Content originally published on www.balancepointokanagan.com
Can an Acupuncture Affect Your Joints?
Many people are surprised to know how an acupuncturist can help with joint health and alignment. Indeed, acupuncture can help straighten abnormal spinal curvature, realign hips, shoulders, and knees, treat out of place ribs, relax jaws that are too far forward, and treat many other problems related to improper positioning of a joint. At first it may seem confusing as to how a tiny acupuncture needle, so thin it requires eye strain to see, could move a spinal misalignment or malpositioned joint. But it is possible as I will explain using a little bit of modern physiology and mixed with a some Chinese medicine “Five Element Theory” theory.
Let’s get a little technical for just a moment…. A subluxation is medically defined as “a partial abnormal separation of the articular surfaces of a joint.” What this essentially means is the two bones being connected to form the joint are not in their correct place. This leads to uneven contact pressure on the cartilaginous surface of the joint and may lead to increased friction and rubbing and subsequent pain, inflammation, swelling, and dysfunction. It’s obviously important to have proper alignment of your spine and joints, but the question has yet to be answered, “How can an acupuncturist with their hair-thin needles create physical changes in joint position?” Isn’t acupuncture just an endorphin releasing painkiller?
The answer to the question is “yes and no”. There are many types of connective tissue in the body including fascia, tendons, and ligaments, but for our purpose here lets talk about the skeletal muscle. All of your joints are held in position by your skeletal muscles. If a muscle is too tight it may stress and pull on the bone where it attaches so that the joint loses its proper position. In the image below you can see just one layer of muscles that move, stabilize, and align the muscles in your neck. If like me, you spend a lot of time using a computer mouse, the muscles that attach to your vertebrae on your mouse side may become too tight. Besides pain and tension, this can lead to your cervical vertebrae being pulled out of position by the tension.
All that makes sense but “what does the acupuncture needle have to do with it?” you may ask. The answer is refreshing the “action potential”. Your skeletal muscles contract based on electrical impulses generated by your nervous system and travel through your nerves to the muscle. When the signal is incorrect skeletal muscles may be over-contracted (aka tight) or under-contracted (aka weak). The muscle imbalance due to the incorrect impulses through your nervous system lead to subluxations, misalignments, and pain in your joints.
An acupuncturist interacts with your nervous system to change the impulses and action potential to a more balanced state. This effect in essence is one of the main ways acupuncture exerts its effect on the body. When the nerve impulse to the muscles that stabilize and align joints are corrected, the joint naturally realigns, tension melts away, and pain disappears. This is illustrated in ancient Chinese five element theory called the controlling cycle “Earth controls Water”. Each of the five elements has an associated tissue type. The tissue of earth is muscle and the tissue of water is bone. According to five element theory “Earth controls Water” or in other words “Muscle controls Bone”. In the diagram below it is illustrated by the blue arrows in star formation in the centre of the diagram:
The arteries of the body are lined with smooth muscle and can contract or dilate based on nerve impulses as well. In this way your body is able to open blood flow to the area it needs and “squeeze” it out of areas it doesn’t need. When you are doing heavy exercise your circulation will flow into your muscles, heart, and Lungs and leave your digestive system, liver and other organs in an effort to maximize your bodies resources. Conversely, after a large, heavy dinner you may feel tired and lethargic as blood flow is directed out of your lungs, heart, and skeletal muscle and directed to your stomach, intestines, and liver to support digestion. An acupuncturist goal is to direct Qi and blood flow in this way and more importantly direct circualtion to areas of injury or dysfunction. In the five element theory, we use the same relationship "Earth controls Water". In Chinese medicine physiology the Earth element "controls blood" and is key in fluid physiology like river banks controlling the direction and flow of a river.
In conclusion, acupuncture and Chinese medicine are an excellent option for reducing the pain and discomfort from joint misalignments and subluxations.
Comments are closed.
Travis Mcindoe -TCMP