Modern medicine has a variety of methods for treating muscle pain – the two most common ones in use are pain medications (muscle relaxers) and physical therapy. Occasionally neither of these options are appropriate. Perhaps a person can’t take the medication, or physical therapy fails, or there is no discernible cause for the pain itself and no diagnosis from which to base a treatment.
If you’ve been in this kind of condition, life can be hard. Especially if the pain is constant.
Luckily, the treatment of muscle pain is acupuncture’s crown specialty. In my own opinion, acupuncture really should be a person’s first choice for muscle pain. (I’m not biased, honest!) But people often overlook this very simple and effective therapy when it could provide the relief they are so often seeking.
Acupuncture treats muscle pain through a variety of ways, the most direct being that when a needle is inserted into the body, the body releases chemicals called endorphins. You may have heard of endorphins when people describe the runner’s high – that’s because they’re the same chemicals. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers, and they help you feel relaxed, alert, and mobile. Because this is the body’s natural method of killing pain, patients who are on pain medications can use acupuncture to reduce their dose or get off it entirely.
Releasing endorphins does more than just mask the pain too. The stress relief from the endorphins you feel helps to relax the entire body, so that tense muscles which contribute to an area of pain are no longer supporting the problem (this is often a factor in referred pain, such as from a pinched nerve at the spine).
Acupuncture can also help if the pain is the result of a tight muscle or some tissue between muscles sticking together (ie. a fascial adhesion). In this case, a needle directly into the trigger point or place of adhesion can resolve the problem. If a person doesn’t have a lifestyle that aggravates the muscle problem then this kind of problem tends to go away quickly, perhaps in as few as 1-2 treatments. Otherwise, acupuncture can work to prevent damage from overuse or repetitive strain until a patient can find ways to adjust.
The last way worth mentioning here that acupuncture helps with pain is that the body will bring fresh blood to an area where a needle is inserted. The body is doing this to engage the immune system against the foreign object that has just entered it, but the side effect of this is that body areas where blood was not flowing very well receive fresh nutrients. This can speed healing and recovery for tissue that is damaged, like torn tendons, or that by its nature tends not to get much fresh blood, like cartilage.
Because acupuncture has so many ways it helps the body, consider it for the next time you get an acute pain. Treatment is painless, swift, and relaxing – what better way to get better?