When you were diagnosed with arthritis, you probably assumed that you would need to take prescription pain killers for the rest of your life. I bet that acupuncture was never suggested by your physician. You might have been told by your doctor that the pain you are experiencing is coming from some structural change due to degeneration from the disease. Most people have actually seen X-Rays or MRI images of their joints which clearly show that these changes are present.
While it is true that these structural changes do impact the health of the joint they are not always the cause of the pain you are experiencing. In fact, there are several research studies that clearly show that this is the case. Studies on people that are experiencing absolutely NO PAIN routinely show that the vast majority DO have degenerative issues in their joints.
So, if the pain is not coming from the degeneration of the joint, where is it coming from?
In many cases the pain associated with arthritis is not coming from the joint itself but from the tightness and inflammation of the tissues surrounding the joint. The promotion of relaxation and healing in soft tissues (muscle and tendon) along with reduction of inflammation can many times lead to dramatic improvements in your levels of pain and quality of life.
Acupuncture increases blood flow – Everything that your body needs to heal (oxygen, natural pain killers, anti-inflammatories, hormones) is contained within the blood. If the flow of blood is impeded the body may not be able to fully access the areas where they are needed. In Chinese medicine, we consider lack of circulation to be one of the main causes of disease due it’s major impact on the body’s ability to communicate. Acupuncture has been shown in research to increase blood flow and the dilation of capillaries, blood vessels and arteries throughout the body.
Acupuncture stimulates your body’s built in healing mechanisms – When an acupuncture needle is inserted into a painful or tight area we are essentially re-injuring the tissue. The healing mechanisms of the body are called in to heal the new injury and during the process clean up some of the old injury as well.
Acupuncture reduces both the intensity and perception of chronic pain – Acupuncture actually impacts areas of your brain which result in a reduction of your perception of pain. In fact, a recent study using functional MRI imaging showed that acupuncture had a dampening effect on not only your perception of pain but your expectation of it as well.
Acupuncture relaxes shortened muscles – The stimulation from the needle causes your muscles to relax and lengthen thereby taking pressure off of your joints and relaxing muscle spasms.
Acupuncture releases natural painkillers – Research has shown that the release of substances such as endorphins, norepinephrine and enkephalin is stimulated through acupuncture treatment. Some of these biochemicals are 10 – 200 times as powerful as morphine.