Belfast Community Acupuncture was recently honoured with a request to contribute to Acupuncture Awareness Week 2016 through authoring a feature article on musculoskeletal conditions. Each year the Acupuncture Foundation Professional Association (AFPA) and British Acupuncture Council, the leading professional associations for traditional acupuncture in Ireland and the UK, disseminate information on the evidence and effectiveness of acupuncture. Read on to access the article and an AFPA public information leaflet...
Acupuncture for Muculoskeletal Disorders, Sports Injuries and Pain
More than 1 in 3 people live with an unresolved sports injury, having never sought help...
If you have suffered with pain or a lingering musculoskeletal disorder, you are not alone. Musculoskeletal conditions are the leading cause of work absenteeism in Ireland (Athritis Ireland, 2013; Health and Safety Executive, 2015) with chronic pain affecting up to one in three people (McGuire, 2011). In the UK, 9.5 million working days were lost due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders in 2014-2015 (Health and Safety Executive, 2015). This can have a big impact on professional and family life, mental health and general quality of life, but despite this it can take over four years to get a diagnosis, plus a further wait for treatment, despite medical consensus supporting an early intervention (Zheltoukhova et.al, 2012).
The health benefits of regular physical activity includes decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and depression (World Health Organisation, 2016) and participation in sport is on the rise (Sport England, 2015; Irish Sports Council, 2011) leading to an increase in strains, sprains, and overuse injuries (Young et al., 2005). Treatments include rest, over the counter medications or exercise therapy, and acupuncture is widely used. Approximately 3.8 million acupuncture treatments are given in the United Kingdom each year of which 59% are due to musculoskeletal complaints such as back, shoulder, neck and knee pain (Hopton et al., 2012).
How Does Acupuncture Treat Musculoskeletal Injuries and Sports Injuries?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is said, “when there is free flow of Qi there is no pain, and when there is pain there is no free flow of Qi”. ‘Qi’ may be interpreted as a metaphor used to describe many different functions, depending on the context. Mechanical trauma or overuse can lead to inflammation, bruising, scar tissue, tension or persistent abnormal pain signals leading to pain and dysfunction. These ‘obstructions in the flow of Qi and Blood’ may be alleviated through acupuncture, moxibustion (heat), Chinese cupping therapy, electro-acupuncture and massage in order to stimulate the ‘free flow of Qi’, reduce pain and restore function.
Another Chinese concept is that of yin and yang. In a sporting context yin refers to rest and recovery, whereas yang refers to performance and competition (Reaves, 2012). Studies have demonstrated a positive effect of acupuncture on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (Itoh et al., 2008; Hübscher et al., 2008). Tour de France 2014 winners Team Astana employ Traditional Acupuncturist Eddie de Smedt on tour to manage stress, stomach problems, pain and recovery (Cycling News, 2014). Acupuncture is an effective intervention for a number of sports injuries (Young et al., 2005).
Acupuncture may be used to treat pain - low back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and knee pain are the four most commonly treated conditions (Hopton et al., 2012). Local injuries may be treated through directly increasing local micro-circulation, an essential component of tissue repair (eg iliotibial band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, subacromial impingement, achilles tendonitis, lateral epicondylitis [tennis elbow], postural tension, myofascial trigger points, sprains and strains etc.) Tension may be postural or secondary to other pathologies eg arthritis and acupuncture may improve symptoms even if the prognosis for the primary problem is poor. Finally in conjunction with self-care and careful exercise, acupuncture may stimulate motor points and 'wake up' a muscle that the body has compensated using other muscles, helping to restore the function of the group.
Emma Van Loock Lic.Ac (2016)
Adapted from an article written for Acupuncture Awareness Week on behalf of the AFPA professional body for acupuncture in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Acupuncture Foundation Professional Association registered members have undertaken training over a minimum of three years, adhere to professional guidelines and complete mandatory Continuing Professional Development training annually.
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