—The licensed acupuncture specialists at Spine Care have the experience and ability to know when acupuncture is effective.
Acupuncture is the procedure of inserting and manipulating sterile needles into various points on the body to relieve pain or for therapeutic purposes. Different variations of acupuncture are practiced and taught throughout the world.
The World Health Organization and the United States’ National Institutes of Health (NIH) have stated that acupuncture can be effective in the treatment of neurological conditions and pain. There is general agreement that acupuncture is safe when administered by well-trained practitioners using sterile needles.
The licensed acupuncture specialists at Spine Care have the experience and ability to know when acupuncture is effective, and when a patient needs to try physical therapy or medical intervention. At Spine Care, our team will do everything possible to ensure that your recovery is smooth and complete. We want to keep you away from the surgeon’s table if at all possible, and we have embraced acupuncture as one of the treatment modalities that can promote an active and pain-free life.
WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?
Acupuncture is a living medicine with a long and complex history of development. Acupuncture is a safe and effective holistic medicine backed by more than two thousand years of practice and research. It is practiced worldwide both as a primary and adjunctive treatment for a wide range of conditions. While there are somewhat standard treatment protocols for many conditions, the clinical success of acupuncture is related – at least in part – to the wide range of diagnostic signs and symptoms which are taken into effect when looking at an imbalance. For a condition such as arthritis effecting the knees, an acupuncturist may look at your tongue, check your pulse, ask about your diet and lifestyle, palpate your spine, etc. This range of diagnostic information allows acupuncture practitioners to develop a treatment strategy that is unique to you and your experience of a particular condition.
WHAT CONDITIONS CAN ACUPUNCTURE TREAT?
People may see an acupuncturist for almost any condition, from Cancer to Shoulder Pain. Some of the more commonly treated conditions are:
- Pain anywhere in the body, including headaches, migraines and trauma
- Psychological conditions such as Depression, Anxiety and Insomnia
- Menstrual Issues such as PMS, amenorrhea, irregular menstruation, etc.
- Asthma and/or Allergy issues
WHAT WILL MY FIRST ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT BE LIKE
People usually find acupuncture to be an incredibly relaxing experience, even for those who have some initial hesitation about needles. In general your first treatment involves quite a bit of discussion, as the practitioner gathers as much information as possible to clearly understand and diagnose your issues from an oriental medicine viewpoint. The needling during the first treatment may be limited so you can become accustomed to the experience and the practitioner can see how you respond.
We know it “works”, but how is a gray area. Many studies have shown that acupuncture releases endorphins (our body’s natural morphine). A release of endorphins would help explain how acupuncture treats pain and also the extremely relaxed feeling most people have after an acupuncture treatment. This alone, however, does not explain how it may help with depression or autoimmune conditions or fibroids as random examples.
In recent years, researchers have begun looking at specific reactions from individual points. One study using a PET scan (shows brain activity) found measurable changes in the areas of the brain related to gastric control when ST 36 was needled. ST 36 is used for a broad range of issues such as: nearly all digestive issues (reflux, cramping, bloating, weak digestion, etc.), lower leg pain, asthma, fatigue, low immunity, and depression to name a few. This study shows that the point has a measurable effect on brain function which then stimulates the body to correct itself internally.
These types of studies show that acupuncture can and does stimulate the bodies natural functions to heal and regulate. At this time, however, only the vast theories of Chinese Medicine explain how best to accomplish this for a given set of symptoms. For practitioners that understand the complex set of theories underlying Chinese Medicine we see somewhat of an endless labyrinth with studies of this nature. We know from clinical experience that we may use a particular point to create a particular effect, but that same point will have a different effect when used with a related point, and yet another with a different point — and so on. In other words, there are a multitude of relationships that are accounted for through thousands of years of observation, use, and clinical research that are very difficult to study using Western techniques and terminology.
The “Endorphin” Theory:
As mentioned above, one theory that attempts to explain the “how” of acupuncture is the endorphin theory. Studies have shown that acupuncture leads to the release of endorphins and these are powerful natural pain killers. Some studies, however, have shown no release of endorphins during treatment. The endorphin view, even if the sole “how” of acupuncture, would only explain effects on pain and perhaps inflammatory related conditions but would be difficult to explain how it may help with anxiety or fertility or parkinsons.
The “Gate Control” Theory:
Acupuncture is also thought to work through the “Gate Control” theory of pain. This theory states that pain is a function of the balance between messages in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (branching nerves within the body). In essence the theory is about how many messages the body can carry and listen and respond to at one time. By stimulating the large nerve fibers (as acupuncture appears to do) you can essentially block the body’s ability to experience “pain”. As with the endorphin theory, this theory does not explain acupuncture’s effect on other chemistry and other non-pain related conditions. Nor does it explain why the effects of acupuncture can last for significant periods of time following a treatment.
The “Nerve-Reflex” Theory:
This theory, proposed by a team of Japanese physiologists in the 1950’s, showed a relationship between the surface of the skin and the state of internal organs. Essentially an imbalance of an organ, the stomach for example, would send messages to the brain about it’s “problem”, during this it would also send information to the skin that could cause tension, color changes, or other signs that are viewable or “feel”-able by the patient or a practitioner. Needling these areas on the skin would create an inverse reaction directing the healing potential of the body to that organ. This is likely a part of how acupuncture points were ever found to begin with and also how techniques such as abdominal palpation (common in Japanese acupuncture) give valid clinical information. Again, though, it doesn’t explain how we would effect brain chemistry, or even how, exactly, it would lead to the healing of an internal organ.
We don’t know how acupuncture works in measurable western scientific terms. What we “know,” but find difficult to measure, is that acupuncture appears to:
While we can observe these changes and theorize about them based on clinical experiences we still do not have a “how” with acupuncture. For now, as practitioners, it is important to stay firmly rooted in the thousands of years of Chinese Medical history, theory, and techniques of application. And, as others have done before us, to work to extend and “perfect” these theories as we mature as practitioners. For the public, this is a crucial reason why acupuncture should only be performed by fully trained acupuncturists who have the theoretical backing to apply acupuncture properly.
If you would like to schedule an appointment to discuss the details of acupuncture therapy with the Spine Care team, please don’t hesitate to Contact Us.
83 Montgomery Ave.
Scarsdale, NY 10583