Chronic pain in our body can present in many different areas and with varying intensity. It is common for chronic pain to be the result a specific injury such as a lower back disc trauma or arthritis, causing debilitating back and sciatic pain. Alternatively, chronic pain may be the result of a specific treatment, like chemo or radiation therapy. Peripheral neuropathy (needle-like pa in in experienced in the hands and feet) is a common side effect of such treatments. But much of the chronic pain people experience in the clinic is idiopathic, meaning it has no obvious cause. Migraines is an example of a conditions that are difficult to bio-medically explain and therefore treat.
Acupuncture approach to chronic pain
When dealing with chronic pain, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) will not only pay close attention to the traits of the pain but also evaluate the overall constitutional health of a person. More often than not pain is associated with what is know as blood stagnation. Essentially free flowing oxygenated blood around the body represents good health. The reasons as to why blood may block or stagnate include stress, physical trauma, diet, environment and many more. Often the potential causes of pain may seem quite random, but when addressing the body holistically signs, symptoms and history start to form a clearer picture. By using diagnostic tools such as looking at the tongue, feeling the pulse, palpating an area and discussing the nature of the complaint a Chinese medicine diagnosis can be made. Often a disharmony within the body can be detected and be linked to reasons why pain is apparent. Then it is important for a TCM practitioner to formulate a treatment strategy.
Can acupuncture help?
Currently evidence suggests acupuncture can help with some conditions of chronic pain. Please see our current evident page. This will usually involve a number of acupuncture sessions within a short period of time, often daily or every second day for three to four treatments. Acupuncture may be applied locally to the pain area or, if pain is particularly intense, needling away from the site of pain will provide better results.
A common acupuncture technique called distal needling or the balancing method involves needling on the opposite side of the body to a problem area and choosing correlating body parts or meridians. This technique can be particularly effective at breaking a pain cycle. If the initial cluster of treatments provide pain relief, subsequent treatments can be suggested weekly or fortnightly and then on a needs basis. Once the pain has settled, it allows the focus to shift from pain management to pain prevention. This may involve Chinese, dietary changes and discussions based on stress management and dealing with fatigue and other debilitating conditions.