Integrating acupuncture with chiropractic provides better pain relief.
By Michael Spatuzzi, LAc
Acupuncture is well known for its many benefits, among which are relaxation, pain relief, peristalsis normalization, and substance abuse treatment. The most frequent use mentioned in the media, however, is pain relief.
According to traditional Chinese medical theory, acupuncture works by freeing the flow of qi, or circulating life force, through pathways called “meridians” in the body. Pain, in this context, can be viewed as stuck energy. Therefore, pain relief comes from freeing that flow.
The use of acupuncture together with chiropractic can aid in the release of energy blockages and consequently relieve pain.
It is more comfortable for your patient — and for you — if your adjustment can be easy, if the patient’s body can correctly realign with gentle prodding. Freeing the musculature surrounding the spine is a vital component of achieving proper alignment.
Massage, in all forms, from structural integration to myofascial release, from shiatsu to tui na to Swedish, has virtue in this endeavor. However, there are times when the paraspinal musculature can be resistant to such forms of correction. Sometimes the vertebrae are just plain stubborn, making the adjustment more difficult.
Being a convoluted bundle of fibers, the erector spinae, multifidus, rotator, and interspinalis muscles can effectively hold a subluxation in (or out) of place. Granted, the effort the muscles put forth is noble; they work to stabilize errant bones — that is their nature.
Muscles travel from rib to rib and vertebrae to vertebrae to support the back and facilitate movement. But when the last straw is loaded, or that fateful twist to pick up something in the backseat of the car strikes, the resulting spasm can be painful.
The muscles are still struggling to support and facilitate, but they’re spasming in overload and cannot relax.
At times like these when muscles don’t know when to stop, a more direct form of persuasion may be useful.
This is where acupuncture can be useful in your practice. The precise insertion of a needle can accomplish what much pushing and prodding are unable to do.
The points of the bladder meridian, both medial and lateral, with the Hua Tuo jiaji points,1 may be the perfect intervention. The bladder meridian begins at the inner corner of the eye and travels back over the top of the head, splits into two lines, which continue down to the back of the knee
where they again flow together all the way to the outer corner of the little toe. The section of this meridian you should be concerned with is in the back of the torso.
In their energetic properties, the more medial points of this channel along the back can assist in balancing the function of all the organs. The superficial layer of muscle encountered at these points is approximately along the center of the erector spinae.
The lateral line of the channel also affects the corresponding organs, but in a more subtle manner. It is close to the outer edge of the erector muscle.
In addition to the bladder channel points, the Haul Tuo points are extra non-meridian points located between the spinous processes of the vertebrae and the inner line of the bladder meridian. Named after a Chinese physician who lived almost 2,000 years ago, these points can do wonders to help release acute or chronic tension and spasm in the paraspinal muscles. They are located about a half-inch lateral to the spinous processes of the vertebrae.
Of course as one employs needles, one must remain aware of the anatomy of the area and be aware of the structures beneath each point at every level of the spine. There are both structural and anatomical aspects of these points. All of them can have a local effect and profound impact on physical health.
The simplest and most direct way to use the points is to find what are commonly termed “ashi” or sensitive points. These are the spots that hurt. The acupuncturist palpates the area, finds the tender points, and carefully inserts the needle to the appropriate depth and angle. The needles are then retained for several minutes. The physical stimulation of the needle into the muscle will induce relaxation of the fibers and the spasm there will release and relax.
After that, the bones the muscles are attached to will move more freely and with less effort on your part.
Combining acupuncture treatments with chiropractic can bring relief to you and your patient.
Michael Spatuzzi, LAc, has been practicing acupuncture and natural medicine for more than 30 years. He is the author of The Acupuncture Energy Chart, a clinical supervisor at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, and maintains a private practice in Del Mar, Calif. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.