Acupuncture is a great way to decrease inflammation, increase longevity and mobility and maintain your body’s ability to circulate blood. Today we are going to look into how acupuncture can mitigate the effects of wear and tear on our bodies. Acupuncture is not only for athletes or sports injuries. It can be used very effectively in combating some of the problems that come with modern civilization.
When we sit in certain positions with our neck forward, such as when using computers or cell phones, we tend to lean forward with the chin sticking out. This causes pressure on the vertebrae in our neck and back. Sitting is one of the most wearing things we can do to our bodies! This is because most of us do not sit well. We lean to the side or slouch on our elbows. This puts pressure on your spine and hip bones. Day after day this can cause problems for us in the form of aches, pains, and limited mobility.
WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE GOOD FOR?
This is the most common question I am asked in my practice when discussing acupuncture. Acupuncture is wonderful for reducing inflammation and is one of the best anti-aging medicines out there. There is evidence that acupuncture has been around for thousands of years. Tattoo marks indicating evidence of acupuncture techniques has been discovered on the bodies of ancient people, particularly marks over the joints and lower back. It appears that they were also using acupuncture to reduce symptoms of aging!
One of the big things that acupuncture is amazing for is reducing inflammation. It can also reduce the tightness of the muscles that are pulling on your joints. It works directly on the joint and the muscle. It does this by relaxing the tight muscle that is pulling on the joint. This keeps the body from becoming triggered to put too much effort into strengthening the tendon attachment to the bone, which is what happens as we age and overuse certain parts of our bodies with repetitive movement.
Let’s face it- our bodies will overdo things. When they overdo things we end up with bone spurs and calcifications. This equals decreased mobility, pain and tendon tears.
WHAT THE NEEDLES DO
What happens when you stick a needle into the body? Essentially you’re sticking a needle into the body and telling it to bring some blood flow to a certain spot. Acupuncture shouldn’t hurt or be a painful experience. It should be a comfortable experience.
When needle goes in, the body has to respond to this tiny wound. Most of our tendons and ligaments don’t get a lot of blood flow to them, so there’s not a lot of nutrients to the tendon, but many nutrients to the bone. And so if we can get more nutrients and blood flow to the tendon and ligament, we can flush out inflammatory proteins. This is how the body responds to the presence of the needle.
When the needles are left in for a longer period of time, your body starts to move electrolytes into the third layer of the skin. You might notice some itching, aching, or even a skin crawling sensation. This is either electrolytes or histamines moving into your skin. These are all good signs that your body is responding to the needles.
The needles also stimulate endorphin release, which is an added benefit, along with flushing out inflammatory proteins such as substance P. Substance P is a molecule that works to stimulate pain receptors. By flushing out the inflammatory proteins and “refilling” by stimulating an endorphin release, you can help relieve areas of pain.
Maintaining mobility as you get older is one of the ways to the fountain of youth. It is also the way to prevent your body from creating bone spurs and creating adhesions that lock up your joints. The less you’re able to move a joint ,the more pain you’re going to have. Individuals who don’t move very well are going to have larger needs because lots of inflammation equals lots of adhesions from the body trying to lay down bone where it does not need to be. Blood flow is key to mobility. Acupuncture is one of the best ways to help keep blood flow moving in the body and thus keep you mobile.
What I’ve found to be extremely useful to relax muscles and increase mobility in the body is to go after the trigger points. A trigger point is literally a spot in a muscle where the nerve comes into it, known as an innervation area. This is where the nerve goes into the muscle and can stimulate the muscle. It is also an area that has a greater possibility for adhesions and knots. Oftentimes I will needle the trigger points to help relax muscles and then needle the areas of wear and tear which are usually going to be the insertions of tendons. The body is like a chain, everything is connected. When one area is off it will cause problems in other areas.
TUNE UP YOUR BODY
Acupuncture is meant to be administered over a period of time for best results. Ideally, it is a monthly routine to help decrease inflammation in the tendons, ligaments, and joints of the body. Think of it like a tune up. You can keep yourself going if you maintain your body in the same way that you would your car. This is especially important for people who play sports or have a lot of athletic pursuits. You need to take care of your body and work on maintenance to keep circulation going.
One major aspect of aging is the decrease in blood flow to certain areas. An example is fine lines and wrinkles that appear on our face as we get older. This is a circulation issue. When acupuncture is done regularly on the face, I have noticed a reduction in lines and wrinkles. You cannot get rid of them completely, but you can improve tone and circulation in the face.
I am a huge proponent of massage. It’s great for helping with adhesions and knots. Another type of body work that really helps with circulation is cupping. Cupping is the use of glass cups to suction to the body. It pulls the tissue and helps to separate adhesions.
Gua sha scraping is a deeper way to dig into the really fibrous adhesion areas on our bodies. It is used a lot for scar tissue as well. This type of body work along with massage and cupping are broad spectrum types of treatments that are going to circulate blood into broad areas. Acupuncture gets in the deep muscle areas that you can’t always get with a massage. It works on a much deeper level than massage, cupping, or gua sha.
Acupuncture is more than just a solution for acute injury. It can be absolutely amazing to decrease wear and tear on the body and keep you mobile and pain free. It’s like a tuneup for the body. It helps to keep your blood flow going and flush inflammatory proteins out of your joints and tendons. I highly recommend you go out there and find an acupuncturist and give it a try. It is important to find someone that really understands trigger points and getting into the muscle. Once you’ve experienced the effects, it will be easy to maintain this in your routine and keep the symptoms of aging at bay.
This blog is a summary of my podcast on acupuncture. Click HERE to listen to my podcast on this same topic!