Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How acupuncture really works

I wouldn't know my metaphysical qi from my...well....metaphysical butt. I've done no research on acupuncture. Therefore I am highly qualified to report on precisely how it works. (haha)

I've had a stubborn case of posterior tibial tendonitis (behind inner ankle bone) since spring which was showing no signs of relenting. This summer, I turned to acupuncture out of frustration and desperation (and a suggestion from Kurt) but I have to say I think there is something to this stuff.

I go to John Thacker who works with my chiropractor. He's not what you might picture as a licensed acupuncturist. He played football and he's very much an athlete. I see him on a regular basis and by golly this tendonitis situation is pretty much gone. Unfortunately, pain is a moving target once you get over 40. There is always something new to work with!

In a typical session, I present my list of trouble spots for John to direct his needling process. I'm guessing it's around 15 needles?  It's amazing how some of the spots trigger an instant and dramatic neural reaction that can shoot out in multiple directions. Some areas get an extra "jump" with electro stimulation complete with alligators clips. It's a pretty neat sensation. Unless we crank it too high.

Here are my thoughts on how acupuncture works, based on my highly scrutinized scientific method, n=1. (John, forgive me...)

Acupuncture breaks your body out of endless pain loops.
I think pain patterns can become habitual, kind of locked in, especially with tendonitis type things. Just like we always drive the same way to work, or eat the same breakfast, sometimes you need an outside force to point out to your body that there is another way to process information! 

Acupuncture is like a meat tenderizer, making tendons and muscles more compliant. 
Tough piece of meat? Beat it a little. Stubborn kid? Tickle him a little. You get the idea.  The micro-lesions also stimulate blood flow, helping to flush the area and encourage healing.

Acupuncture forces me to be still for up to 40 minutes at a time.
I'm never really still. But flinch a bit where you're doing this porcupine impression and it can be pretty uncomfortable. So I lay there, quietly. It's good thinking time.

For acupuncture to be most effective, you need to rest the parts for a day and use ice.
So you get a multiplicative effect - acupuncture, rest, ice, and a general reminder to take care of yourself.

So there you have it, another tool worth considering for the toolkit!