Acupuncture For Pain
Acupuncture (Chinese medicine) is the world's oldest continuously practiced form of medicine, dating back several thousand years. Since the 1970's when acupuncture became more known in the United States, many people associate it with treating body pain. Acupuncturists see patients with various types of pain from physical trauma (car accidents, sports injuries, etc.); from chronic diseases like fibromyalgia, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis; and from degenerative conditions like herniated discs and osteoarthritis.
In Chinese medical theory, pain is often associated with a disruption in the movement of Qi. Qi can be described as the vital energy of the body-mind-spirit. Qi flows through the body along well-defined pathways called “channels” or “meridians.” Each of these Qi pathways contains acupuncture points. Using a very thin needle, we can address the Qi so that it starts moving again thus alleviating the pain. Acupuncture has been shown to be quite effective in treating pain, and because it stimulates your body's own healing mechanism, there are no adverse side effects.
The United States is in the midst of a public health crisis related to overprescribing and addiction to pharmaceutical pain medicines. So many people experience acute and chronic pain, and modern medicine has not had much to offer beyond pain medicine prescriptions, injections, physical therapy and surgeries. Acupuncture can often help manage or alleviate pain with no harmful side effects.
In Chinese medicine, the person is viewed holistically as a spiritual being living in a physical body. So we can ask the question, “where does this pain originate”? Sometimes the answer is very clear, as in the case of traumatic injury. Such pain is said to originate in the body. However, if left untreated, we might start to see the pain moving into the mental/emotional level of that person, causing emotional distress in addition to the physical pain they experience. Alternatively, sometimes people come in for treatment and the cause of their pain is not as easy to discern. In such cases, treating only the body will not be successful because the origin of the pain is on the mind or spirit level.
The goal with every acupuncture treatment is to address the whole person using a two-pronged approach branch and root. We want to alleviate the pain by dealing directly with the symptom the branch. At the same time, we endeavor to heal the underlying cause of the symptom the root. Looking at each pain situation in this way, we can understand pain (or any symptom) to be a request from our deepest self to pay attention to something.
One of my esteemed teachers uses the phrase, “symptom as teacher.” Understanding that each of us lives within an amazing and wise body-mind-spirit system allows us to reframe the body pain in such a way that treating the pain also gives us an opportunity for personal growth.