Would Acupuncture Help My Injury?

Chances are we all have experienced the aches and pains of a preventable injury at some time on our life. But, what do we do now that we have the tendonitis, the bursitis, the muscle spasms that just seem to hang around to interfere with our tennis, golf, horseback riding? Many patients come in when the ibuprofen, the muscle relaxers, and /or the OTC (over the counter medications) seem to lose their effectiveness. What started as an acute injury may in fact now have become a chronic injury, with the chronic inflammation, pain, decreased ranges of motion, and with potential long term damaging side effects.

First, get a diagnosis. Have a health care professional examine and diagnose the injury at the onset. What may feel like a muscle spasm in the low back may in fact be a herniated disc. Or vice versa. What may feel like excruciating “nerve” pain may be due to a muscle spasm.

Secondly, check out all your treatment options. In some cases, medications such as temporary use of anti-inflammatories, and analgesics may be indicated. Other options may include acupuncture, ultrasound, physiotherapy modalities, specific exercises, and surgery. These therapies can be extremely helpful in decreasing pain, and inflammation, and restoring normal ranges of motion in the joints and muscles. Often these methods when used at the same time improve healing time.

Third, set up and follow a treatment plan. Patients often ask how long will it take to heal? How many treatments of acupuncture and/or ultrasound do I need? How long do I have to take the medicine? It depends on how long you have had the pain. What the diagnosis is? And what have you been doing/and or taking to relieve it or to aggravate it. Unfortunately most people seek medical care only after nothing THEY do helps it. The recovery of an injury most often can be determined by a few things, including the medical attention within the first 24-48 hours, and the person’s ability to heal. For example, patient after patient has come in complaining that at first the “hot tub” felt great, and the next morning they couldn’t get out of bed. This treatment is rarely successful in an acute sprain/strain type injury.

Following a treatment plan from a trusted health care professional often results in the fastest recovery with the least amount of residual pain, and other symptoms. I know from personal experience it is very difficult to hear, “no skiing, biking, golf etc. for the next x amount of weeks.” However difficult it is to avoid favorite past-times, isn’t it more difficult to be injured? Compliance of a treatment plan, especially when it involves doing, or not doing something we do not want to hear is difficult.

Lastly, being preventative does pay off. Let this be part of the plan following treatment. Preventative measures may include specific exercise, protein supplementation, glucosamine sulphate, chondroitin sulphate, calcium/magnesium, MSM, and other vitamin and mineral supplementation. Regular acupuncture, chiropractic, physiotherapy, and/or massage may also be indicated. Also, rest
from physical exertion allows the body to heal and recover.

We only have one body. Let us take care of it as we enjoy our lives and our journey.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions in my practice. It is nice to answer this question rather than “Does acupuncture work?”.

We all probably know someone who has had acupuncture treatment for one reason or another, and they testify how great it worked. The fact of the matter is that acupuncture works for some people some of the time. Now back to the initial question of how it works. Basically the technique of inserting very fine needles into specific points results in a specific physiological response.

The outcome is dependent on the combination of points chosen, the clinical ability and experience of the acupuncturist in treating specific conditions, and the individual’s response to a specific treatment. The analogy I like to use is this:

Take a computer. Often here in Bend, we experience an electrical surge, disruption in our service, or maybe even a computer virus. So, we restart, restore or reboot our computers. Injury, illness, stress or trauma to our body is similar.

There is a disruption in, for example, the hormonal or neurological function in our body. By choosing specific acupuncture points, a specific message is sent to the brain. The brain receives this message and responds via the body’s many systems to heal and restore health.

The results may be a decrease in pain and inflammation, regulation of hormones, improved sleep, energy, etc. The difficulty is assessing at the onset of an acupuncture series how many treatments it will take for a specific symptom or illness to improve.

A general rule is a series of 12 visits, usually starting at a frequency of 2-3 per week. The longer the illness, and/or severe, the longer
the duration of therapy. We do occasionally have patients who respond very quickly to few treatments we call them our acupuncture “miracles.”

We also have patients who choose to come in once a month for their “tune-up.” Most of these patients have a philosophy of preventative medicine and are committed to a preventive approach when dealing with their health.

You may be wondering what conditions is acupuncture good for. Acupuncture is indicated in all pain syndromes, acute (sudden onset) or chronic, pre op, and post op. It may also be indicated in stress, insomnia, fatigue, nausea in pregnancy or chemotherapy induced, some cases of infertility, woman’s gynecological conditions, stroke, and decreased immunity.

Acupuncture And Chinese Medicine

While some of you are very familiar with acupuncture treatments and Chinese medicine, and even have regular treatments, others of you may be unfamiliar with why and when acupuncture and/or Chinese herbs are indicated.

My first response for when acupuncture is recommended would be in any and all pain conditions. This would include acute (sudden onset) and chronic pain, and pre- and post-op. Some more commonly seen conditions here in the clinic are headaches, all musculoskeletal conditions, including neck, knee, shoulder, low back, tendonitis, bursitis, abdominal pain, and menstrual pain.

Acupuncture can be particularly effective in nausea and vomiting, and especially hyper emesis in pregnancy. And in stroke patients, the sooner the acupuncture the initial event, the better their prognosis.

As spring approaches, allergies and sinus symptoms are very often relieved with acupuncture. And a few favorites of mine include insomnia, stress and a lowered immune system.

Chinese medicine refers to the herbs that may be prescribed for the condition. These herbs are usually a Chinese herbal formula. In many cases, herbs may be prescribed concurrently with the acupuncture.

It has been my experience that Chinese herbs and acupuncture are most people’s LAST resort of treatment. Yet, from clinical experience, patients who have acupuncture and Chinese herbs as a first line of treatment, or even regularly, as prevention, may often save themselves from prolonged discomfort and many unnecessary invasive medical procedures.

The theory of how acupuncture works is based on the theory of yin and yang, the balance of energy. From a practical matter, an explanation I use often is that by choosing specific points in the body, and inserting a very fine hair-like needle in these points, a specific response is elicited. For example in pain cases, specific points may help the body produce its own endorphins, others decrease inflammation, and others may relax the muscles etc. It is the clinical expertise of the acupuncturist that determines the combination of points and length of time that are used for a specific patient. Not all acupuncturists’ clinical expertise is equal and results may vary between practitioners.

For those who have tried acupuncture for one symptom and it didn’t work, don’t rule it out as a possible treatment of something else. The body is complex and ever changing. Acupuncture is a most dynamic in the moment type of treatment and has been shown to be very effective in some people for a vast number of disorders. Why not consider acupuncture today for that nagging shoulder, knee, elbow, or low back pain before the golf, hiking, or biking season? They do say “Prevention is a pound of Cure”.