How Acupuncturists View (and Treat) Pain
By Kathleen Ellerie, Licensed Acupuncturist and Owner of Beachside Community Acupuncture
Most people try acupuncture because they are in pain, and acupuncture’s effect on pain is one of the most researched topics in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) today. Almost everyone has some sort of ache on any given day; how can acupuncture help?
A majority of pain is what we call Qi (energy) stagnation and Blood stasis, or basically a blockage of both Qi and Blood. This is usually caused by a trauma like falling off your bike or overuse such as bending your wrists over your keyboard day after day.
In TCM we see the body as a system of meridians, which are pathways that circulate Qi and Blood. If your body’s meridians are like little highways that feed into each other, what happens when one is blocked because of stagnation? In other words, what happens if an accident occurs on the highway and blocks most of the lanes? Anyone who’s ever sat at a standstill during rush hour knows the answer: The entire highway system will be thrown off. There will be a traffic jam in one area, a lack of cars (Qi and Blood) in another area, and the surrounding streets will have a change in traffic flow as the drivers find alternate routes.
There are two basic methods acupuncturists use to clear out this blockage. To illustrate both, I’m going to downsize meridians from highways to streets. Don’t panic!
Picture a tree falling over and blocking a street. There’s a line of cars stretching for miles because no one can get around it. How can the problem be fixed?
- The people at the front of the line can get out of their cars and physically move the tree themselves. This is similar to an acupuncturist working directly on the site of your pain, physically drawing Qi and Blood to the area.
- Alternatively, anyone at any position in the line of cars can take out a cell phone and call up the city command center to send someone to remove the tree. This is when acupuncturists use distal points, or points that are not near the site of pain. By using these points, an acupuncturist is “calling” your “command center” (brain) to go in and move the blockage.
Often acupuncturists will use a combination of both of these methods, depending on their personal style and what they think will best benefit the patient. Both work very well, but neither will make you miraculously pain-free overnight. Every once in a while I’ll have a patient who is completely better after just one treatment, but that’s not the norm. Our bodies are actually much more complex than a highway system, and it takes time to really get your meridians back in balance, especially because we’re constantly moving and re-aggravating our injuries. Usually we look for consistent, subtle changes in pain after every treatment that lead to lasting relief over time. Results can vary drastically from patient to patient, though, so the only way to know how quickly your body responds is to try it yourself!
Kathleen Ellerie, L.Ac., Dipl.O.M.
Beachside Community Acupuncture
14330 Midway Road, Suite 205, Dallas, TX 75244
BeachsideAcupuncture.com ~ @beachcomacu