Acupuncture is increasingly being used as an alternative to drugs like opioids, and has been integrated into reputable medical establishments like the Cleveland Clinic. Studies are finding that the results are not just a placebo effect. (1,2) This is especially clear when considering its effectiveness in animals.
There are a few different treatment goals we aim to accomplish with Chinese medicine, to reduce the symptom of pain, and also to increase the health of the muscles, bones, and connective tissue. Our aim is always to remove any obstruction to circulation, and encourage the body to heal itself. We use techniques like acupuncture, moxabustion, heat lamps, cupping, and massage to accomplish this.
Acupuncture needles are used a few different ways. One way is to release trigger points and muscle motor points. We stimulate the muscle in a specific area that helps to release it from a tight, contracted state. We also use the needle to release bound up fascia and connective tissue. This allows fresh, healing blood flow to reach the muscles and heal them. There are also subtle electrical signals that travel through these tissues. After an injury, these jumbled fibers can’t transmit necessary information, which decreases the body’s ability to heal. Acupuncture “unjumbles” these fibers and allows the signals to travel through the body in a healthy way. (3)
Heat therapies like moxabustion and TDP heat lamps are used to relax muscles and increase blood flow. In Chinese medicine, we usually use heat to treat pain, since our goal is to increase circulation. However, if there is redness, swelling, and inflammation, we use cooling, anti-inflammatory herbal liniments. These herbs reduce inflammation and regulate blood flow, instead of congealing it with ice.
Massage techniques such as tui na (a rigorous Chinese massage style), cupping, and gua sha are also used. These techniques draw old, congested blood and metabolic waste out of the tissues, and allow new circulation to permeate and heal the tissues.