Neck Pain

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23 03, 2012

Sports Injuries

Sports injuries are injuries that occur in athletic activities. Some sports injuries result from accidents; others are due to poor training practices, improper equipment, lack of conditioning, or insufficient warm up and stretching. Many sports injuries can be due to overuse of a part of the body when participating in an activity. Other types of injuries can be caused by hard contact with something. Sports injuries typically involve the musculoskeletal system, which includes the muscles, bones, and associated tissues like cartilage.

Common sports injuries include:

  • Sprains are a stretch or tear of a ligament, causing tenderness, pain, bruising, swelling and inflammation.
  • Strains are a twist, pull, or tear of a muscle or tendon, causing pain, muscle spasms, and weakness. 
  • Knee injuries are very common and can range from mild to severe, from pain or tenderness at the front or side of the knee close to the knee cap, tendinitis, and pain in the iliotibial band (the outer side of the knee), to bone bruises or damage to the knee cartilage or ligaments. 
  • Shin splints are another common sports injury involving pain along the tibia or shin bone, typically seen in runners. 
  • Achilles tendon injuries can occur when there is tendinitis already present in the tendon or when a stretch, tear or irritation happens to the tendon. 
  • More severe can be stress fractures, which occur from repeated stress to a bone over time, most often occurring in the legs or feet, and acute fractures, that can occur from a quick, one-time injury to the bone. 
  • Dislocations occur when the two bones that come together to form a joint become separated. Dislocations a usually caused by contact sports or high-impact sports.

The great news is that acupuncture can be of benefit to all types of sports injuries. It is of course always best to treat an injury in the acute stage or as soon after an injury occurs as possible, in order to assist the body in healing quickly and fully. Early treatment also helps to prevent the possibility of long-term or chronic problems with the injury down the road due to improper healing. However, acupuncture is also very beneficial in any stage of healing and can also be of great help to old, lingering injuries or injuries that did not properly heal. Acupuncture taps into the body’s own resources to encourage the healing process and the body’s optimal functioning. With sports injuries this can mean reduced inflammation, increased circulation, reduced muscle tension, and of course, pain relief. Treating sports injuries, whether old or new, can help the body to regain former functioning and health levels and prevent more long-term consequences such as reduced mobility, stiffness, weakness, or arthritis.

Our bodies have amazing abilities to self-regulate and repair themselves. In any injury the body attempts to minimize, repair and overcome the damage to its normal functions and in many cases, given adequate rest and support, our bodies are able to recover successfully. However, in cases where the body isn’t able to correct a problem on its own, or in cases where long-term damage can occur if left untreated, acupuncture is a promising treatment that helps bolster the body’s healing abilities so that we can return to our normal, healthy selves.

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

 

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.

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

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.

11 05, 2010

Neck and Shoulder Pain

I had been suffering with a painful neck and shoulder for almost four years following a car accident. Also I was experiencing pain with my hand for a few weeks. Then I went for a few acupuncture treatments and I am happy to report that they have helped me greatly to have me free of pain.

During each treatment I was able to take a short "cat-nap", altogether an enjoyable experience. I must add here that the staff are very caring, and the treatment rooms very comfortable.   -Beatrice, Kelowna, BC