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  • Writer's pictureEugene Lee Mahoney, LAc, AEAMP

Acupuncture for the Relief of Common Pain Conditions

Too many of us are taught to put up with pain in our lives. However, conditions that can be debilitating and effect every little aspect of life are often times treatable. It most often affects our ability to do the things we enjoy doing because the pain can be wearing. But, we don't have to live with pain. Two conditions that often show up in the clinic and are categorized as acute injuries (yes sometimes chronic) and caused from repetitive use or physical trauma are carpal tunnel syndrome and sciatica. As you will read below, these conditions are treatable and combined with postural, mechanical and ergonomic changes in workstyle leads to real relief for their sufferers. Included in this blog post are headaches, which can have multiple causes, can have some more common underlying origins to them. Acupuncture is uniquely suited to help, as it focuses on the individual and what is going on with their bodies to cause them to have headaches. This helps target treatments for the patient and their unique situation. The conditions I write about for this blog submission represent some of the more common reasons patients seek acupuncture treatment.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (Median Nerve Compression)

According to the Rheumatology Research Foundation, the National Institute of Health, the American Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control; carpal tunnel syndrome affects more than 6% of adult Americans.

Carpal tunnel syndrome (aka median nerve compression) is a condition where pain and numbness is felt in the hands and finger tips caused by the median nerve being impeded at the ventral (palm side) wrist. Symptoms can also include cold hands, fingers, electric-like pain and numbness especially when working on computers, doing repetitive motion or doing activities where you hold the wrist in extension or flexion.

The median nerve runs medially along the length of the arms and passes through a very narrow passageway at the wrist, leading to the hand. CTS is commonly caused by repeated poor ergonomic practices while working on a computer/ mouse or doing repetitive physical activities. Tissues, muscles and/or nerves can all be inflamed or irritated or suffer from pressure caused by fluid build-up from upper limb edema. A lot of times the median nerve can be affected anywhere on the arm or shoulder, but still have some of the same symptoms as when the problem is near the wrist.

Acupuncture is an excellent method for treating carpal tunnel syndrome and usually can resolve it in up to 6-8 treatments that are uninterrupted & continuous. Acupuncture reduces inflammation, improves circulation and fluid metabolism helping to relieve pressure on the median nerve. Prognosis is usually excellent when combined with improved ergonomic practices at work and home to prevent reinjury or continued irritation. If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome or if you have similar symptoms but are undiagnosed, come in for assessment and treatment by making an appointment, and start feeling better today!


Sciatic-like Pain

(Sciatic Nerve Compression)

Sciatic-like pain is a common condition impacting more and more Americans especially right now with so many working from home, along with reduced activity and working at makeshift desks with poor ergonomics. Sciatic pain is primarily caused when the piriformis muscle (that runs across the sciatic nerve, both deep to the glutes) impedes the sciatic nerve that causes pain at the buttocks (sometimes one-sided, sometimes both) and commonly refers down the lateral side of the leg. It can refer as far down as the ankles and feet but more commonly as far as the lateral knees.

Often times, the pain can originate near the sacral area of the back (triangle shaped bone of the pelvis just above the buttocks) that refers across the back and buttocks and then down the lateral side of the leg. This pain can be sharp, dull, achy, sometimes electrical and even cause numbness and a cold sensation from a decrease in circulation. Weakness of the legs can also be involved.

Some people are more susceptible to sciatica especially those who sit for prolonged periods of time, diabetics and those with extra weight.

The good news is that combined with improved posture and body movement practices, acupuncture is a very effective means to treat this common condition. Relief can be had, typically for most patients, in just a few treatments. But as always results will be different for everyone depending on how their body reacts to the treatment. Some will see improvement right away others will see marked improvement over time. As always with acupuncture each treatment builds on the last as the needles train the body how to reach homeostasis, in this case, how to be pain free.

As with all of my patients, I usually recommend 2 treatments to see how their body responds to acupuncture and then develop a treatment plan based on initial results. Usually, I recommend a series of four to six treatments 1 to 2 times a week to improve prognosis. This is usually combined with a strategy to help reduce reinjury that involves work on posture, sitting, and most importantly working exercise and stretching into daily routines. All help prevent reinjury.

If you suffer from sciatica (or if undiagnosed, sciatica-like pain) please don’t put up with the pain. You can see real results and relief in very little time. Please make your acupuncture appointment today and feel better.


Headaches/ Migraines

Headaches can be among the more debilitating forms of pain. It is estimated that 1 in 6 Americans suffer from headaches and 1 in 7, from migraines.

The most common discernment between the two is that headaches generally refer to pressure or aching in a region or regions of the head, like the frontal, occipital and temporal lobes, for examples.

Migraines are typically considered more intense and are tied more systemically to the body, often causing nausea, affecting the senses (like sight and hearing), light and sound sensitivity. The pain can often be described as like a vice between and behind the eyes in a band surrounding the head. Many patients report auras and changes in other senses like smell and taste, sometimes even touch.

In my practice I find women suffer from headaches more than men at a rate of 3 to 2 and migraines by at least 4 to 1. Some common triggers for both, are stress, anxiety and diet (this is both men and women). The single most important factor for cis-women, I see in my clinic, is their cycle. Especially if it is an irregular cycle (painful, heavy, inconsistent timing). With both men and women, age can play an important role too, with older adults suffering more.

All of these are treatable using a combinate of acupuncture and East Asian herbal medicine. For more chronic conditions the prognosis is long-term treatment, with maintenance, to help continue homeostasis. Acute conditions usually need a moderate treatment cycle of 9 to 12 treatments and regular herbs to help get a patient back to living a headache free life. Results are of course patient dependent, but I have seen great results treating headaches and migraines, as most respond very well to the treatments and get timely relief.

If you suffer from headaches or migraines make your appointment today to start getting relief. Acupuncture could make a world of difference in your quality of life, in only a few treatments.


Treating Pain with Acupuncture

Whether or not you suffer from any of the three highlighted types of pain conditions that I posted about today, the real point of today’s blog is about how effective acupuncture is with painful conditions. These are just three of the more common ones I typically see. But patients are seen with all types of pain, from lower back pain to shoulder and neck pain, sports or occupational injuries, TMJ pain, the list goes on and on.

Acupuncture is recognized the world over to help alleviate pain, typically patients find total relief in several visits. Make your appointment today and let’s assess how effective acupuncture can be for the type of pain you are struggling with. With the goal always being getting back to doing the things you enjoy, pain free.

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