How does it work?
Acupuncture is just one of many key components to Chinese medicine. Similar to the earth’s longitudinal and latitudinal axis, our bodies exhibit energetic gridlines or “meridians” that carry “qi” or vital energy. There are as many as 2,000 acupuncture points on the body and each one holds unique properties along the meridians. Acupuncture is an art, philosophy, and medicine that includes the insertion of thin needles along the meridians of the body to reinforce, unblock or restart our system.
Pain in Chinese medicine is often referred to as stagnation within the body. The goal in the application of needles is to unblock the energetic pathways to alleviate pain. In the context of Western medicine, acupuncture stimulates the nervous, endocrine and immune system, which ultimately provides much more than pain relief. It has also been shown to release natural endorphins in our bodies which have pain-relieving effects.
Treatment approaches usually include acupuncture point combinations (distal points) and muscle stimulation at the site of pain (local points). This pairing delivers longer and more profound effects as compared to “dry needling” (local points only) as it also addresses constitutional imbalances. Acupuncture is a valuable tool for musculoskeletal injuries as it releases muscles that have become overactive or muscles that have been shut down due to overcompensation. In other words, it helps the body return back to homeostasis by stimulating the bodies ability to self-regulate.
Trigger Point Therapy
Trigger point therapy (TrP) is a very effective way to release tight and strained muscles. Trigger points can be described as highly tender “knots”, or in TCM “stagnation”, that also often causes referring pain. When muscles are required to maintain static positions- either stretched or contracted, we see an increase in the bonding of connective tissue and contracture of muscle units called sarcomeres.
The body responds by laying down new collagen along the line of tension to prevent further damage. Consequently, this thickening of tissue does not allow proper blood flow or oxygen, which inhibits healing and proper use of the muscle. TrP releases the tightly bound muscle, promotes blood flow and initiates healing of tissues. This, however, is just one type of therapy used taking into account a more global physiologic lens.
Below is an example of trigger point therapy. Near the end of the video, you may notice the involuntary shoulder movement as a result of the taut muscle band being released.