Arthritis, Pain Management and Acupuncture

When most people think of acupuncture the main symptom that comes to mind is pain. Many have heard that acupuncture can be very helpful in managing pain, if not completely eliminating pain. Pain in Chinese medicine is considered to arise from an obstruction in the free flow of Qi and Blood. This may be due to injury, stress, over use, poor posture or a structural imbalance. Other factors that impede the flow of Qi and blood are external pathogenic factors that can enter the channels. These may be cold, wind, heat, and damp or a combination such as damp heat or wind cold. In Chinese medicine this is called Bi syndrome which is arthritis in western medical terms. The main objective of an acupuncture treatment for pain is to open the channels or meridians to enable Qi and Blood to flow once again. With increased Qi and Blood flow the body may begin to heal itself. This is healing the root cause of the pain, not merely suppressing the pain. Some causes of pain such as degenerative, chronic or terminal disease are unable to be cured and can be managed through acupuncture treatment.

As well as increasing the flow of blood, specifically through the area of pain, acupuncture seems to change the chemical mix within the blood. This is done without any drug use. Studies mostly focus on the increased production of endorphins and opioids. These chemicals, which travel in the blood, are picked up by immune cells and neurons, and give relief from pain, as well as providing a general feeling of well being. An increase in white blood cells has also been documented after acupuncture treatments.

Another important component of the acupuncture treatment for pain is the use of moxa, especially thread moxa. The moxa is rolled between the fingers into very small thread-like pieces, which are then place upon a salve at the site of pain. This is then lighted with a piece of incense to give a gentle application of heat to the site. Moxa is processed Artemesia herb, which has the ability to enter the channels, warm the muscles, and is very effective at moving Qi and blood.

A study by Dr. Huey-Jen Lee has used MRI to demonstrate that acupuncture can actually cause measurable stimulation in the brain and increases one's tolerance of pain. Acupuncture is also known to regulate serotonin levels in the brain, which effects mood and sleep patterns and decreases depression. Glucose levels also increase in the blood after acupuncture meaning more energy available to cells for healing and more energy overall.

Terry Tangredi Lic. Ac. 131 Main Street, Hatfield, MA. 01038 (413) 247-3388