What Acupuncture Can Do For Your Neck Pain

If you’re experiencing persistent neck pain, you’re in good Woman with neck paincompany. It’s estimated that about 1 in 4 people worldwide will experience neck pain lasting for one year or longer. If you’re between the ages of 35-49 and living in a city the United States or another higher income country, your risk of being one of those 1 in 4 people goes up significantly, according to the statistics.[ref]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21665126[/ref] If you work in front of a computer or in an office setting, the likelihood is even higher still. If you consider that the use of smartphone and computers has only increased since these stats were collected, which very likely will increase the frequency of neck pain, you’ll get some idea of how common neck pain is and how easy it is becoming to develop it. Persistent neck pain can be a heck of a hurdle to all sorts of things in life. Besides the obvious fact that it causes pain and can make life considerably less comfortable day to day, it can be expensive both in terms of money and other less tangible things like lost sleep, lost productivity, irritability, inability to spend time as much time playing with the kids, less motivation for other leisure time activities, etc. Money is easier to measure, however, and a 2009 analysis of the economic burden of chronic neck pain places the annual cost between $5574-8512 per year.[ref]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24684443[/ref] If chronic neck pain requires surgery, those costs can jump significantly with a 2010 analysis of spinal surgery finding that the average cost of spinal surgery is approximately $120,394.[ref]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24469004[/ref] Sometimes surgery is unavoidable, but in a significant number of cases it most definitely is. Acupuncture is an effective means to control, reduce, or eliminate chronic neck pain and it can help to restore the health of the affected tissues of the neck that could otherwise eventually make surgery inevitable. It’s important to also understand that neck problems do not just affect the neck itself, but can be implicated in the development of numerous other issues producing pain and dysfunction in surrounding and connected areas. That carpal tunnel issue may not simply be due to spending too much time at the computer at work, and that pain between your shoulder blades might need more than just a massage. These issues will be visited in the linked posts below. The neck is a crucial area of nerve and muscular activity, and mobility, and any dysfunction in these areas can often result in more than just a stiff neck. There are several ways in which the tissues of the neck can be impacted by various conditions and there are specific ways in which acupuncture can address each situation. I will be covering some of the details of these particular scenarios and how acupuncture can help each of them in upcoming blog posts, which you can click through to below. (When they are complete. The links may be broken for a few weeks after the publication date of this blog. Stay tuned!) Acupuncture and Neck Pain - Structure Acupuncture and Neck Pain - Muscles Acupuncture and Neck Pain - Nerves Acupuncture and Neck Pain - Mobility Acupuncture and Neck Pain - Alternative to Conventional Care As with anything, the specificity can make all of the difference and you will probably not be surprised to learn that there are specialized techniques to approach the unique qualities of each condition. However, in addition to specialized techniques to address the immediate problem areas, skillfully performed acupuncture harnesses and directs the body’s innate healing capacity, leveraging it in your favor in order to speed the healing process. This translates to reduced pain and inflammation in the short term, and more complete healing with fewer complications in the long term. Other than surgery, which has been discussed above, standard care for neck pain can typically involve PT and anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, or in some cases pain medication. One of the reasons that acupuncture is so effective for neck pain is that it can accomplish the tasks of all of these interventions with one therapeutic approach. Correctly performed acupuncture has been shown to stimulate the release of enkephalins, endorphins, and other neuropeptides both in the affected tissues and in the entire body. These function to reduce inflammation and pain without the need for pharmaceuticals with the risk of side-effects. The needles can additionally improve blood flow to the affected areas and facilitate relaxation in the affected muscles by improving the communication between the muscle and the nervous system, again, without the need for pharmaceuticals. While PT is also a non-pharmaceutical intervention, many patients find that they still have pain even after a round of visits and in these cases acupuncture can serve as an excellent complement to the structurally-based rehab that PT provides. On this last note, acupuncture can assist and improve the outcome of any of the other primary “Western” interventions used to treat neck pain - speeding recovery and assisting the durability of recovery to prevent recurrence. I have covered acupuncture’s complementary role to other therapies in a previous blog post. An additional note on studies demonstrating effectiveness, the most recent Cochrane review (regarded as the highest quality evidence for medical interventions) on acupuncture for specifically for neck pain is quite favorable yet still somewhat inconclusive[ref]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27145001[/ref] (the current issues with executing a well-designed acupuncture study are numerous and beyond the scope of this post), however, as a clinician, chronic neck pain is among the top five ailments that I treat regularly and one that generates some of the most referrals from satisfied patients. To sum it all up, neck pain is an incredibly common, costly issue that can significantly impact quality of life... but before you consider an irreversible surgery, before you get frustrated with the sometimes slow pace of rehab, and ESPECIALLY before you resort to opioid painkillers, why not join the millions of patients who have successfully found relief with acupuncture. Please click here for more information about me and my practice.

Acupuncture Alleviates Anxiety

There's no doubt about it - modern life is stressful! Every day we're bombarded with more information in more ways than at any other point in human history and our brains have to try to handle it all. Add this to a job, the fluctuating stock market, traffic, elevated tuition costs, and juggling the needs of your family and it's not hard to see why anxiety is an increasingly common issue for which Americans are seeking care. It is estimated by the National Institute of Mental Health that approximately 40 million American adults now suffer from some form of anxiety disorder.[ref]http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-anxiety-disorder-among-adults.shtml[/ref] The resulting reduction of quality of life that accompanies most anxiety disorders can impact everything from work and relationships, to immune response and physical health.
While the living conditions in Ancient China were clearly very different from what we experience today, it is likely that they were not much less stressful. The living conditions were exceedingly harsh and many of the things that we now consider to be minor annoyances could be life-threatening. The early physicians were acutely aware that many different forms of stress had the capacity to affect the health of the body, and they regarded emotional stress to be among the most important factors that could weaken the body and ultimately increase vulnerability to disease. As science has taught us more about how chronically elevated stress can affect the body, we now take it for granted that this is the case.[ref]http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/how-worrying-affects-your-body[/ref]
While there are several ways in which acupuncture can impact anxiety, as a patient there is one factor that is the most important point to understand. Psychology has provided some fantastic tools for grasping at the underlying factors contributing to anxiety issues. This is an invaluable tool for longterm success, but it can often be true that even after periods of counseling there may still be lingering anxiety triggers that are making progress difficult for some people. This is because the stress response affects several processes in the brain, some of them conscious, others completely automatic and seemingly outside of our control. Acupuncture is a great means to address the second type; the automatic factors that occur very much like a knee-jerk reflex. The presence of needles in properly selected acupuncture points can serve to improve the communication between the mind and the body. It is this relationship that is often disrupted during longstanding stress or anxiety, and which can impede the progress toward a more complete resolution. In essence, while it can be incredibly important to change the way one thinks in order to overcome longer term anxiety, when paired with acupuncture, which can have significant impacts upon how a patient feels without the need for medications with uncomfortable side effects, the progress can often occur much more quickly and completely.
If you have been struggling through anxiety issues, whether long term or short term, or if you're just plain stressed out, acupuncture can often help you better adapt to life's challenges and experience a calmer, more balanced day-to-day existence. If you are located in the Milwaukee, Brookfield, or Waukesha, WI areas and have more questions or are interested in pursuing treatment, please click here to visit my main page.

5 Reasons You Probably Still Haven’t Tried Acupuncture Debunked

Lots of people are trying acupuncture and finding relief from all sorts of issues these days. You may have been curious about it, but still have not felt comfortable enough to give it a try. Here are some of the more common reasons why you may still be reluctant, and the truth behind them. 1) The Reason: I hate needles and think that the needles are similar to what I've already experienced The Truth: As Americans, our first exposure to needles in relation to medicine involves blood draws and shots. Naturally, when people hear that acupuncture involves needles, this is what they automatically think of, but acupuncture needles are dramatically different than the hypodermic needles that we are used to.
Why acupuncture does not hurt
As an experiment and a visual, I took a 21 ga hypodermic needle tip that I had on hand, which is the size that is most often used for typical blood draws, and fit as many of each of the most common 5 sizes of needle that I use in my clinic on a daily basis into the opening. You can see that I was able to fit between 3 and 9 needles, depending on the size. 90-95% of the needles that I use on a daily basis are 34 and 36 ga, with the 32 ga needles being used only on my largest, most solid-framed and least sensitive patients, and the 38 and 40 ga needles on those patients who are more prone to discomfort or on areas where the nerves are much more densely clustered, making them naturally more sensitive. I typically give patients a choice. 2)The Reason: I'm worried that acupuncture is painful The Truth: Hands down, one of the first questions I get asked as an acupuncturist when introducing someone to acupuncture for the first time is “is it going to hurt?” Everyone is wired a bit differently, so people can have dramatically different ideas about what constitutes discomfort. While I would never try to claim that acupuncture is completely “sensationless,” for most people any discomfort is really minimal and overall it is generally quite painless. Some needle placements elicit no sensation or discomfort whatsoever, while others may be slightly uncomfortable for a brief moment when the needle is placed initially, but any discomfort then quickly fades into a mild “dull” or “heavy” sensation. In addition, any needles that may be slightly uncomfortable can be quickly adjusted so that they no longer cause any discomfort, or similarly, the needle gauge, location, angle, or depth can be adjusted to ensure maximum comfort during the treatment. 3)The Reason: I think or am worried that I have to believe in acupuncture or Qi for it to work The Truth: There is no requirement to believe in anything at all for acupuncture treatment to be successful. While Chinese Medicine has historically had strong ties to some religious practices in China, the practice of Chinese Medicine is really just a pragmatic means of differentiating how the body is being affected by particular stresses and how it needs to be corrected. In the same way that you don't have to think about your heart beating or breathing in order for your body to make these things happen, you don't need to believe or be aware or anything in particular to experience the results that acupuncture can provide. In fact, many of the same systems responsible for keeping the many organs and structures of your body working correctly are the exact ones that are responsible for the benefits of acupuncture. The only thing that is required is to relax so the body has a chance to respond to the treatment and adjust things accordingly. 4)The Reason: I'm worried that acupuncture is expensive The Truth: Acupuncture is typically not an expensive therapy. In many cases, a course of acupuncture may be far less expensive than the pain medications required to manage symptoms over the long term, but with the added benefit that there are no risks of dependency or side effects from acupuncture. An average course of acupuncture treatment that would typically manage many moderate pain or quality of life issues can fall far below the price tag of many types of therapy or pain management. In many cases, because acupuncture stimulates the body to heal on its own, any sort of continued care may not be necessary once adequate improvement has been made. Additionally, some insurance companies now offer plans that cover acupuncture services, which can further reduce the out of pocket costs. 5)The Reason: I'm already undergoing other types of treatments and am concerned that acupuncture will conflict with them The Truth: Acupuncture is minimally invasive, and because it simply leverages your body's own healing capacity in your favor, any conflicts with other therapies or medications are very rare. The goal of acupuncture is to help the body to optimally adapt to its current circumstances, whatever those circumstances may be, which includes any other interventions that may also currently be at play. I have found that in nearly all cases, acupuncture dovetails exceptionally well with chiropractic, massage, physical therapy, occupational therapy, counseling and many other types of therapies and can work to improve the outcomes of these therapies while also offering additional benefits beyond them because of it's unique mechanism and approach to the body. Likewise, acupuncture can be extraordinarily helpful for moderating the side effects of pharmaceuticals and chemotherapy, and reducing some of the necessary soreness during muscle and joint rehabilitation in chiropractic and physical therapy regimens in order to speed up the progress.   So there you have it. Acupuncture is not so big and scary, and it can benefit your health and remove obstacles in lots of really great ways. So go ahead, give your local acupuncturist a call and try it out! If you're located in the Greater Milwaukee or Brookfield, WI area and I'm so privileged to be your local acupuncturist, please click here to visit my main page.