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NJ Sciatica

Is Acupuncture Better for Pain than Drugs?

NJ Teachers Article for September 2014

There is mounting evidence that acupuncture is more effective than drugs for treating pain – AND there are no dangerous side effects. When it comes to pain and wellness, here’s a lesson worth remembering: acupuncture is one of the oldest healing practices in the world. The origins of acupuncture can be traced back thousands of years to ancient China. The practice is based on belief in keeping the body’s vital energy flow, or qi (pronounced chee) in balance. Qi flows through the body along 14 ‘pathways’ or meridians. When energy becomes stuck or blocked, pain and illness can occur. The Chinese believed that the body’s energy flow, or “qi,” was responsible for keeping the body’s basic functions in proper working order, and that disruptions or imbalances in the body’s natural qi could lead to pain and/or illness. Through acupuncture, imbalances in the patient’s qi can be corrected, allowing the body to function optimally.

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Still In Pain?

All teachers know their history.
When it comes to pain and wellness, here’s a lesson worth remembering: acupuncture is one of the oldest healing practices in the world and can be traced back thousands of years to ancient China. The practice is based on belief in keeping the body’s vital energy flow, or qi (pronounced chee) in balance. Qi flows through the body along 14 ‘pathways’ or meridians. When energy becomes stuck or blocked, pain and illness can occur. Today, many Western practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. This stimulation appears to boost the activity of your body’s natural painkillers and increase blood flow.

Many teachers suffer from painful sciatica, carpal tunnel and neck or low back pain due to repetitive motions and, often, stress. Acupuncture has been shown to help patients mange pain for these disorders, as well as many others, such as migraines and joint pain. The process of inserting very fine needles along specific points in the body can release natural pain-relieving chemicals, promote circulation and balance the nervous system.

Acupuncture has become an increasingly popular option for patients who suffer from chronic pain. In fact, the FDA estimates that Americans undergo between 9 and 12 million acupuncture treatments per year – a number that is bound to continue growing, thanks to its safety and effectiveness. The procedure itself involves the use of ultra-thin needles, made from silver and steel alloy. After a patient has been diagnosed and acupuncture has been deemed appropriate, a licensed acupuncturist will map out the points on the patient’s body where the therapeutic needles can be used to effectively restore the body’s natural energy flow. Patients generally feel only a brief sensation when the needles are inserted, and are often surprised at how painless the treatment actually is. In fact, many patients find acupuncture to be soothing and relaxing.

Acupuncture treatments have been shown to cause the release of endorphins, which are the natural pain relieving substances found in the brain and spinal cord. This natural reaction by the body may help to explain how acupuncture is helpful in relieving pain.

Why do teachers love acupuncture?
Because acupuncture is a non-surgical, drug-free technique that has been used to successfully treat not only pain in the back, neck, shoulders and extremities, but it may also be used to help with relaxation, losing weight, quitting smoking, or reducing anxiety.

Reprinted with permission from Think Teachers Magazine.

Questions About Sciatica Answered

What is Sciatica?
Back injury doctors will tell you that sciatica is a condition in which pain originating from the low back or buttock area travels down one or both legs. The pain of sciatica has been described as achy, sharp, tingling, or has sometimes been likened to electric shocks. Pain can be mild, moderate or severe, infrequent or constant, depending on the degree of nerve involvement.

What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica is usually caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, a large nerve originating at the base of the spine. This compression can be caused by subluxations (misalignment) of the lower spine; herniated or bulging discs; pregnancy and childbirth (when pelvic bones shift and the tissues surrounding them are softer and more movable); tumors or diabetes.

Sciatica is often a result of Piriformis Syndrome. The piriformis muscle is located in the lower spine and is involved in hip rotation. The sciatic nerve is located directly beneath the piriformis muscle, so any injury or disorder affecting this muscle can result in pinching of the sciatic nerve.

How Does a Back Pain Specialist Treat Sciatica?
Initially the doctor will need to accurately diagnose the cause of a patient’s sciatica. This involves taking the patient’s medical history, conducting a thorough physical and neurological examination and employing various diagnostic tests, including X-ray, MRI, CT scans and, if needed nerve testing including electromyography. In most cases, sciatica can be treated non-surgically and non-invasively.

Therapy will be customized based on the most effective way for the patient’s body to begin to heal itself, and may include physical therapy, ice/cold therapy, electrical stimulation (TENS), and spinal manipulation. Advanced therapies such as spinal decompression and deep tissue medical laser therapy can also create dramatic results.

Reprinted with permission from Think Teachers Magazine.