STIMULATING THE MERIDIANS WITH ACUPUNCTURE … HIGH EFFICACY ON LUMBAR PAIN, ARTHRITIS
Updated: May 24, 2018
Stimulating the Meridians with Acupuncture … High Efficacy on Lumbar Pain, Arthritis
Principles of Korean Medicine Acupuncture Treatment
Many Koreans seek acupuncture treatment to address chronic low back pain, frozen shoulder, and other symptoms. According to a report by the NCCH (National Center for Complimentary and Integrated Health) research team of NIH (National Institute of Health) in Mayo Clinic Proceedings on acupuncture, massage therapy, relaxation technique, Tai Chi, and yoga, acupuncture was effective in lumbar pain and degenerative knee arthritis. However, acupuncture experience largely varies across patients. While some feel that it "works like magic," others feel that it does not work on them as good as it did before. Then, scientifically, how does acupuncture affect pain? Here are some insights shared by Dr. Park, On Jung, LA director of Jaseng Center for Alternative Medicine.
How does acupuncture work in the body?
We must understand the terms “meridian channels” and “meridian points” first. Dr. Park says, “meridian channels are like passageways where qi and blood energy run through, and a connecting road to organs in the body. These passageways are composed of channels and collaterals. While qi energy travels up and down the channels, it flows parallel through the collaterals to the right and left. The body has 12 basic meridians.”
The 12 meridians are spread throughout the body, and from those meridians, smaller meridians are concentrated throughout the whole body. They are distributed from head to toe to allow energy flow in all four directions.
Korean medicine sees obstruction of energy flow and imbalance as disease. Acupuncture regulates these abnormalities.
When you follow up the meridian channels, you meet something called acupuncture points, also known as acupoints. These are points where Qi energy flows to and from. Dr. Park explains, “Qi energy flows throughout the body, and they are most sensitive and responsive in an acupoint. If the inner organ of the body has functional problem, then more sensitive reactions manifest in that area, generally as pain. There may be pain when putting pressure with finger, or there may change in skin color or gloss. Acupuncture stimulation in these acupoints show effective results.”
Another way to stimulate acupoints is cupping. Cupping may leave intense marks, but nonetheless is an effective diagnostic tool to identify problems between the cupping location and connected area.
Dr. Park explains, “stimulation of the meridian channels allows smooth flow of the body.
The principle is to regulate balance by slightly sedating excess energy or nourishing lack of energy after finding and inserting needle at the right location of the acupoint.”
Acupuncture treatment for vertebral joints or musculoskeletal system has anti-inflammatory, pain-killing, blood-moving, muscle relaxing, and muscle and ligament strengthening effects.
However, acupuncture is not simply about inserting needles. Needle rotation and manipulation while inserted and listening to the body to check patient’s condition are helpful in treatment, and improvement of symptoms are dependent on the acupuncturist’s experience and technique.
Acupuncture Treatment Methods
They are mainly divided into three. Primary Meridians, Sinew Meridians, and Motion Style acupuncture treatments (MSAT). Primary meridian acupuncture is the stimulation of the meridian channel to regulate the balance of the whole body; Sinew Meridian acupuncture treatment is the maintenance of pain by stimulation of surrounding ligaments and muscles; MSAT is the relief of pain and improvement of motion range by simultaneously retaining needles and moving the patient.
How effective is acupuncture treatment?
Pain lasting over three months is considered chronic, and any less is considered acute pain. Dr. Park says, “Acupuncture treatment is instantaneously effective in acute muscle pain without history of low back pain. Excessive force on the muscle or abrupt motion can cause muscle malfunction, where contracting and extending are difficult, and this can lead to pain. Acupuncture treatment is effective in finding and relaxing stiff muscles.
However, we need to find the main reason if the lumbar pain comes from change of inner vertebral joint disorder, although the patient visits the clinic for acute pain. The causes of lumbar pain other than muscle pain include herniated disc disorder, degenerative disc disorder, stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and etc. Although these disorders come from spinal disorder itself, symptoms manifested are classic lumbar pain, accompanied by hip, leg, and feet pain and tingling sensation.
Muscle pain? Herniated disc? Spinal Disorder? Treatment Based on Cause
Korean Acupuncture Treatment
Dr. Park says, “I advice receiving examination of X-ray and MRI to see if you have had medical history of pain, or whether the symptoms are simple muscle pain despite acupuncture treatment for what you believed was an acute symptom or whether it has a root cause behind it.”
The progression of regeneration is faster than that of degeneration at younger age; however, the progression of regeneration slows down relatively, and that of degeneration accelerates in middle age.
Dr. Park says, “For chronic pain, acupuncture treatment, which softens muscles and dilates vessels, and together with herbal medicine, which strengthens bones, ligaments, and muscles, are effective in slowing down degeneration.”
For how long should one receive acupuncture treatment?
The answer varies depending on the patient’s root cause of pain, condition of the body, and career.
Dr. Park explains, “You can see dramatic result in short period of time with acupuncture for simple muscle pain. You can expect great healing effects after receiving one or two acupuncture treatments or after a week or two treatments with enough rest. On the other hand, both acute or chronic herniated disc disorder, or other spinal disorder, require constant acupuncture and herbal treatment for three to six months and look for any progress.” Additionally, low back, abdominal, and thigh strengthening exercises can help in prevention of relapses.
Which insurance covers acupuncture treatment?
This varies depending on patient’s insurance and plan, but most of PPO plans have coverage, while HMO plan coverage depends on the medical group. Call your insurance company for any problems, and contact acupuncture clinics regarding treatments.
Recent acupuncture treatment relieves cancer treatment side effects
Dr. Park explains, “Renown MD Anderson Cancer Center has many researches on herbal therapy, acupuncture treatment, and other related treatments. Cancer patients express discomfort in digestion, constipation, heartburn, headache, insomnia, loss of energy and other side effects after radiation or chemotherapy. Medications for digestion or insomnia will put heavy burden on patients that are already exhausted from fighting cancer. Recently, famous cancer centers are more inclined for acupuncture treatments to reduce pressure of medication and improve patient recovery.”
Acupuncture treatment is also effective in infertility. In IVF centers, acupuncture treatment is used in finding balance, and it is applied on days undergoing procedure or post procedure to maximize fertilization. Dr. Park explains that acupuncture is applied beforehand to prepare the body before pregnancy and to adjust balance.
Acupuncture treatment is used in depression, panic disorder, insomnia, stroke, skin disorder, and other various diseases.
Stress or Frequent Drinking Can Induce Low Back Pain
Root Cause of Chronic Pain
Lumbar pain is a musculoskeletal disease. It is a result of repetitive work over time and improper posture, and pain results from progression over long period of time. Dr. Park says, “If you do not have history of past disease or trauma, then 80~90% of chronic lumbar pain is due to persistent wrong posture.” Additionally, “Pain level can range from zero to ten, where pain level zero is no pain, and level ten is the most severe pain. Pain level two to three where there is mild pain is considered the most dangerous state. Sudden pain from no pain results from progression over time, and there can be severe pain pass a certain point.”
Root cause of lumbar pain include the following: Injury, car accident, posture abnormality due to wrong habits, degenerative change from aging, pain post lumbar surgery, sprain (muscle inflammation), etc.
Sitting postures can be problematic as well. In cases of office jobs that require long term sitting, sitting on the same chair for long period, sitting cross-legged, crossing the leg over the other, leaning on one side, and other habits are harmful for lumbar health.
Other causes include repetitive lifting of heavy objects, excessive workout, and sudden weight shift.
Stress or Frequent Drinking can be reason behind Lumbar Pain
Dr. Park says, “Inner stress and frequent drinking are also reasons,” and “Alcohol converts to a toxic component called acetaldehyde, which damage cells, vessels, and muscles, invade the spine and surrounding muscle tissues, and induce severe pain. Alcohol itself acts like gas on fire in case of any preexisting internal inflammation, thus aggravating the infection.”
Surrounding muscles of the spine utilizes sufficient proteins for nutrition, but detoxification of alcohol consumes proteins that belong in the spine and muscles. Repetition of this cycle can only weaken the bones, muscles, and ligaments.
Stress can also induce muscle tightness, decrease of blood flow to the muscle due to vessel contraction, and increase of muscle tension; these can aggravate inflammation or muscle pain in the weakened lumbar area.
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