebra, they are more susceptible to strain then for example our large leg muscles. These shorter muscles are more prone to tightening and convulsing involuntarily. This could be due to injury, improper positioning, or stress.
Muscle strain can also be due to inflammation of the spinal ligaments or tendons. In any situation, when pain is experienced, it is the body’s message to slow down. Muscle strain is best resolved by increasing circulation. Pressure the area will increase circulation, as will acupuncture.
Many people have heard of sciatica, and experienced it personally. Sciatica is the diagnosis when the sciatic nerve becomes impinged. The sciatic nerve begins at our low back and travels all the way down both of our legs. It is a very large nerve, and therefore an easy nerve to become impinged by tight muscles. As the muscle tightens around the nerve a sharp pain is felt, usually in the buttocks area. Depending on the severity, the pain may travel along the length of the nerve, causing radiating pain down the leg, either along the back of the leg or the side of the leg.
There are also many types of disorders involving the discs of the back. Between each vertebrae of our backs lie a disc, that can be seen as a jelly donut. When all is healthy in our backs, the donut acts as a support and cushion between the vertebrae, it allows flexibility and strength. But the donut is sensitive and vulnerable many types of injuries. Commonly called a “slipped disc”, a prolapsed or herniated disc is when the soft inner nucleus of the disc (the jelly of the donut) has bulges out. This can cause an impingement of the nerves around the area, and/or inflammation. The nucleus continues to move away from the disc (it “slips”), and can go in any direction, most commonly backwards. The pain often includes pain of the arms or legs, as the nucleus has impinged a nerve in its travels.
In a recent study, 50 patients with back pain were given 10 acupuncture treatments. Nearly every participant felt some relief from acupuncture. 40% had their symptoms eliminated, 56% reported marked to some improvement and only 4% (that’s 2 people in the study) did not feel any changes. (Source Journal of Chinese Medicine 2003:23-1 51-52)
While I was working at sea, most of my patients came to have acupuncture for pain, and more specifically for back pain. I was very successful with treating back pain (read reviews) and I helped almost ALL my patients who were presenting back pain with only 5 to 10 treatments. Very quickly I started to treat many of my colleagues who were working long hours, as well as the security officer and even the captain of the ship. Acupuncture works!