When most people think of acupuncture, they think of it as a solution to pain or addictions. While that is certainly accurate, acupuncture effectively treats so many more things than that. Because of the enormous influence acupuncture has on more systemic issues, I frequently forget to talk about the obvious — acupuncture and pain. Today I’d like to cover a specific type of pain — back pain, and more specifically yet, bulging discs.
Wow! So easy. I like treating back pain because the effectiveness is so great. In a meta-analysis (an analysis of all the research done on a particular topic — in this case specifically bulging discs) the studies were all impressive, with results ranging from 91.8 percent to 95 percent effectiveness. These analyses were studying various acupuncture treatment methods all falling within those results.
How does it work? This is what the studies found: It works with the nervous system by stimulating parasympathetic tone and down-regulating excess sympathetic nervous system activity. This in turn decreases the inflammatory response. Before you go getting scared, acupuncture is not hitting a nerve or the brain in order accomplish that. It is responsible for the regulation of certain endogenous (within the body) biochemicals to bring about this response.
Acupuncture also facilitates muscle relaxation and reduces muscle spasms which are common with back pain. It increases microcirculation — dilating blood vessels and pushing circulation to even the tiniest of blood vessels. This in turn brings the nutrients needed, as well as the cells responsible to healing, into the local area to help mend the tissues. In addition to reducing inflammation and muscle spasms, acupuncture helps to reduce edema — the localized swelling that occurs with acute and chronic back pain.
It has also been found that acupuncture with electrical stimulation, according to Health CMI (a website that reports on acupuncture research), “facilitates regeneration of damaged nerves by improving nerve cell metabolism and nerve cell enzyme activity.”
So, acupuncture works by several different mechanisms to bring about pain relief and healing. It has been exciting to watch the research coming in that describes HOW acupuncture works. Next year, I will have been a Licensed Acupuncturist for 30 years. We’ve always known that it works. Many doubters during the early years of acupuncture licensure here in the U.S. thought it was placebo. But, because acupuncture works just as well on animals (who are not subject to placebo), that thought has long since gone away. We now know it works, period. Now we are learning the mechanisms behind HOW it works. Exciting times!
If you or someone you care about is suffering from back pain (herniated disc, or not), have them consider acupuncture before any dramatic measures. I am confident they will be more than pleased with the results as many, many before them have.
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Holly Carling is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist and Master Herbologist with nearly four decades of experience. Carling is a “Health Detective.” She looks beyond your symptom picture and investigates WHY you are experiencing your symptoms in the first place. Carling is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements in her Coeur d’Alene clinic. Visit Carling’s website at www.vitalhealthcda.com to learn more about Carling, view a list of upcoming health classes and read other informative articles. Carling can be reached at 208-765-1994 and would be happy to answer any questions regarding this topic.