Why Massage Therapy Should Come First For Pain

Massage Therapy has been around for thousands of years. Every culture in the world has some form of massage, or bodywork, as a healing therapy. Today, massage therapy has become somewhat of a lost therapeutic art as new technology advances medicine with laboratory-created chemical compounds and the latest electronic diagnostic and treatment devices. Though wonderful, these modernizations have also removed the innate healing effects of human-to-human contact. The simple act of touch is so powerfully soothing, that it can reduce heart rate, release endorphins, and regulate breathing. There is no replacement for the healing power of touch.

One should think of massage therapy as natural medicine. It falls into the category of alternative medicine, but loses the spotlight to other more intriguing therapies, such as acupuncture and yoga. Although it’s not as glamorous, massage should be considered as the very first therapy when it comes to treating pain in the body. Here’s why.

The human body contains over 650 muscles. In the average person, muscle makes up about 40% of body weight. At any one point in time, specific muscles in the body are working to keep the body functioning properly. Therefore, muscles are continuously active in sustaining life. For this reason alone, one should make sure that their muscles are in the best shape possible. Massage addresses the muscular tissue and can help muscles regain suppleness and contract efficiently.

Skeletal muscles help lymphatic fluid flow from the tissues back to the heart. When muscles contract and relax, lymph is pushed throughout the lymphatic vessels. The muscular pumping action encourages systemic movement of lymph. The fluid circulation allows for proper immune system function, cellular waste removal, dead blood cell removal, and excess fluid removal for every area in the body. Consider that the effect of tight, constricted muscles will not only impede lymphatic drainage, but residual effects would be edema, poor trauma healing, and poor immune system function.

Muscles are innervated by nerves and supported by blood vessels.   Clearly, an unimpeded nerve conduction pathway will allow muscles to contract completely.  But, a blocked or pinched nerve may cause a muscle to feel weak, fatigued, or possibly painful.  Blood supplies fresh oxygen to muscles and removes lactic acid along with other byproducts of muscular contraction.  Without good blood flow, there will be lack of strength or cramping. Sometimes tight, knotted muscles can block or impede the flow of nerve signals and blood.  This blockage starves muscles and causes pain. Also, some muscles can pinch off the blood or nerve supply to other muscles, thereby creating a rippling effect downstream from a problem area.

A trip to the chiropractor often realigns the skeletal structure when a subluxation or dislocation occurs in a joint.  The bones may be getting adjusted, but the real offenders could be the attached muscles.  Strain and imbalance in muscle structures can disturb correct joint articulation.  When muscular forces have gone too far, the joints and bones will shift out of place.  The muscles that tighten and injure the joint may also be painful to touch.  They may reflexively trigger other nearby muscles to tighten up and protect the newly traumatized area.  Frequent subluxations in a particular joint could mean there is a bigger issue of muscular tightness and imbalance underlying.

Massage should be used for regular body maintenance. At the very least, a relatively non-active person should receive a massage once a month. This regular bodywork is a good way to keep up muscle function and stave off injury.  For more active people, muscles should be massaged more frequently. It is easily forgotten that the body is a machine that needs care for optimal performance. Consider that people will put more money into car maintenance than into body maintenance. It should be planned part of the personal financial budget, not a luxury when discretionary income is available. To run some numbers, take the average cost of a massage at $75. One massage a month amounts to a yearly expense of $900. That’s about $2.50 a day, less than the cost of a Starbucks coffee. There are many benefits, some of which include minimizing pain relieving medications, lowering blood pressure, reducing chronic aches and pain, and improving overall health. The benefits of massage greatly outweigh its costs, as good health and longevity is invaluable.

NOTE: There are many different forms of massage.  Ask your practitioner about their particular style of bodywork and how it can benefit you.

Hospitals are Incorporating Complementary & Alternative Medicine

Hospitals have long been seen as the purveyor of the latest and greatest that technology and medical advances have to offer.  Cutting edge procedures that move medicine forward.  The equipment used in these hospitals can dissect the structure of the human body down to cellular and molecular levels, analyze compounds, and spit out critical information on what the patient’s body is lacking or overproducing.

Even today, the modern Western medical approach has been to view the body on this cellular level.  Identify the disease, pinpoint its location in the body, and eradicate it.  For some diseases, this approach works.  Consequently, it is most valuable to disease that is localized and easily separated from the host human.  It’s limitations lie in the fact that the entire body is seen as a machine with specific, modular parts.  A part may be removed from the body, fixed, and replaced without any effect on the rest of the machine.  Disease is based on a scientifically diagnosed set of signs and symptoms and thus, treated similarly for every patient.  No distinction is made for different causes of disease, for the disease itself is to be treated, regardless of the source.

In the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) approach, the body is an organism working synergistically.  All of the many cells, tissues, and organs work together and enhance each other’s function.  The impact of a single cell will have ripple effect throughout the entire system, no matter how small.  Viewing the body as a whole organism gives the medical professional an idea of how disease is affecting the entire body.  Then, through all of the diagnostic signs and symptoms, the root cause of the disease is sought out and the whole person is treated, not just the disease. This important difference is where TCM practitioners believe that the strength of the whole is more than the sum of its parts.  Since every patient is unique, similar diseases may be treated using different acupuncture points and herbs, etc.  The drawback here is that at times, the body may not recover from the disease without having the diseased part removed, or treated using more aggressive methods.

By combining both Eastern and Western forms of medicine, there is a larger scope of care that can be offered.  Medical treatment and healing can work on multiple levels, simultaneously from a microscopic level and a macroscopic level. High technology equipment can study and monitor the effects of a multidimensional blending of pharmaceuticals, physical therapy, acupuncture, herbs, yoga, meditation etc., to further treatment of diseases and enhance overall health.  Since there are many U.S. hospitals creating an integrative medical environment, below are a few of just the California hospitals creating a union between Eastern and Western medicine:

Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine – San Diego, CA

Osher Center for Integrative Medicine – San Francisco, CA

Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine – Irvine, CA

Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine – Palo Alto, CA

Wikipedia Proves Acupuncture is Mere Smoke and Mirrors!

I’ve recently become aware of the *ahem* un-biased opinion of acupuncture according to Wikipedia.  It seems as though the writer has exercised some leniency with his/her objective “findings”.

Since I’m an acupuncturist, you can assume that I am a non-biased party.  Although I try to be as unbiased as possible when it comes to medicine, not everything can be put “on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst…” as Western medicine must try to quantify…with everything. It makes life a series of 1’s and 0’s…you know, very “scientific”.

So, let’s break down some of the ideas in Wikipedia:

1.  The idea that evidence based medicine is superior to any other form of medicine.  Well, it isn’t.  Just because there is evidence to prove something is valid, does not make it worthwhile.  Let me chime in here with a list of pharmaceuticals that were approved for sale using “evidence based medicine” and later pulled off the market for maiming and killing people (all in the name of corporate profiteering):  Paxil, Vioxx, Fen-Phen to name just a few.  To see more, visit http://www.drugrecalls.com or visit http://www.recalls.gov.  There’s a special section just for medicine, and I’m pretty sure it’s not about acupuncture.

Isn’t the hippocratic oath taken by doctors swearing to practice medicine ethically?  Obviously, someone didn’t wikipedia that one. I digress.

2.  Yin, yang, qi sounds like a whole lot of smoke.  I can’t believe that the ancient Chinese could not have realized that they were using the wrong medical terms at the time!  Trying to explain and name things that could not be seen with the naked eye is not a downfall.  They were trying to advance medicine.  Even today with the highest power electron microscopes, there are still things that exist which we cannot see.  And today we do it to try and advance medicine.  It’s a continuum.  How can the pot call the 2000 year-old kettle black?

3.  This one’s a good line from the Wikipedia…”Acupuncture was developed prior to the science of human anatomy and the cell theory upon which the science of biology is based”.  Um, well, the science of human anatomy and cell theory may explain a little bit of medicine now.  So, how come the great “science of human anatomy and cell theory” hasn’t figured out the mysteries of the human body?  I’ll tell you.  It’s because it’s flawed.  Every medicine that is practiced today has flaws.  This is why we need all forms of medicine to continue to be practiced, lest we lose some simple knowledge of the past in hopes that we’ve come so far as to not need it anymore.

So, I know I’m preaching to the choir about this, because people who don’t believe in alternative medicine probably won’t be looking at my blog for information.  Usually I will see them in my office when they’ve exhausted all of the treatments that Western medicine provides and they are at the end of their rope and are looking for a miracle.  And suddenly, they believe in acupuncture.

Oh, there will be more from my little brain soon…Right now, it’s on fire!  Oh yeah, can someone with an actual acupuncture background rewrite the Wikipedia link on acupuncture?  Please?

Dry Mouth, Dry Eyes, Ugh! Could Acupuncture Provide Relief? Yes!

I’ve recently been introduced to what I will call a xero-xero patient.  This is a patient that suffers from xerostomia, or dryness of the mouth and xeropthalmia, or dryness of the eyes.  Sometimes diagnosed as Sjogren’s syndrome, the disease is a hypofunction of the salivary and lacrimal glands.  But, please note that Sjogren’s syndrome is a systemic autoimmune disease that may affect other organs, some of which are kidney, liver, stomach.  The distinction here is that the xero-xero patient that I am discussing here may or may not have clinically diagnosed Sjogren’s syndrome.

There are many sufferers of chronic dry eyes and dry mouth (DEDM). Those that have been diagnosed as Sjogren’s amount to approximately 4 million with about 9 out of 10 being women. There are probably many more people that are undiagnosed and may suffer some degree of subclinical DEDM.

Some of the causes of DEDM are (surprise!) medications, autoimmune disorders, radiation therapy, along with head and neck cancers. So far, there is no Western medical cure for DEDM.

Usually as a last resort, many xero-xero sufferers turn to alternative medicine to see if any relief can be found. One such modality, acupuncture, and namely ear acupuncture has produced some surprising results.

A study done by Peter Johnstone, Richard Niemtzow, and Robert Riffenburgh has shown that xero-xero patients may find relief through acupuncture.  They have developed a protocol using 6 points on the ears and 2 points on the index fingers to treat this debilitating disorder. It requires ear needles and sugar-free lozenges to help stimulate and maintain saliva production.

I treated my xero-xero patient today, following the instructions provided in the protocol.  Within 10 minutes of the initiation of treatment, the 85 year old woman began to have a frothy salivation, which continued throughout the remainder of the treatment period (of approximately 40 minutes).Having no prior knowledge of this protocol, I was able to produce some successful results the very first time.  I’m not saying that this is a cure for all sufferers, but that many will find some degree of relief.

The main reason why I am blogging about this, is because I want this treatment protocol to be in the knowledgebase of the acupuncturists practicing in America today. It hasn’t seen widespread use and more knowledge and practice of this protocol will help us all understand the mechanism behind the treatment. So, gather up your patients with Sjogren’s syndrome, head and neck cancer, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or just plain dryness in the eyes and mouth.  Treat them with this protocol and add another tool to your acupuncture toolbelt.

The links follow:

Click to access Dry%20mouth%20and%20dry%20eyes%20acupuncture%20technique%20update%20Oct%2015,%202009.pdf

Click to access xerophthalmia.pdf