Chronic Pain

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24 01, 2012

Post Operative Recovery

Surgery is a powerful tool in the modern medical tool kit and is used today in a wide range of applications. Surgery for musculoskeletal conditions is called orthopedic surgery, and is used to treat musculoskeletal trauma, degenerative diseases, sports injuries, infections, tumours, and congenital disorders (disorders we are born with). This includes surgeries such as hip or knee replacement, spinal surgery or fusion, carpal tunnel release, or repair of tendons, ligaments, or cartilage. However, there are many, many other surgeries that are performed for a variety of reasons, such as to help relieve or prevent pain, to reduce a symptom, to improve some body function, or to diagnose conditions.

With surgery comes certain post-operative side effects and risks. Some of the major concerns with surgery is dealing with post-surgery pain and the side effects of pain medications, as well as making a complete recovery from surgery and regaining our former mobility and functions.

Doctors rely on powerful medications to relieve pain during and immediately after surgery, including opioids and anesthesia. Opioid pain medications are known to cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, pruritis (itch or a sensation that makes a person want to scratch), constipation, and sleepiness, symptoms which can cause difficulty in the recovery and interfere with our day-to-day life. Use of opioids and their side effects may also delay post-operative recovery.

Acupuncture is an excellent option for post-operative recovery and has been shown to be very effective in the treatment of both post-operative pain and the side effects of opioid medications. Acupuncture is probably best known for the treatment of pain and it is indeed very effective for relieving pain and reducing the need for pain medications. Pain limits your ability to breathe deeply, cough, walk and perform the activities necessary for a speedy recovery, and acupuncture can help to manage the pain so that recovery can happen more quickly.

Acupuncture can also treat the side effects of pain medications including dizziness, upset stomach or nausea, loss of appetite, pruritis (itching sensation), urinary incontinence, and digestive problems, making it an effective option for post-operative recovery.

Acupuncture can also help with the body’s recovery following surgery. While surgical techniques have come a long way, surgery still remains a type of trauma that the body must recover and heal from afterwards. Acupuncture helps to boost the immune system and to restore proper functioning to the body, and in post-operative care can help the body to recover and regain health more quickly.  Acupuncture can also help with inflammation, decrease swelling and improve mobility and range of motion after surgery. This is important to recovery in order for a person to regain their full abilities and have full use of the body in the months down the road from surgery. Acupuncture may also help reduce adhesion formation and reduce scarring and scar tissue as the body heals from surgery.

Research shows that acupuncture can indeed be very effective for post-operative recovery when surgery is followed by a series of acupuncture treatments, and it can also be beneficial to perform acupuncture a day or two before surgery. This ensures that the body is in a healthy state going into surgery in order to ensure a complete and healthy recovery!

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC. He can be reached at www.okanaganacupuncture.com.

6 08, 2011

Cancer Treatment

It is estimated that 40% of Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime. The good news is that survival rates are improving thanks to improvements in cancer screening and cancer treatment. Cancer is not a death sentence, but it is a life-changing experience.

There are 3 main types of cancer treatment: primary treatment, adjuvant therapy, and palliative care. The goal of primary treatment is to remove the cancer from the body or kill the cancer cells, such as surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. The goal of adjuvant therapy is to kill any cancer cells that may remain after primary treatment, common therapies include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy. The goal of palliative care is to decrease pain and help maintain quality of life during and after cancer treatment, by relieving the side effects of both the cancer and its treatment. Acupuncture in the treatment of cancer falls into the category of palliative care.

Acupuncture can be an effective complementary therapy when used with conventional cancer treatments. The purpose of acupuncture treatments is not to treat the cancer itself but rather to help a person cope with cancer, its treatment or side effects, and to feel better. There are many general symptoms associated cancer, including fatigue, digestive problems, and pain. Cancer treatments also create symptoms- chemotherapy and radiation are very powerful treatments that target cancer cells but can also damage healthy cells in the body and weaken the immune system, and can leave a person with symptoms of fatigue, nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal disturbances, and skin irritation. For many people dealing with cancer treatment, there is a need to manage these symptoms, keep the body and the spirits strong, and maintain quality of life. 

Acupuncture can be a very useful tool in this regard. Studies have shown that acupuncture can be effective in the treatment of many cancer symptoms including generalized pain, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and can help to boost the immune system. Because chemotherapy and radiation can be very hard on the immune system and because the body may already be weakened from the cancer, strengthening the immune system and the body with acupuncture can help a person undergoing cancer treatments to experience fewer negative symptoms and to bounce back more quickly from a course of treatments, something that is very important in the recovery process.

In addition, the pain associated with cancer can be an extremely difficult part of a patient’s experience, and acupuncture thankfully can effectively help to relieve this pain and relieve a great deal of the day-to-day discomfort. Fatigue and depression are also common symptoms that respond positively to acupuncture, allowing a person to function better, have a better quality of life, and better maintain a healthy routine while undergoing cancer treatments. By relieving nausea and digestive upset, acupuncture can also help to restore appetite and prevent weight loss that often occurs during cancer treatments.

To benefit from acupuncture during cancer treatment, it is recommended to schedule regular appointments during the course of cancer treatments while symptoms are being experienced. Typically treatments will be scheduled on a weekly basis in order to keep symptoms in check and strengthen the body. Acupuncture can also be used between courses of chemotherapy or radiation treatment to build the immune system, aid the body in recovery and strengthen it in preparation for the next course of treatment. All in all, acupuncture is a very powerful tool in the treatment of cancer and can dramatically improve quality of life.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna. He can be reached at www.okanaganacupuncture.com.

 

23 03, 2011

Chronic Back Pain

I had been experiencing back pain that limited my ability to walk more than 100 yards. I had dealt with this problem for 7 years. I had tried everything else and nothing worked so I thought I would try acupuncture.

When I first came in the pain was from the back of my knees to my upper back. The pain has been reduced to only my lower back now. It has improved to the point that I am now walking a full kilometer! I am also walking straighter. I am very impressed with my results so far. I hope with continued treatments to completely resolve the pain.

-LD. Kelowna, BC

25 02, 2011

Hip Pain

Hip pain is a common problem that can have a wide variety of causes. The exact location of the hip pain can usually provide clues as to the underlying cause. Problems with the hip joint itself typically cause pain on the inside of the hip or the groin. Problems with the muscles, ligaments, tendons and other soft tissues that surround the hip joint will typically cause pain on the outside of the hip, upper thigh or outer buttock.

Because the hip is of course connected to the rest of the body, hip pain can sometimes be caused by problems in other areas of the body, such as the lower back or knees, called referred pain. Other causes of hip pain may be arthritis, including rheumatoid and osteoarthritis; injuries such as bursitis, hip or pelvis fracture, dislocation, sprains, strains, tendinitis, herniated discs, pinched nerves, and sciatica. It can also be caused by more serious conditions such as cancer or osteoporosis.

If hip pain cannot be resolved with self-care measures, treatment for hip pain may vary, depending on the problem that is causing it. Most often it will involve medications such as anti-inflammatories, pain killers, and cortisone shots combined with physiotherapy, exercises, and/or taking a rest from our regular routine to allow the body time to heal. In more severe cases, surgery may be considered.

Of course, we would all prefer a lingering problem to resolve rather than to manage it with medications, and to resolve it before it becomes serious enough to warrant surgery. This is where acupuncture comes in. Acupuncture is a great option for pain and musculo-skeletal problems and typically yields very positive results in all types of pain problems, both chronic and acute. Treatments can help to relieve the pain quite quickly, and also to reduce inflammation and boost the body’s healing mechanisms, which may be just what is needed to resolve a lingering or chronic problem.

In Chinese medicine (TCM) pain is often a due to an obstruction of the flow of qi-energy and blood throughout the body’s meridians or channels. Because qi-energy and blood circulation is what allows the body to perform its regular functions and also to heal when injured, any time the flow is blocked, problems inevitably develop and pain occurs. Acupuncture focuses on removing these blockages to allow full circulation of qi-energy and blood through the body, resolving pain and weakness and allowing the area to function properly again.

While musculo-skeletal problems like hip pain may be due to external causes such as a fall or an overuse injury, internal weaknesses of the body can complicate or aggravate a problem once it is there. Part of an acupuncturist’s job is to look at the overall health of the internal functions to find any areas of imbalance, particularly those that affect the meridians of the hip. Imbalances will contribute to weakness in the hip and make it more prone to injury, as well as more slow to heal. A good example of this is a deficiency of the kidneys, which gradually weaken as we age. This weakness can make us more prone to lower back pain and hip fractures or pain because this area is very closely tied to the health of the kidneys. By improving overall health and correcting imbalances that have an influence on the hip, we can strengthen and improve the health of the hip area so that it functions better and is less prone to future injury down the road- all good news for those suffering from hip pain!

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna.

3 01, 2011

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system attacks the body’s myelin, the protective sheath that encases the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, eventually causing deterioration of the nerves themselves. When myelin is damaged, the messages that travel along that nerve may be slowed or blocked, interfering with the communication between the brain and the rest of the body.

It is not yet understand exactly why multiple sclerosis occurs in some people and not other although a combination of factors, ranging from genetics to childhood infections, may play a role. Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world.

Multiple sclerosis can be difficult to diagnose early in the course of the disease, because symptoms often occur in periods of relapse and remission, sometimes disappearing for months. Symptoms vary widely, depending on the amount of damage and the particular nerves that are affected. Symptoms can include dizziness, fatigue, tremors, lack of coordination or unsteady walk, double vision or blurring of vision, tingling or pain in parts of the body, deterioration of vision, electrical jolt sensations that occur with certain head movements, and numbness or weakness in one or more limbs, which typically occurs on one side of the body at a time or the bottom half of the body. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis often are triggered or worsened by an increase in body temperature.

Because there is presently no cure for multiple sclerosis, treatment typically focuses on combating the autoimmune response and managing the symptoms. Western medical treatment mainly consists of medications to manage symptoms, although many disease-modifying treatments are being developed. Some people have such mild symptoms that no treatment is necessary.

In Chinese medicine, a number of factors are considered to contribute to the development of multiple sclerosis, including diet, lifestyle, and constitutional factors that may cause a vulnerability to developing this condition. MS is considered a dampness pattern, meaning that there is an obstruction of the flow of energy through the body’s channels, causing a feeling of heaviness in the legs as well as numbness and tingling. Over time, the blocked energy has an effect on other areas, causing a deficiency in the liver and kidneys that leads to blurred vision, weakness of the legs, dizziness, and vertigo.

Acupuncture cannot cure multiple sclerosis, but it can offer considerable help in alleviating the symptoms and slowing down the progress of the condition. However, the extent to which acupuncture can help depends on when treatment is started- the earlier treatment is started, the better.

If treatment is started in the very early stages, symptoms can be minimized and even eliminated, and the disease progression slowed or halted. Later stages of multiple sclerosis can be more difficult to treat, however acupuncture can still be of benefit in the relief of symptoms, and is an option well worth considering for the management of this condition. One can expect a schedule of 2-3 treatments per week for the first few weeks, going down to once a week as progress is made.

Living with a chronic illness such as MS is a challenge that means managing symptoms and preventing and minimizing flare-ups. Staying healthy, exercising, decreasing stress, avoiding heat, and lots of rest can play a big part in managing the condition and maintaining quality of life. Finding therapies that can help to manage symptoms and keep the body healthy are also important, and acupuncture can play a role in this management.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre’s new location, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

3 01, 2011

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, sometimes called degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage in the joints wears down over time. The smooth surface of the cartilage becomes rough, causing irritation. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, there may be no cushion left between the bones and the joint may be left with bone rubbing on bone, causing damage to the ends of the bones and the joints to become painful. The disorder can affect any joint in your body, but most commonly affects joints in your hands, hips, knees, neck, and lower back.

Osteoarthritis symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include joint pain (during or after movement), joint tenderness when palpated, joint stiffness (especially upon awakening or after a period of inactivity), loss of flexibility in the joint, a grating sensation in the joint, and bone spurs (extra bone that may form around the affected joint and feel like hard lumps).

It isn't clear what causes osteoarthritis in most cases. Researchers suspect that a combination of factors may play a role in the condition, including the aging process, joint injury or stress, heredity, muscle weakness, and obesity.

There is no known cure for osteoarthritis, and those suffering from osteoarthritis must look for treatments to relieve pain and manage symptoms. Western medical treatment for osteoarthritis includes pain relievers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), cortisone shots, and in more severe cases surgery to replace the joint, to fuse the bones in the affected joint, or to realign the affected bones. Physiotherapy, occupational therapists, and braces or shoe inserts may also be recommended, to reduce stress on the joint.

Acupuncture is a useful option to help manage osteoarthritis and help prevent further progression of this condition. Acupuncture sees osteoarthritis as a “bi syndrome”, meaning that it is caused by a blockage that prevents circulation of blood and qi-energy to the joint, leading to pain and stiffness. Over time, the syndrome progresses and the joint deteriorates because of the lack of proper nourishment. Acupuncture focuses on removing the obstruction to the joint and increasing circulation so that the can joint receive proper nourishment. In this way, the symptoms of pain, inflammation, and stiffness can be relieved, and the joint can become stronger and healthier.

This is one of the strengths of acupuncture, especially in the treatment of chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis- acupuncture focuses not only on relieving the symptoms but also on strengthening the body and supporting healing, to address the cause of the problem. In this way, acupuncture can help a person with osteoarthritis not only live symptom-free, but also help them to manage the condition in a healthy way and prevent or slow the progression of the condition.

With osteoarthritis, we should remember that this is a problem that will not go away and a proactive approach is necessary. Having osteoarthritis does not necessarily mean that a person must be resigned to pain and suffering- steps can be taken to minimize or prevent symptoms. The key to living with a condition such as this is to take steps towards healthy management through exercise, lifestyle changes, and therapies which relieve symptoms and help manage the condition. Acupuncture is certainly worth considering as part of this routine.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

3 01, 2011

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can be debilitating to live with and can interfere with all aspects of daily life. Pain is generally considered chronic if it lasts 6 months or more, and chronic pain may remain constant, or it can come and go. The quality of the pain can be tingling, jolting, burning, dull, aching or sharp.

The cause of chronic pain often isn’t well understood. There may be no evidence of disease or damage that points directly to pain. Or pain may remain after the original injury shows every indication of being healed. It can be due to a chronic condition, such as arthritis or fibromyalgia, but often there is still no clear understanding of the physical cause of the pain. Damage to a peripheral or spinal nerve may also lead to chronic pain, where the damaged nerve, not the original injury, is causing the pain. Nerve damage can result from accidents, infections or surgery.

Researchers think chronic pain may be partly caused by sensitization, a process where the nervous system amplifies and distorts pain, resulting in pain that is severe and out of proportion to the disease or original injury. Sensitization may affect all the pain-processing regions of your nervous system, including the sensing, feeling and thinking centers of your brain. When this occurs, chronic pain may be associated with emotional and psychological suffering.

Treatment for chronic pain often means managing the pain through over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription opioids, cortisone, or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories). Unfortunately for many, medications often have undesirable side-effects and may offer only limited effectiveness for dealing with the pain. Other treatments may include physiotherapy, massage, chiropractic, counseling, and acupuncture, therapies which aim more at resolving the pain. Often, a combination of approaches is needed to effectively treat this problem.

Acupuncture is an excellent option for chronic pain. Although Western medicine has not yet uncovered the mechanisms of acupuncture, it is clear that acupuncture is very effective for treating all kinds of pain, both acute and chronic. This goes beyond the “placebo effect”, as acupuncture works just as well on animals (who bring no expectation to the treatment table). One of the reasons that acupuncture is good for pain is the way in which it stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural pain relievers.

In addition, acupuncture focuses on correcting imbalances in the body and encouraging normal, healthy functioning of the body’s various systems, which may help the body to correct the sensitization process as described above, or changes or disruptions to the body as a result of injury or illness. In this way, it can help both to manage and relieve the pain in the short term, and help to address the underlying causes of the pain to help to resolve chronic pain over time.

In my practice, I have seen patients with chronic pain respond very positively to acupuncture, with a reduction in pain symptoms and the overall level of pain. As pain diminishes, acupuncture helps open the door for healing, allowing a person to regain aspects of their former lifestyle and quality of life. It is very rewarding to see patients who have lived with debilitating pain on a daily basis for many years begin to see improvements in their pain and to see their pain slowly resolve, as is often the case with acupuncture treatment. Although chronic pain is a complex problem, acupuncture is a treatment option certainly worth considering!

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

3 01, 2011

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the lining of the joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually lead to bone erosion and joint deformity. This condition is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own tissues.

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause symptoms of joint pain, swelling and tenderness, as well as red and puffy hands, firm bumps of tissue under the skin on the arms (rheumatoid nodules), and morning stiffness that may last throughout the day. It can also affect the whole body with fevers, fatigue, and weight loss.

Rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect the smaller joints first, such as the wrists, hands, ankles and feet, but as the disease progresses, the shoulders, elbows, knees, hips, jaw and neck can also become involved. Symptoms may vary in severity and may come and go. Flare-ups of disease activity alternate with periods of relative remission, during which the swelling, pain, difficulty sleeping and weakness lessen or disappear.

Doctors don’t know what causes rheumatoid arthritis, though it may have a genetic factor that is triggered by environmental factors such as a bacterial or viral infection. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, and treatment involves managing symptoms to prevent flare-ups and further progression of the disease. Western medical treatment may involve medications to reduce joint inflammation, relieve pain and prevent or slow joint damage; physiotherapy to teach better movements to protect the joints; and in severe cases, surgery.

In Chinese medicine, rheumatoid arthritis is considered a “bi syndrome”. “Bi” means obstruction or blockage, and bi syndromes are characterized by an obstruction of qi-energy and blood by wind, cold, dampness, or heat. This causes symptoms of aching, pain, heaviness, numbness, stiffness, redness, and swelling. Bi syndromes usually arise because of an underlying weakness or imbalance in the body that makes us vulnerable to injury or disease.

Bi syndromes that lead to rheumatoid arthritis typically arises from an imbalance of the kidneys, because of their role in the functioning of the bones and marrow, and the spleen, because problems with the spleen can lead to internal dampness in the body, as with joint swelling during a flare-up. The liver is also often involved with rheumatoid arthritis, because liver dysfunction can lead to blockages of qi-energy and shortage of blood, and the liver is also closely tied into the health of the tendons and ligaments.

However, rheumatic arthritis may have different causes depending on the person, and determining the organs involved is done by looking at the specific symptoms for each person. In this way, treatment is tailored to the individual’s symptoms and constitution, to better target the causes and relieve the symptoms.

Acupuncture has a lot to offer those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. It offers a healthy way to manage the symptoms of the condition, helping to reduce pain and inflammation and prevent flare-ups from occurring. Acupuncture improves the body’s healthy functioning, including the immune system. It is also very effective for the relief of pain and inflammation- in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, relieving joint pain and stiffness and helping the joints to function more healthily.

For those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, acupuncture offers a safe and healthy option to help manage the condition, prevent further progression, and enjoy life symptom-free.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

16 12, 2010

Whiplash

Whiplash is a common neck injury that often occurs during rear-end automobile collisions, but it can also occur from other activities such as contact sports or amusement park rides. The head suddenly moves backward and then forward, causing tissue damage known as whiplash. These extreme motions push your neck muscles and ligaments beyond their normal range of motion, usually resulting in an acute sprain of the spinal ligaments and joints, most frequently in the C3- C6 vertebrae. Whiplash symptoms can occur immediately after the injury, or may develop only after a few days following the injury.

Whiplash injuries can be mild or severe. Symptoms may include neck pain and stiffness, headaches, pain in the shoulder or between the shoulder blades, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and blurred vision and may even cause difficulty concentrating, memory problems, irritability, sleep disturbances and fatigue. Most people recover from whiplash within 4-6 weeks, but for some people, whiplash injuries become chronic symptoms that can be extremely painful and disabling.

Western medical treatment typically begins with over-the-counter pain relievers and ice applied to the painful neck muscles to reduce swelling. If pain persists, prescription medications, massage therapy, and physiotherapy may be recommended, and possibly cortisone shots in more severe problems.

With whiplash, acupuncture is very helpful in preventing an acute problem from turning into a chronic problem. There are many factors which can contribute weakness or vulnerability in the neck when a trauma such as whiplash is experienced. Firstly, the neck has attributes of both flexibility and strength, two factors that conflict because the required flexibility of the neck has been gained at the expense of some strength, leaving the area naturally somewhat vulnerable.

Also, the neck is the part of the spine most likely to be exposed to wind and cold, both of which can lead to or aggravate pain or problems in the neck. Emotions such as stress and anger may also contribute to neck pain, as it is common for us to hold our tension in the neck and shoulders. Many important meridians pass through the neck on their way to and from the head, so internal imbalances in our body may also show up as symptoms in the neck area. All of these factors contribute to how well our body heals from whiplash, and whether or not this condition leads to a chronic problem.

Acupuncture can help to relieve inflammation and release the stiffness and tension of the neck, relieving the pain of whiplash usually within a few treatments. Additional treatments help to further strengthen the neck, improving circulation of energy and blood to the area, so that the neck is better able to heal the injury and recover fully.

Ice in the first 48 hours will help with the inflammation, but after that acupuncturists typically do not recommend icing, as we see the extreme cold as potentially aggravating to the pain and stiffness. Usually, heat is recommended instead in order to relax the muscles and promote circulation. Massage is also very helpful for neck injuries, particularly chronic disorders and acupuncture and massage complement each other very well.

A series of acupuncture treatments can typically help to resolve whiplash, though the exact number of treatments needed depends on a number of factors including how long the injury has been present as well as a person’s age and overall health. However, acupuncture offers real relief for whiplash sufferers and can help to minimize the neck’s vulnerability to future injury.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

16 12, 2010

Upper Back Pain

The upper back is a section of 12 vertebrae, where the rib cage connects to the spine. Upper back pain can be a common problem for a few reasons, a lot of which have to do with our lifestyle. Because we spend a lot of time sitting, we can put extra strain on the upper back as well as create postural problems. This, combined with lack of exercise which weakens the muscles in the upper back, can lead to upper back pain. Also, many of us carry tension in the shoulders, neck, and upper back, leading to further pain. The spine is a connected unit, so problems in the neck or lower back can lead to pain in the upper back as well.

The two most common causes of upper back pain are muscular pain and joint disorders. Muscular pain can develop easily in the large upper back muscles, either due to lack of strength, or injury from overuse through sports, work, or repetitive use. Joint dysfunctions can also lead to upper back pain. Because the vertebrae in the upper back are connected both to each other and to the ribs, there is more possibility for problems. Problems can arise where the ribs connect to the vertebrae, such as with a rib fracture or a rib that shifts out of place.

Less common causes of upper back pain include Sheurmann’s disease (adolescent kyphosis) and ankylosing spondylitis. With kyphosis, there is a disturbance in the growth of the thoracic vertebrae in adolescence, leading to misshapen, wedge-shaped vertebrae that cause the spine to be curved forward. Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammation of the spine that results in a progressive ossification or fusing of the spine. Scoliosis, a condition where the spine curves to the side, can also cause upper back pain.

In the treatment of upper back pain, exercise and postural correction are very important. Acupuncture can also help in the healing process, by helping to relieve pain, inflammation, and stiffness and strengthen the area. By looking at what is causing the pain, we can determine how to correct the problem. Is it due to trauma, whether through an injury or over time through poor posture or repetitive stress? Is it due to our external environment such as too much exposure to cold, heat, damp, or wind? Or is it due to an underlying internal imbalance that is weakening the musculo-skeletal tissues?

In understanding what’s at the root of the problem, we can tailor acupuncture treatment in order to resolve it. While working very well for dealing with the pain and inflammation of upper back pain, acupuncture can also help to strengthen the upper back and to correct internal imbalances that may be contributing to weakness or pain or hampering proper healing. Acupuncture reconnects the interrupted energy flow and corrects imbalances so that the body can better go about its healing, making acupuncture an excellent form of treatment for problems of the upper back.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

18 11, 2010

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by a constant dull pain throughout the body accompanied by fatigue and sleep disturbances. Symptoms can vary depending on the weather, stress, physical activity, and even time of day. Generally the pain is widespread and occurs in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, along with especially sore spots called “tender points” on various areas of the body.

Fibromyalgia can be accompanied by many other conditions including chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, headaches, IBS, arthritis, and restless legs syndrome, among others. There is still no clear cause for this condition, though it is believed to be a combination of genetics, stressful events such as car accidents, emotional stress or trauma, repetitive strain on the body, infections and other illnesses- basically everything that drains our immune system.

Fibromyalgia is a complicated condition and Western medicine often finds it difficult to treat. Fortunately, acupuncture has a lot to offer for sufferers of fibromyalgia. Acupuncture is widely known as being very effective for the treatment of pain, a big topic of research studies for years. In addition, sleeping disorders, anxiety, depression, and energy levels all respond well to the influence of acupuncture. Acupuncture acts on the body by normalizing our internal processes, so when a system is not functioning properly- such as our digestion, our sleep, our emotions, our stress, our immunity, our nervous system, etc- acupuncture is able to influence and correct that system to help it to resume it’s normal functioning.

With fibromyalgia, there are a number of patterns in Chinese medicine (TCM) that can contribute. The first is spleen deficiency, which can be responsible for many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia, including fatigue, digestive problems, muscle weakness, and poor thinking. Liver qi/energy stagnation or blockage can also be a factor, causing emotional symptoms and muscle-joint stiffness. Blood deficiency prevents the body from being properly nourished, causing the constant pain typical of fibromyalgia. Kidney deficiency also plays a role, as all chronic muscle-joint pain tends to include the kidneys, and the kidneys are at the foundation of good health.

Acupuncture can help to reduce tender points, relieve body aching and pain, and improve mood, sleep and digestion, as well as many of the other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. The key to remember with acupuncture is that it is a healing process, rather than an instant fix, so recovery takes time and each treatment builds on the progress of the last, producing a steady and gradual improvement. We must also factor in the complexity of the condition and consider that conditions that are more complex or that have been developing over a longer period of time take more time to reverse and undo.

That being said, fibromyalgia sufferers can typically see pain relief quite early on in treatments, and with continued treatments, notice gradual improvement of the other symptoms as well. For this, acupuncture makes an excellent treatment option for fibromyalgia, one that does not produce negative side effects and in fact improves the body’s overall health while targeting the symptoms.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

7 10, 2010

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition where there is stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint leading to a limited range of motion in the joint. Frozen shoulder usually only affects one shoulder, but some people may eventually develop it in the other shoulder as well. This condition usually develops slowly, over a period of months. The shoulder starts out in the painful stage, where pain occurs with movement and the range of motion begins to become limited. Gradually there is a decrease in pain along with a drastic decrease in the range of motion of the shoulder.

Frozen shoulder can occur after an injury to the shoulder, a surgery or an arm fracture, or it may occur in people with other health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, thyroid problems, and Parkinson’s disease. Frozen shoulder is also more common over the age of 40. With frozen shoulder, the shoulder capsule (the connective tissue in our shoulder joint) becomes inflamed and stiff, which in turn can cause adhesions to develop between the joint’s surfaces and a decrease in the natural lubricating fluids in the joint, all of which contribute to the pain and reduced mobility. At night the shoulder might hurt when sleeping on the painful side and there can be a numbness or tingling in the arm and hand. With the limited use and mobility, strength is lost in the surrounding muscles.

The treatment in Western medicine consists of pain management by using painkillers, muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs. To regain mobility, physiotherapy or acupuncture may be recommended. A frozen shoulder that isn’t treated well can become a lengthy condition.

What can acupuncture do in these cases? There are several meridians (energy pathways) running over the shoulder or close to the shoulder. When the qi-energy and blood flow in these meridians is obstructed, problems begin to arise. This obstruction can be the result of an underlying problem in one or more of the related organs- in other words, if we have a constitutional weakness in our body due either to genetics or to the accumulated effects of our lifestyle, it can create the conditions for a problem to occur. Because there are many meridians that run over or near the shoulder, internal weaknesses or imbalances can create a weakness in the shoulder, leaving it prone to injury.

An acupuncturist investigates where exactly there is improper functioning within the patient and then will treat the underlying organ problems to get the blood and energy flowing again in the meridians. By increasing circulation and blood flow to the shoulder and reducing inflammation, we can relieve the symptoms of pain and increase mobility in the shoulder, setting the stage for further healing.

The significant difference between Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is that Western medicine will treat the shoulder mainly locally, while in TCM we will treat the organ-related problems together with the meridians, addressing internal factors that contribute to the health and healing of the shoulder area. In fact we will treat the whole person and their imbalances, stimulating the body to return to its own natural equilibrium. By going to the core of the problem, relief through acupuncture can be long lasting if treated properly.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

7 10, 2010

Cervical Spondylosis / Neck Pain

Cervical spondylosis is a neck condition due to age-related wear and tear to the neck vertebrae. There can be soreness, distention, radiating pain or heaviness of the neck, shoulder, arm or head, and even numbness of the fingers. It is usually seen in patients over the age of forty. The cause is commonly due to degeneration of the discs and cervical vertebra which stimulates or oppresses the spinal cord or surrounding nerves in the neck region.

The tender tissues of spinal cord and blood vessels are mostly protected by the bone of the spinal column. As long as we are healthy, everything is fine, but when we get older these bones can start to degenerate and bony protrusions can threaten the soft tissues. Spondylosis means that the actual body of the vertebra starts to wear out and the disc in between becomes flatter and dryer. This can lead to compression of the nerve or closing of the blood vessels.

Symptoms of cervical spondylosis are pain and stiffness in the neck, tingling and numbness in the arms, hands, legs or feet, limited range of motion, dizziness and headache. The pain can be so severe that we can’t think clearly and it can keep us awake at night. The condition can also affect coordination, reflexes and walking.

Exercises, gentle manipulations, traction, massage and warmth applications can be helpful to this condition. Surgery is a last-case option, because of the delicacy of the surrounding tissues.

Acupuncture can be an effective treatment option for this condition also. In Chinese medicine (TCM) we say the cause of this condition is due to kidney deficiency, and qi-energy and blood stagnation. The kidney are said to control the bones and have an influence particularly on the spine. As the kidneys weaken with age, the bones get weak. In some people, the bones get weaker faster and this is a direct cause of a kidney deficiency.

Acupuncture works by stimulating qi-energy and blood circulation in the area of pain and discomfort. We do this by stimulating the meridian pathway associated with the pain, both locally and distally. Of course, it is important to also treat the root cause of this condition, the kidneys, in order to strengthen the neck and spine and prevent the condition from progressing further.

One of the reasons for the pain experienced with cervical spondylosis can be a high level of tension in the surrounding muscles. This is a defensive reaction by the body to protect the neck. But this tension can also maintain the pain. In this case, we must also release the tension gently – not too fast – and acupuncture can help here.

Acupuncture is a very helpful alternative in treating cervical spondylosis and is very effective in reducing the pain. It mobilizes the body’s own reserves and helps to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes. In addition, acupuncture can actually improve the body's healthy functioning, so that the neck is stronger and functioning more healthily and is less prone to pain and further problems. Like many pain conditions, both chronic and acute, acupuncture is an excellent option in the treatment and management of this condition.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

19 05, 2010

Pulled Hamstring

I have had a light hamstring pull and a sore leg for 20 years or more, after 8 treatments the leg is feeling better than I can remember.  -Richard, Kelowna, BC

11 05, 2010

Lower Back Pain

I was having severe lower back pain. I saw my medical doctor and was given pain killers. I could only sleep 3 hours at a time, waking up in pain.

I decided to try acupuncture as my father did 40 years ago and the results are way beyond my expectation. My pain is virtually gone and I am again enjoying life to its fullest.  -Ron, Kelowna, BC

25 02, 2009

Sciatica

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body, running from the spinal cord to the buttock and hip area and down the back of each leg, and about the size of your little finger. Sciatica is a condition where the sciatic nerve is irritated. The most telltale symptom of sciatica is pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve- from the lumbar area to the buttock and down the back of the leg. The pain can be anywhere from a mild ache to a severe sharp or burning pain, numbness or weak muscles along the nerve pathway, and tingling or pins and needles feeling in the toes or foot.

The irritation of the sciatic nerve can be the result of pressure from muscles that are too tense or too short, a bulging disc in the lumbar vertebral column that pushes on the nerve, an inflammation of the nerve, or bad posture or heavy work that involves a lot of lifting and bending over. The pain can be severe and often gets worse while sitting too long, driving, bending over and lifting heavy objects. Sciatica is a widespread injury and about 40% of us will eventually be affected by it in some form. Sciatic pain will sometimes be the sign of a herniated disc and it is certainly wise to pay attention to it in an early stage and get expert advice.

In Western medicine sciatica can be treated by many different health care professionals. The massage therapist will loosen the tension in the muscles of the back and leg, in order to relieve the sciatic nerve, the physiotherapist will give exercises to improve posture and stretch muscles and can apply ultrasound or interferential current. The chiropractor will align the spine in order to relieve pressure on the nerve. The doctor can prescribe painkillers or anti-inflammatories and the surgeon can do surgery to remove the bulging of the disc or contributing problem.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), sciatica is considered to be a lower back problem, an area that is strongly influenced by the bladder and kidney channels. Sciatica can be differentiated into different types, depending on the exact cause. Damp-cold invading the back channels can occur in both acute and chronic cases, causing a dull, heavy, radiating pain that may be worse with cold or dampness. Sciatica due to stagnation of qi-energy and blood in the back area can cause either an acute or chronic condition that is aggravated with the absence of movement. Sciatica due to kidney deficiency will result in a chronic condition because of the fact that weak kidneys are unable to properly nourish the lower back area, making it susceptible to injury and dysfunction. This type of sciatica has a slow, gradual onset and typically will get worse in the evening and with fatigue.

Acupuncture can be extremely effective in the treatment of both acute and chronic back pain, including sciatica, regardless of how long the condition has been present. Sciatica often takes longer to treat than other types of back pain, but acupuncture can produce great results, both in treating the pain and in addressing the underlying weakness that is contributing to a sciatic problem.

Often in cases where there is a stubborn problem that doesn’t seem to respond to treatment, acupuncture can remove the blockages and open the doors for healing. Combined with exercises and postural advice, is a very valuable tool in treating sciatica.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

17 12, 2008

Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is a common complaint that we see often at our clinic. It is most commonly attributed to chronic ligament strain, spinal degeneration or osteoarthritis, or a prolapsed lumbar disc, problems that can be aggravated by a modern lifestyle that may involve a lot of sitting, or heavy strain from physical work or exercise.

Treatment often can include pain medication, chiropractic to realign the vertebrae, massage therapy to relax the muscles, and physiotherapy to correct posture and strengthen the muscles. Surgery may also be considered in severe cases.

Acupuncture can thankfully give very positive results to lower back pain sufferers, in part because Chinese medicine brings quite a different approach to the treatment of lower back pain, and one that is very effective. Back pain in Chinese medicine can be due to a number of factors that either make the back more susceptible to pain or lead to the pain itself, the most common being a weakness of the kidneys, causing a lack of nourishment of the lower back and spine.

The kidneys have a strong influence on the strength and nourishment of the tissue and bones of the lower back area so we always look at the strength of the kidneys when treating back pain, and what may be causing a kidney weakness. It is common for back pain to have a number of causes which create different kinds of pain. The type of pain that is experienced often tells the acupuncturist the underlying cause of the pain and helps point towards the proper diagnosis for treatment.

Invasion of cold and/or damp in the low back area can be a factor. It is usually due to the lower back being exposed during cold and damp weather, which allows the cold and dampness to invade and block the flow of energy and blood circulation.  This type of low back pain usually produces pain that is worse in the morning, better with exercise, better with heat, and worse when weather is cold and damp. 

Back pain due to stagnation of qi-energy and blood is usually caused by an acute sprain or, in chronic conditions, repeated sprain and underlying kidney weakness. Excessive physical work and over-lifting can often lead to this type of pain. Back pain due to qi-energy and blood stagnation is characterized by pain that is severe and stabbing, which gets worse with rest and better with light exercise. The area will be tender to the touch and there will be stiffness of the back muscles and inability to flex, extend or turn the waist.

Because the kidneys have an important function in the creation of energy, general overwork can also lead to chronic pain due to the constant drain on the kidneys’ energy, leading to an overall kidney weakness. Chronic back pain due to kidney weakness is usually dull and comes in bouts. It is better with rest and worse when a person is tired. This type of weakness creates a further vulnerability for an invasion of cold and damp or sprains. 

These are just a few examples of how Chinese Medicine diagnoses lower back pain. Acupuncture is then used to remove blockage in the lower back area which cause pain and weakness, and to stimulate and strengthen weak and depleted kidneys to aid their function of nourishing the tissues of the lower back. Treatment targets many internal factors, the goal being not only to alleviate the pain, but also to effectively resolve chronic conditions and strengthen the body to prevent future pain from arising.

Lower back pain is a common ailment that I see in my practice, and it generally responds very positively to acupuncture, whether it is a recent problem or a chronic problem. A person will usually first notice a reduction in the pain within a few acupuncture treatments, followed by an overall improvement of health, strength, and mobility in the lower back. With additional treatments, many cases of lower back pain can be resolved, allowing a person to resume their former lifestyle free of pain and negative symptoms.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.