Sciatica

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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.

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.