The Mysteries of Acupuncture

Knee pain. It can be never-ending or sporadic, but regardless of the condition, it interrupts daily tasks and can prevent you from doing the simplest activity. I, myself, know firsthand how knee pain can interfere with your day. But where does it come from?
According to William C. Shiel Jr., a doctor in the field of rheumatology, he describes knee pain as a symptom that occurs from athletic activities, trauma injuries and aging. The complexity of the design of the knee, and the fact that it is an active weight-bearing joint, are factors in making the knee one of the most commonly injured joints, Shiel writes in his article Knee Pain. Of the number of different diagnoses that can be made, Osteoarthritis(OA) is the most common joint disorder, which is due to aging and wear and tear on a joint.
Knee osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage (or menisci), which provides “cushion” between the bones, wears away, causing pain and stiffness, reports The Huffington Post. The condition affects one in two people by the time they are 85 and is often treated with drugs, therapy and sometimes surgery. According to a new study, however, acupuncturecould be a viable option to relieve symptoms as well.
Published in the journal of Acupuncture in Medicine, the study consisted of 90 older adults, with an average age of 71, who had osteoarthritis. Each participant’s diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis was the same: they were viable to have surgery as an option for correcting the situation.
The study consisted of having all the individuals receive weekly acupuncture treatments for one month, and then once every six weeks from that time forward. However, not all the participants received treatment for the same amount of time. After a year had gone by, 41 of them continued to receive it and by the time two years had passed, it decreased to 31. Regardless, what British researchers found was that consistent acupuncture, after one month, appeared to decrease pain and stiffness that comes with osteoarthritis. 
So, what causes this healing affect to occur?  Experts still aren’t entirely sure, writes The Post. According to Theories on the Effects of Acupuncture on the Nervous System, although no singular theory has been successful in entirely proving or discovering the intrinsic significance of acupuncture on the nervous system, it is generally accepted that the effects of acupuncture on the body involves the release of opioid peptides in the body.
Opioid peptides? That’s a mouth full! Opioid peptides are thought to be closely involved with the perception of pain in the central nervous system. They are comprised of endorphins, enkephallins and dynorphins, types of neurotransmitters that are found in neurons throughout the body. So with all this medical jibber-jabber, what does this actually mean? The theory is as follows: 

“Pain is felt when the nervous system gets trapped in a kind of negative feedback loop. This can occur when either the brain hasn’t registered the pain because the input to the nervous system isn’t sufficient to reach the absolute threshold to release endorphins; or, the pain originates at a different source than where the body actually perceives the pain. In the later case, although endorphins have been released to one area, the root cause of the pain remains damaged and continues to cause pain even after the body has presumably taken care of the problem. Acupuncture triggers the release of opioid’s in the nervous system by drawing attention to the problem area, either directly or indirectly. After the afflicted area can move and operate freely without the hindrance of pain and the pattern in the nervous system that was creating the pain is broken, often the area will proceed to heal naturally.”
I have had acupuncture a few times to help with some athletic injuries, and it worked wonders on me by reducing the pain and inflammation in my knee and ankle. It may be unknown as to what the procedure triggers exactly in your body to help stave off pain, but it is a well-practiced therapy that continues to be studied. If you are interested in trying acupuncture, but still have questions, talk to your doctor or physio therapist. They can help you make the best decision for you.
What are your thoughts on the practice of alternative medicine? Share them with us!
Are you covered?

If you’re worried about the cost, Acupuncture Referral Service (ARS) reports that many insurance companies, now offer policies that cover acupuncture and related services covered by an acupuncturist. OHIP rules change from time to time, so to ensure that you are covered, they suggest calling your insurance company’s patient information number and ask them personally if you are eligible. To help, ARS has kindly provided you with a number of questions to keep in mind when talking to your insurance providers. Click hereto see them. 


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