Acupuncture- The Great Pain Reliever


Acupuncture-The Great Pain Reliever

Chronic pain in the muscles and joints can make life miserable. Standard treatments like ice and heat, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and appropriate exercises can often ease the pain. But when they don’t, acupuncture is an excellent option for treating pain with a great track record that is worth considering.

Over the years there has been substantial debate about whether acupuncture really works for pain. Research from an international team of experts adds to the evidence that it does provide real relief from common forms of pain. The team pooled the results of 29 studies involving nearly 18,000 participants. Some had acupuncture, some had “sham” acupuncture, and some didn’t have acupuncture at all. Overall, acupuncture relieved pain by about 50%. The results were published in Archives of Internal Medicine.1 The study isn’t the last word on the issue, but it is one of the best quality studies to date and has made an impression on the medical community.

Acupuncture has been a go-to treatment for pain relief around the world for centuries. But how does it work from a western medical perspective? Multiple studies on acupuncture and pain clearly indicate the following physiologic responses:

Release of opioid peptides.Opioids are naturally occurring chemicals in the brain that have an analgesic effect. The release of these opioids plays a significant role in the reduction of pain. There has been considerable evidence to support that acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system, releasing these chemicals.

Alteration in the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones.
Acupuncture is said to activate the hypothalamus and pituitary gland and thereby alter secretion of these chemicals. These particular chemicals play a direct role in the sensation of pain as well as the activity of an organ or organs. Evidence has shown that acupuncture alters this secretion in a manner that reduces pain. Documentation has also shown that acupuncture positively affects immune functions in the body.

Stimulation of points on the body.
The 2,000+ points of the body that acupuncture focuses on are theorized to be strategic conductors of electromagnetic signals. Stimulation of these areas releases endorphins—the body’s natural painkillers.

Stem cell signaling.
Acupuncture stimulates a release of stem cells to the parts of the body crying out for help. In the case of back pain, acupuncture helps release stem cells to attend to areas of pain and atrophy to stimulate regeneration at the damaged site.

As you can see, acupuncture stimulates a complex network of healing responses. Whether for back pain, ankle sprain or migraines , acupuncture treats not only the pain component, it also signals to the body’s reserves to initiate the regenerative healing process. As compared to medications which mask the pain, acupuncture outperforms pharmaceuticals by treating the underlying cause of discomfort in addition to the symptomatic pain.

Pain in all its forms can impact sleep, energy levels, mental health and the ability to recover from illness. By alleviating pain and stimulating the body to heal itself, the rest of your being benefits by having better sleep, more energy and greater mobility. So, come in and see for yourself how we can help you resolve your pain and improve your quality of life!

Call us at 503-287-4970 to make an appointment.

Summer Event: Prepare and Repair


By Dr. Leslie Fuller
Nature Cures Clinic physician

It is that time again — summer sports event season.  And Portland has a lot of them.   We naturopaths like exercise, we even recommend it to our patients and participate in events ourselves… what we don’t like, however, are the injuries and stress to the body that improper training and poor physical body maintenance can lead to.

For the last several years, I have worked in the medical tents at the end of the Portland Triathlon and Portland Marathon, and I’ll be there again this year.  Most athletes that we see come our way at the end of the race have one of few things ailing them: extreme muscle spasm/soreness, hypothermia or hyperthermia, or blood sugar imbalance. This article is going to take a look at the specifics of preparing and repairing our bodies for big athletic events — hopefully to keep readers out of the medical tents due to intense musculoskeletal pain.

Stress reduction is a common theme of any treatment protocol for most patients.  We live in a stressful world and most of our work environments contribute to the daily stress load.  Something to keep in mind, however, is that exercise itself is also a stress.  And just like all other stressors in life, it too needs to be balanced.

First and foremost, and often most obvious from the aches and pains earned during the event training process, is musculoskeletal system balance. When a body is experiencing pain, it is hard for it to perform at its maximum output.  So keeping our bodies out of pain is a huge goal for any athletically-aimed treatment program.  Most musculoskeletal pain in tendons and ligaments is caused by an imbalance around the joint.

When a muscle is overly strong or over developed, it can cause a whole joint (and often a whole side of the body) to function improperly.  This improper function leads to poor biomechanics, and often pain.  Wear and tear around joint can be caused by overtraining — both by performing the same repetitive motion on a weak joint and by not replenishing the body when it is broken down. Cramping, muscle spasms, and even sore muscles are a sign of a potential nutritional deficiencies.

In preparing for a big event, take time during the hours of training to listen to the aches and pains in your body — they are signs that something is not right.  Often, it is simply a problem of biomechanics and posture.  Having an expert fit you into you bike saddle better or watching you run on the treadmill will help eliminate possible imbalances in your gait and posture.  Remembering that stretching and strengthening is very important — for every overly strong and tight muscle, there is an equally overly stretched and weak one.

Our muscles and tendons thrive on protein, calcium, magnesium and good food — in the form of fats and sugars — as well as many trace nutrients.  The best way to prevent nutritional deficiencies is to make sure all of these necessities are incorporated into the diet.  The key to proper event training nutrition is not a surprise: every body is different and has different needs.  Figuring out what fuels your body best both pre-event and mid-event is highly important.  And, having a well-balanced post-event nutrition strategy will help you recover quicker.  While carbohydrates such as starches, vegetables and fruit are the quickest fuel sources, healthy fats and proteins are also extremely important.

Here at Nature Cures I work with a lot of musculoskeletal pain.  Through diet, manual therapy, stretching exercises and naturopathic manipulative therapy I am usually able to help athletes avoid pain syndromes that prevent peak performance.  I also use Prolotherapy, an injection technique that helps to stabilize weak ligaments and tendons and helps re-balance possible causes of joint and muscle pain.  The modality of IV therapy can also reduce pain and inflammation, as well as provide excellent nutritional support during heavy training.

Dr. Leslie Fuller is an avid runner and athlete, and understands the needs of an athlete’s body. If you’re training for a big athletic event, consider coming in to Nature Cures Clinic for a free 30-minute consult before, during or after your training.



Image courtesy Brighton Photographer