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The Use Of Acupuncture For The Treatment Of Pain

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By Author: Duncan McGechie
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Acupuncture has been practiced in China for 2,500 years, and possibly more, and there is actually a medical text that survives to this day from approximately 500 BC called The Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di Nei Jing) describing it. The energy of life is called Qi and is composed of yin and yang which are complementary yet opposing forces. Yin and yang must be in balance for optimum health. Qi flows through the body along specific channels called meridians. When yin and yang become out of balance, the result is ill health.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, yin and yang can be influenced by needles placed in the body at specific points, many of which are along the meridians.

During the last 100 years or so, acupuncture has spread to the West across Europe and the US, and more specifically since the 1970's. Modern day acupuncturists use sterile, disposable needles to treat the acupuncture points which are chosen according to the symptoms. Any point that is painful can be treated, and some conditions such as headache may be treated with needles in other parts of the body – in the case of a headache this could be the hands.

Some patients are very sensitive to the needles and may only need a few in order to carry out the treatment. For treatment for something such as tennis elbow, a typical number would be between six and twelve needles, whereas for a widespread condition such as fibromyalgia, more would be required. The needles may be stimulated by hand or electrically, or they may just be left where they are – usually for anywhere between ten and thirty minutes, although occasionally this may be for longer.

Three or four treatments at a rate of one per week is usually enough to relieve the symptoms in those people who respond to acupuncture, although it has to be said that there are some individuals who do not. Where chronic conditions are involved, the treatment is typically over six to twelve weeks or until the pain is controlled, and most patients no longer need any treatment after the pain has gone. However, an occasional booster treatment may be needed for those with a chronic condition. Acupuncture for sports injury will usually control the problem within two to four treatments.

When carried out by a properly trained therapist, acupuncture is extremely safe. The only problems may be minor, such as mild pain at the point of insertion, or bruising. Serious complications are very rare, and are usually the result of poor treatment and/or insertion of the needles at the wrong points.

Clinical trials have been carried out on the treatments using acupuncture for a variety of sports injuries and have been found to be effective. These have included some of the more chronic sports injury conditions such as low back pain, and several trials have demonstrated improvements in walking and climbing stairs as well as reduced pain.

One impressive trial was carried out in the US and involved no fewer than 570 patients with osteo-arthritis of the knee. This trial compared acupuncture with sham acupuncture and education control groups. The group that received acupuncture showed considerable improvement in Osteo-arthritis Index pain and function scores at 8 weeks and 26 weeks, and also in the Patient Global Assessment Score at 26 weeks. The sham acupuncture group showed some intermediate results and the most plausible cause of this is that any needling of the skin may increase production of endorphins. The education control group took high doses of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, but still had higher pain scores at the end of the trial.

Two other trials involved patients on waiting lists for total knee arthroplasty and both showed significant improvement in knee pain and function. This was to such an extent that 10% of patients in one group and 25% in the other withdrew themselves from the waiting lists.

In conclusion, it has been found that acupuncture is a minimally invasive and relatively safe procedure that seems to have complex effects on the central nervous system, pain perception, and immune system. It is a useful addition to treat pain and is also useful for chronic conditions that do not respond to conventional treatment. However, it is generally agreed that further studies need to be carried out.

Acubody therapists treat Acupuncture for sports injury for the patients suffering from sports injuries and other conditions, and may also combine this with additional treatments such as Chinese herbal medicine.

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