I'm Coming Around
As many of you know, I'm in the process of completing my Acupuncture Sports Medicine Apprenticeship Program with Whit Reaves, L. Ac.. Acupuncture sports medicine is the synthesis of principles of traditional Chinese Medicine with Western sports medicine. It pairs ancient needling techniques with knowledge of anatomically significant tissues such as motor points, trigger points, muscle bellies, tendon sheaths, joint spaces, muscle tendon junctions, ligaments, tendons, and other structures. Often Electrical stimulation (estim) is a machine somewhat similar to a TENS unit (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). Like a TENS unit, estim uses a very low level of electric current. Needles are placed into hyper or hypo-functioning tissue and Estim leads are attached to the needles to provide a low level of current through the tissue. Estim spurs the body to profuse injured, weakened or inflamed areas with Qi and blood. The theory is electrical stimulation interrupts pain signals and causes the body to release endorphins, it’s natural painkillers.
When I was fresh out of school, Acupuncture sports medicine didn't appeal to me much at all. After all, it's pretty obvious that I'm not a jock. Using an Estim machine used to seem to me like cheating. I wanted to be the acupuncturist who put in a few magic needles in seemingly random places and make all the pain go away. I’m drawn by the mystical, but I’m too pragmatic not to be practical. As I've practiced over the years, I've discovered that there are many for whom this works and there are many for whom it doesn't work at all. Buy why?
Sitting and Hunching
Whit Reaves has a hypothesis, and I have to say, I like it. If you look at classical acupuncture points taut bands of muscle are overlooked in favor of points located in hollows, spaces between muscles. These were paired with distal points on the same acupuncture channel for maximum efficacy. According to Whit, in the early 80's classical techniques were effective on the majority of patients. So what changed? Technology. Or rather, technology changed us.
I can remember a bright spring morning in 1978, my father brought in a big box and set it on our old teacher's desk. He unpacked and tinkered a while. Then the neighbors were invited over and we all gathered round the wonder of the first 8086 IBM PC on the block. Desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones have changed us. No longer are we swinging scythes out in the fields or toting laundry down to the stream. Instead we sit, hunkered over staring into our marvelous devices for hours at a time. Then we get up, hop into our cars and sit, hunched over our steering wheels. Prolonged inactivity paired with lousy posture has lead to our muscles becoming more shortened, contracted and fibrous than they were before. Thus, the techniques that have been effective for centuries, are not always effective on our modern bodies. That being said, there are plenty of bodies that seem to respond better to traditional techniques than sports medicine acupuncture. These people can be more sensitive foods and medications than other people. For them, traditional acupuncture techniques make more sense.
Everyone is an Athlete
We are all athletes. We may not be running marathons, but we're all likely to sprain an ankle on the curb or aggravate a shoulder by shoveling snow. Everyone has a body and at times the body gets broken or stressed. The same knowledge can be applied to a 25 year old softball player as can be applied to a 75 year old who has pain lifting her arm. Even if I'm not going to treat a problem with acupuncture sports medicine, it makes sense to know how the body works from an allopathic medical perspective. I have many colleagues who turn their noses up at learning anything remotely related to Western medicine. It didn't take long for me to understand that patients expect acupuncturists to know what they're talking about when they mention spondylosis, Grave's disease or a torn medial meniscus. I feel the Western medical training I got during my Master’s degree in Acupuncture and Asian Medicine was sorely lacking. I’m excited for the opportunity to delve deeper into orthopedic medicine from both the Western and Eastern sides using the tools of acupuncture sports medicine.