One of the things acupuncture is best known for, besides treating back pain and sciatica, is its ability to lower inflammation. In my clinic, I often receive referrals from chiropractors and osteopaths because their patient’s inflammatory response is too high for them to treat it.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a natural reaction to trauma or injury. It is part of the immune response in order to heal wounds and fight infection and disease. It is critical to healing wounds, but out-of-control inflammation can contribute to serious health problems.
The normal cycle of healing involves three phases: the Inflammation Phase, the Proliferative Phase, and the Remodeling Phase. However, the process can sometimes get stuck in the Inflammation Phase.
The reason is that there is a compression of tissues and surrounding nerves which restrict the local blood flow.
In Western medicine, inflammation is often treated with cortisone and corticosteroids.
It is given in one of four forms:
- Oral, for rheumatoid arthritis
- Topical, for allergic skin reactions
- Inhaler, for asthma and allergic lung reactions
- Injection directly into a joint.
Cortisone is part of the family of chemicals known as corticosteroids. In its natural form (cortisol), it is produced by the adrenal glands and is released in higher amounts during times of stress. Over extended periods of time, the use of corticosteroids can have harmful side-effects. Doctors have discovered that controlled dosages of corticosteroids can suppress inflammation and relieve symptoms associated with pain due to inflammation. The idea is that if inflammation can be reduced, pain can be controlled, proper blood flow can be restored, and healing can flourish. The problem is that cortisone injections have been shown to prevent cartilage and joint repair. It has also been found to weaken ligaments and tendons surrounding the injection site.
What are your options? There are several treatment options that both help reduce inflammation and improve joint healing. Treatment can include dietary changes and homeopathy, as well as, cold-laser therapy and acupuncture.
Acupuncture is a comprehensive system of medicine that can be used to treat both systemic (body-wide) inflammation such as allergic responses ranging from asthma, edema, and sinusitis, to more local joint based inflammation such as tendonitis.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, inflammation is not seen as a distinct disease. Instead, the flow of Qi, blood, and water is examined to see how it has been blocked. The idea is to help unblock the area in pain so that the body’s natural healing process can work at its full potential. Acupuncture has been shown to help with the anti-inflammatory response and actually decrease the body’s natural pro-inflammatory response. Acupuncture is an important tool to reduce inflammation without compromising your immune system.
Before you take the next round of corticosteroids, ask your physician for a complete list of side-effects and health risks.