What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the practice of puncturing the skin with needles at certain anatomical points in the body to relieve specific symptoms associated with many diseases. The anatomical points (acupuncture points) are thought to have certain electrical properties, which affect chemical neurotransmitters in the body.
Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used medical practices in the world. Originating in China more than 2,500 years ago, acupuncture gained attention in this country in the 1970s, when China and the US opened relations. The practice has been growing in popularity since.
Acupuncture theories today are based on extensive laboratory research, and have become widely known and accepted. In addition, controlled studies have shown evidence of the effectiveness of acupuncture for certain conditions. At present in the United States, about 3,500 physicians and 11,000 to 12,000 non-physician acupuncturists use this medical art. About 40 acupuncture schools train non-physicians and about 500 to 600 physicians, according to the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture.
What does acupuncture feel like?
Acupuncture is generally performed with metallic, solid, and hair-thin needles. Patients report different feelings associated with acupuncture, but most feel minimal pain as the needle is inserted. Acupuncture makes some people report feeling energized by the treatment, while others say they feel relaxed.
Many studies have documented acupuncture's effects on the body, but none has fully explained how acupuncture works within the framework of Western medicine. Researchers have proposed several processes to explain acupuncture's effects, primarily on pain.
In general, acupuncture points are believed to stimulate the central nervous system, which, in turn, releases chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals either alter the experience of pain or release other chemicals that influence the body's self-regulating systems. These biochemical changes may stimulate the body's natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.
Attention has been focused on the following theories to further explain how acupuncture affects the body:
Conduction of electromagnetic signals
Evidence suggests that acupuncture points are strategic conductors of electromagnetic signals. Stimulating these points enables electromagnetic signals to be relayed at greater-than-normal rates. These signals may start the flow of pain-killing biochemicals, such as endorphins, or release immune system cells to specific body sites.
Activation of the body's natural opiod system
Considerable research supports the claim that acupuncture releases opiods, synthetic or naturally-occurring chemicals in the brain that may reduce pain or induce sleep. These chemicals may explain acupuncture's pain-relieving effects.
Stimulation of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland Joined at the base of the brain, the hypothalamus and pituitary glands are responsible for many body functions. The hypothalamus activates and controls part of the nervous system, the endocrine processes, and many bodily functions, such as sleep, regulation of temperature, and appetite. The pituitary gland supplies some of the body's needed hormones. Stimulation of these glands can result in a broad spectrum of effects on various body systems.
Change in the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones
Studies suggest that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry in a positive way. This is accomplished by changing the release of neurotransmitters (biochemical substances that stimulate or inhibit nerve impulses) and neurohormones (naturally-occurring chemical substances that can change the structure or function, or impact the activity of, a body organ).
Acupuncture and the National Institutes of Health
Clinical studies presented by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have shown that acupuncture is an effective treatment for nausea caused by surgical anesthesia and cancer chemotherapy, as well as for dental pain after surgery.
The NIH also has found that acupuncture is useful by itself, or in combination with conventional therapies, to treat addiction, headaches, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and asthma, and to assist in stroke rehabilitation.
What conditions may benefit from acupuncture?
Many Americans seek acupuncture treatment for relief of chronic pain, such as arthritis or low back pain. Acupuncture, however, has expanded uses in other parts of the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists conditions that may benefit from acupuncture. However, before considering acupuncture, consult your physician to discuss your current medical conditions, symptoms, and treatment options. These conditions include the following:
- Digestive Emotional
- Abdominal pain
- Indigestion Anxiety
- Poor vision
- Toothache Infertility
- Menopausal symptoms
- Premenstrual symptoms
- Back pain
- Muscle cramping
- Muscle pain and weakness
- Neck pain
- Neurogenic bladder dysfunction
- Parkinson's disease
- Postoperative pain
- Respiratory Miscellaneous
- Common cold
- Smoking cessation
- Addiction control
- Athletic performance
- Blood pressure regulation
- Chronic fatigue
- Immune system tonification
- Stress reduction
Acupuncture & Chiropractic for Fertility
Through specialized acupuncture and physical medicine programs, we work with couples seeking to enhance their natural fertility. We work closely with gynecologists and reproductive endocrinologists in the DFW area integrating acupuncture with medical interventions such as Clomid, IUI, and IVF cycles. We currently provide fertility acupuncture services for women undergoing ART at fertility clinics in the area which includes acupuncture treatment before and after embryo transfers.
The essence of the fertility wellness program however, is to take a closer look at the body from a holistic perspective and correct any and all imbalances that may be contributing to fertility problems. Our mission is to help restore your fertility so that you can conceive naturally or increase your success rates if doing assisted therapies. Below is a list of the common types of fertility patients we work closely with:
- PCOS &Ovulatory Dysfunction
- High FSH/ Low AMH/ "Poor Responder"
- Endometriosis & Cysts
- Male Infertility - Low motility, morphology and count
- Donors and Gestational Surrogates
- Couples who have exhausted ART options
It is our strong belief that all women and men should strive for optimal health when planning to begin a family. The reproductive system works much like a concert symphony, a masterpiece is created only if all the players are giving their best. Women may have clues that their periods are not healthy; they may have lots of PMS symptoms or pain, heavy bleeding or irregular cycles. The first goal of the fertility wellness program is to educate women on the details of their menstrual cycles to help them interpret BBT charts, identify cervical fluid, understand how the hormones interplay and work to create an optimal fertile environment. Then we use the tools within the fertility wellness program to attain better balance. These are:
- Relaxation and stress reduction
- Diet therapy
- Lifestyle modifications to promote better health in general
- Abdominal massage
- Complimentary care for Assisted Reproductive Therapy procedures
Why Use Acupuncture for Infertility?
Acupuncture offers a natural approach to treating infertility by focusing on enhancing the quality of eggs, sperm, endometrial lining and cervical fluid. Sometimes this is enough for couples to conceive on their own and it is a very important step for couples who are about to undergo the expense and physical demands of IVF. Acupuncture can also support patients during In Vitro Fertilization, Artificial Insemination, and Hormonal Therapy cycles. The current research points to increased pregnancy rates when couples include acupuncture as part of their infertility care and we are working hard with the doctors and fertility clinics in our area to uncover the mechanisms for the fertility benefit of specialized acupuncture treatments
Chiropractic is a conservative, natural, holistic, and rational form of health care focused on optimizing health and improving the quality of life. Chiropractors specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions with an emphasis on spinal biomechanics, which is the application of mechanical principles on living organisms. The core of chiropractic care is to normalize and maintain healthy biomechanics of the human frame. Since the musculoskeletal system accounts for more than half of the body's mass and is the greatest energy user, it is important that it works efficiently. The chiropractic adjustment is the cornerstone of chiropractic care and is used to bring balance and alignment to the body to successfully treat a variety of different health problems related to the spine and nervous system.
The adjustment is focused on correcting misalignments within the spine and/or restoring function to a spinal joint that isn't moving correctly or is "fixated." The nervous system is the master control system that coordinates all activity within the body. Misalignments or fixations of the spine consist of a mechanical and neurological component that cannot be physiologically separated.
Correction of spinal misalignments not only reduces pain and inflammation, it reduces muscle spasm and tension and normalizes spinal biomechanics. More importantly, it can remove nerve irritation and interference, which can improve overall health and wellness.
How is it done? Chiropractic adjustments usually involve a quick but gentle corrective force into the misaligned spinal vertebrae. This helps restore motion to spinal joints that aren't moving correctly. Adjustments are not-and should not-be painful. In fact, most individuals look forward to their chiropractic adjustments, which often secure immediate relief from discomfort.
Spinal Decompression Therapy is a non-surgical, non-chiropractic therapy to relieve back pain and other problems associated with spinal disc injuries.
Bulging discs, herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, pinched nerves, sciatica, and arm pain or leg pain can often be attributed to your spine asserting pressure on your discs. Poor posture, bad body mechanics, repetitive stress and acute injury can cause your vertebrae to compress your discs or to slip out of alignment which then applies pressure to your discs.
Compressed discs lead to two major problems: a bulge or herniation pressing on a nerve; and brittleness of the disc. The problem is often perpetuated because the compressed disc restricts the flow of nutrients to itself which is needed to heal.
Traditional corrective treatments include surgery or chiropractic adjustment. Spinal Decompression Therapy is an alternative FDA approved treatment option that has shown very good results.
Spinal Decompression Treatment is non-invasive and provides gentle decompression of the disc through the use of a decompression table. You are strapped to the table so that as it moves it applies a distraction force to the targeted area of the spine (the compressed disc). A computer controls the distraction force which is applied in between periods of relaxation. This gently pulls the spine apart elongating it and creating a small vacuum between the vertebrae which pulls the disc back into shape.
Much like a repetitive stress injury the decompression works in very minute increments. But over time that adds up and lets the disc reshape itself, heal and get the proper flow of nutrients going to fight off brittleness and future injuries.
Trigger Point Therapy
There are approximately 400 muscles in the human body, and any one of these can develop what is called a myofascial trigger point (TP). Trigger points are "nervous hot spots" which cause muscles to become abnormally sensitive. This nervous excitability results in the development of tight bands of muscle or fascia that, when pressed, cause local pain, as well as referred pain to somewhere else in the body.
This referred pain is very important- if the doctor is familiar with trigger points, he will very quickly be able to diagnose the problem, as each muscle group has its own pattern of pain referral. If the doctor knows these patterns he will be able to discover very rapidly the nature of the problem and offer solutions.
There are some fundamental and important features of trigger points. These are;
- Trigger points are tender when pressed firmly
- The muscle in which the trigger point is active will have a restricted range of movement and will be weaker than normal.
- Trigger points in a muscle will make the muscle shorter than normal- it will have tight bands which can be felt in the body of the muscle.
- When these tight bands are "plucked" or pressed firmly they usually cause a muscle twitch, and the person may make a "jump" response i.e. an involuntary cry of pain or reflex movement away from the pain
- Trigger points have a typical pattern of pain referral
- Trigger points are very common indeed
- Trigger points are essentially areas of nervous excitability within muscle and they may exist in two different states-
A latent trigger point does not cause pain at rest, but may restrict movement or cause muscle weakness. The patient presenting with muscle restrictions or weakness may become aware of pain originating from a latent trigger point only when pressure is applied directly over the point.
An active trigger point does cause pain at rest. It is tender to palpation with a referred pain pattern that is similar to the patient's pain complaint. This referred pain is felt not at the site of the trigger-point origin, but remote from it. The pain is often described as spreading or radiating.
Causes of trigger points
The TPs of myofascial pain may occur for many different reasons, however the most common reasons are injury or trauma to the muscle or acute or chronic overuse causing muscle damage or dysfunction.
Overload occurs when a muscle is being used in an improper way, causing stress on the muscle fibres. These muscles will often respond by developing Trigger points. If this problem goes untreated for a period of time, compensation in multiple areas of the body can occur, making the problem more widespread and complicated. When this occurs, it is may be referred to as myofascial pain syndrome.
Treatment of trigger points
The most important way of treating trigger points is three fold;
- Stimulation and
Trigger points need to be stimulated to be cured.
This stimulation may be in one of many different ways, however the most important is by stretching the affected muscle group. The stretching of the muscle may be very painful indeed- in fact it is often too painful to be able to stretch the muscle to any meaningful degree. This is where acupuncture becomes vital in the rehabilitation of trigger point problems.
Acupuncture causes an immediate relaxation of the muscle because of the effect of the "micro-trauma" to the surface of the muscle being treated. This relaxation will then reduce a degree of the muscle spasm and consequently allow further stretching of the affected muscle group.
"Acupuncture is not the treatment- it is only part of the treatment".
Specific stretching exercises are required for long term rehabilitation of myofascial pain, however the treatment course can be rapidly accelerated by the incorporation of acupuncture in the rehabilitation.
There are many other ways of treating trigger points- it is the belief of Dr Haigney that acupuncture is the best- for the simple reason that trigger points are caused by a hypersensitivity of a specific set of pain nerves, and it is these precise nerves that are being stimulated by the acupuncture needles.