Acupuncture has been practiced in China for more than 2000 years. The traditional theory is that health is a state of balance, while blockage in energy flow creates imbalance and symptoms, leading to illness. In the most basic sense, attention to diet, relaxation and moderate exercise promotes free flow of energy, balance and health.
When things become “stuck,” acupuncture is used to unblock energy to eliminate symptoms and restore balance.
Scientifically, we know that acupuncture helps pain by activating natural pain-modulating systems in the brain and spinal cord, and by promoting the release of endorphins, cortisol and sex hormones into the circulation. These natural substances have whole-body effects on pain, inflammation and well-being. Acupuncture also has a balancing effect on the autonomic nervous system and local effects on blood flow and tissue healing.
Western science has shown that acupuncture can help:
- balance the autonomic nervous system
- balance sex hormones
- reduce stress hormones
- moderate inflammatory mediators
- improve blood flow
- stimulate endorphin release
Traditional Chinese medicine includes acupuncture, moxibustion and Chinese herbal medicine, diet therapy, Chinese massage, Tai Qi and Qi Gong. Japanese-style acupuncture includes a focus on palpation of muscle knots and bands, something not emphasized in Chinese training.
Dr. Chernish has extensively studied and taught Chinese, Japanese and western medical acupuncture. He has developed an approach that includes traditional Chinese theory, western medical science, and tissue palpation rooted in Japanese and western trigger point theory.
Acupuncture is not effective in those taking narcotics, as narcotics interfere with the natural endorphin release that acupuncture stimulates.
Dry needling is an acupuncture technique used to soften and eliminate painful muscle knots. Dr. Chernish incorporates dry needling into his acupuncture treatments when appropriate, never as a stand-alone treatment.
Moxibustion is a companion treatment to acupuncture. It is used in treatment of certain patterns of fertility and for certain types of pain. Moxibustion treatment involve burning the dried herb, Artemisia vulgaris on certain acupuncture points. This is done in a very specific manner to produce a comfortable warming sensation.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese herbal medicine is invaluable for treating certain patterns of infertility where acupuncture alone will not suffice. Chinese herbs are always prescribed in combinations of about 6 to 10 herbs, with each herb playing a role to modify and support the actions of the other herbs. Herbal formulas can be individualized to target more specific symptoms.
Chinese Medicine Approach
Treatment is always individualized. Different treatments may be used for each person with the same problem, and one treatment may be used to treat different conditions.
An old saying in Chinese medicine is, “one disease 10 treatments; one treatment 10 diseases.”
Trigger Point Injections
What is a Trigger Point?
A trigger point is a tight knot or band of muscle that forms after trauma or after overuse injuries. It prevents the affected muscle from fully relaxing, and may lead to restricted range of motion in the affected area. A trigger point may also produce pain radiating from the involved area.
Trigger points may occur following injury or surgery, or in association with chronic conditions such as tension headaches, chronic back pain, herniated discs and fractures.
If left untreated, trigger points can cause pain and restrict range of motion for months or years.
What is a Trigger Point Injection?
With this therapy, local anesthetic is injected into a trigger point in order to relax the tight musculature and to relieve pain. Trigger point injections are typically done in the context of muscle stretching and strengthening exercises to prevent pain from recurring.
Local anesthetic or “freezing” (Lidocaine) is injected into the trigger point and any related tender points. This very safe procedure is not painful and takes only a few minutes. The treated area becomes numb for about 30 minutes to an hour. Pain should improve over the next one or two days as the tight muscle relaxes.
What to Expect
Most patients require several sessions to treat all the tight and tender areas in the painful region. Usually, we will schedule a series of six trigger point injections treatments, each one week apart.
Side-effects are rare but may include mild tenderness and bruising. You can expect to continue normal activities on the day of the injection.
As symptoms improve, we will prescribe stretching exercises and strengthening exercises with a physiotherapist or athletic therapist.
The goal of the injections and follow-up stretching and strengthening exercise is to completely eliminate the pain, improve range of motion, and ensure that the pain does not return.
For some patients, trigger point injections are more beneficial than acupuncture-type dry needling, particularly in heavily-muscled individuals, where the muscle is very tight or has been tight for a very long time.