Patients See Relief from Pain Where Eastern and Western Medicine Collide

By Jennifer Gitt

Chronic pain is a condition medical experts have been treating for centuries. Thousands of methods are used today, including those stemming from eastern modalities. Eastern modality treatments were created with ancient theories of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in mind. They closely follow the belief that pain and illness are caused by an imbalance in the normal state and flow of energy in the body. One of the most commonly used and well-known eastern treatments recognized today is acupuncture.

TCM takes a holistic approach in healing the human body. Those who use this type of medicine search to treat the root of the cause, not just the symptoms of an illness. Currently recognized by some private health insurance companies, acupuncture has become an additional treatment option for patients suffering with chronic pain.

Licensed acupuncturists typically perform this procedure using small needles placed at specific points on the skin. The ultimate goal of the treatment is to restore energy, or chi. Chi is best described as a focus of energy; there are key points where this energy can best be manipulated. It is believed this eastern modality channels energy to the points where the needles are placed in order to restore the body’s natural healthy state. This returns the normal flow of energy throughout the body.

Acupuncture takes a non-invasive and drug-free approach to healing the body. In addition, it is a safe procedure, with few risks involved. While some patients may experience slight bruising or superficial bleeding at the needle insertion site, many leave the treatment feeling relaxed. Each session lasts approximately one hour. Most patients report it to be a pain free process.
There are many medical techniques used today that originated from TCM. In this practice, it is strongly believed chronic pain and illnesses are the caused by the body’s flow of energy. If energy is “blocked,” both body and spirit suffer in a number of ways.

Eastern practices have been used to help with numerous types of chronic pain including: back pain, migraine, depression, and abdominal pain. These treatment modalities can include, but are not limited to:
• Cupping
• Reflexology
• Acupressure
• Gua Sha

Cupping is a commonly used treatment to assist in the healing process for respiratory problems and the common cold. Used alongside other treatments, such as massage and chiropractic care, cupping is considered an effective way to stimulate circulation and release tension. This modality is also used on post-surgical patients to regenerate blood flow from operative area.

Glass, bamboo, and plastic cups are most regularly used for treatment. Cups are first heated and placed in various places on the back. The heat adds pressure, allowing the skin to suction inside the cup. This combination of suction and heat opens up blood flow and is believed to clear energy blockage, restoring the body to a healthier state. Cupping is also minimally invasive and said to feel much like pinching of the skin, or even similar to a hot stone massage.

Widely known as a form of massage, reflexology focuses primarily on the feet, and sometimes the hands, to ease a patient’s pain. This practice follows the belief that the body’s extremities harbor specific reflex points that
are linked to various parts of the body, such as organs and muscles. Reflexology treatment excites the nerves in a patient’s painful area, increasing blood flow and aiming to cure the source of the pain.

During this treatment, pressure is applied to precise reflex points in an effort to alleviate pain. by exciting these key points, TCM has shown circulation can improve while decreasing painful symptoms and illness.
Typically,reflexology is used to help with arthritis pain, back pain, headaches, hormonal imbalance, and even menstrual pain. Additionally, the firm nature of this massage therapy has shown to help those experiencing high levels of stress.

Each reflexology treatment typically lasts for one hour and patients are encouraged to participate in continual treatment sessions.

Acupressure has many similarities to acupuncture, however, there are no needles involved with this eastern modality. Similar to reflexology, acupressure treatment is a deep tissue massage using fingers to apply firm pressure on key trigger points. This treatment follows the same teachings as TCM. It too is thought to regulate the energy flow through the body to restore patients to their natural, healthy state.

Patient’s who use this treatment for chronic pain often find that it reduces stress and tension in the muscles. In addition, acupressure emphasizes comfort. Continual acupressure treatment often soothes and calms patients
while therapists focus on providing their patients with comfort and good health.

Gua Sha
Gua sha is an ancient eastern modality that is used for the treatment of chronic and acute pain, infectious illness, and respiratory and digestive problems. This specialized procedure is commonly performed to promote normal circulation and metabolic rates.

When broken down, the term gua means to scrape or scratch, while sha is the implication of red-toned, elevated skin rash. There are many methods used to release sha, however gua sha is most commonly used, as it is known to be one of the most effective releasing techniques.

When patients use gua sha as a treatment, they can expect to feel immediate relief and comfort. This procedure is typically performed by acupuncturists, massage therapists, and physical therapists. A round-edged instrument will be used along with the application of oil on the skin. The round-edged tool is then pressed onto the skin and moved back and forth much like a scraping motion creating friction as a counteractive therapy. Following treatment, patients can expect to have red dots on the skin, often resembling bruising or rug burn. Not to worry, though, this rash is short lasting and fades within 2-3 days after treatment.

While the ultimate goal is to provide comfort and restore health, this technique can alleviate, or even rid, internal blood congestion and inflammation. Gua sha clears stagnant blood at the surface of the skin. This procedure is not recommended for patients with new injuries, but can be used if the pain lingers after healing.

There are a number of eastern modalities used today that have been passed down through the generations of TCM. Many are now being used in conjunction with western medicine and are recognized treatment options in medical practices and covered by health insurance providers. Whether it is acupuncture, gua sha or cupping. A combination of eastern and western medicine may be the answer to solving your chronic pain condition.


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