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.