Muscle and Joint Pain

Pain due to muscle or joint dysfunction affects us all at some time or another.  Whether you injure yourself exercising, develop a problem from hours spent at a computer, or suffer arthritic pain, our acupuncture can provide you with the pain relief you need.

Everyday we treat a wide variety of painful conditions due to muscle and joint dysfunction.  Many patients report an improvement after their first acupuncture treatment, including many people who’ve had no success with physiotherapy or chiropractic treatment.

Our goal is to fix the cause of your pain from the least number of treatments, and to teach you how to prevent the problem from coming back.

Whether you have a sore shoulder, bad back, tight neck or shin splints, call us today to make an appointment and get on the road to recovery.

How do you identify a muscle or joint (musculoskeletal) problem?

Obviously pain is present in the majority of muscle problems.  Pain can manifest in many ways: as an ache, dull pain, sharp (stabbing) pain, or a feeling of tightness.  However, there are many more indicators of musculoskeletal dysfunction: swelling, heat and/or redness; pins & needles or numbness (these can be symptomatic of nerve involvement); or decreased range of motion (showing problems with joints, ligaments, tendons, or muscles).

There may be a history of trauma, such as an accident or sporting injury; or history of overuse such as long hours of sitting at a computer for work, or repetitive movements.  Knowing the cause of the pain will help our diagnosis and treatment, and help to avoid it coming back.

What are the most common causes of musculoskeletal pain?

The most common cause of muscle pain we treat is work-related tension (from stress, poor posture, or the boss). Over a long period this tension causes tight bands or ‘knots’ in muscle.  This can occur in any part of the body but particularly affects the neck, shoulders, and lower back.  Soft-tissue injuries such as strains and sprains, as well as scar tissue from old injuries are also common causes for presentation to our clinic.

Can you explain a little more about muscle ‘knots’?

When a muscle is overworked or overloaded a ‘knot’ develops, which is a tight band within the muscle.  This leads to pathological muscular contraction and pain.  Often, a person with muscle pain will have multiple knots in several muscles.  Without treatment these knots get progressively worse until the pain becomes so bad that it forces a person to seek help.  Acupuncture doesn’t mask pain like painkilling medication does, but treats the cause, which is better for your body.

A healthy muscle should be able to fully relax and contract: a tight muscle, then, because it cannot totally relax, is also weakened.  It cannot support the body as well, and the cycle continues.

Why is acupuncture so effective for pain?

We insert the acupuncture needle into the muscle, sometimes directly into the knot.  This stimulates the muscle to relax, and produces a ‘muscle twitch’ or ‘muscle release’.  We are able to see and feel such muscle twitches, and often the patient can too.

We also use our knowledge of acupuncture channels to make a comprehensive diagnosis.   Using both western anatomy and physiology with traditional acupuncture gives us a full picture of what’s causing a person’s pain and the best way to treat it.

Acupuncture also improves circulation through areas of pathological muscular tension, reduces inflammation and stimulates the healing process in muscles.  This latter effect helps to avoid the development of fibrous scar tissue or adhesions (hardened, inelastic  tissue) and promotes a full recovery and a decreased risk of the problem recurring.

Do you use other techniques when treating pain?

Yes.  While traditional acupuncture forms the primary treatment, we regularly use other techniques, such as remedial massage, electro-acupuncture, cupping, guasha and moxibustion.  No two patients are the same, so no two treatments are ever quite the same.  These other techniques can, when appropriate, greatly complement and strengthen the effect of acupuncture.

Who’s at risk of musculoskeletal pain?

We all are.  Different groups of people tend to suffer different pain problems:

  • Office-workers and students tend to spend long hours sitting at a computer desk.  These people often develop neck, shoulders, elbows and wrist problems.  These painful conditions have often been present for a long time, as they tend to gradually get worse over time.
  • Sports people: back, hamstrings, groin, legs, shoulders. These people often develop painful problems in the major muscles of the body due to their exercise regime.  These painful conditions can happen suddenly (traumatic injury) or over the long term due to repetitive movements.
  • Mature people: degenerative and inflammatory conditions e.g. osteo-arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, tennis elbow and ‘frozen shoulder’, often affect people from their fifties.  Such problems tend to have joint inflammation with associated muscular tension.

How long does it take to fix muscle pain?

A general rule is that the longer you’ve had the problem the longer it takes to sort out.  For example, in the case of acute neck pain (torticollis) – when someone wakes up and can’t turn their head, usually only 1-2 treatments are necessary.  However, for a person who has OOS (Occupational Overuse Syndrome – sometimes known as RSI) of the wrist due to years of long hours of computer use, it’s expected to take longer until the pain is totally gone.  Such people may need 6-8 treatments or more.

It’s important to be aware of this though:  that although you might have experienced the pain for a relatively short time (say, for example, 3 weeks), the knots in your muscles may have been developing over a much longer period.  We can always tell if this is the case by palpating (feeling) and sometimes just looking – muscles which have been in distress for a long time are hard and tender to touch and usually have multiple knots.

Do you give your patients exercises or stretches to do at home to help with their treatment?

Yes, absolutely.  And these stretches are simple and take very little time to do, so our patients can easily fit them into their busy schedule. As you improve we give you more advanced stretches to do.

Do you have any tips for people to prevent muscle pain from developing?

Yes, we have many!  Here are a couple:

The value of rest can’t be underestimated, and it’s important not to undo the good results you get in your treatment.

Get into the habit of having good posture – although it may feel relaxing, slouching (whether  standing or sitting) places strain on muscles.

Take regular breaks from the computer – stretching during this time is very beneficial (these breaks also help avoid eye strain).

Have your work-station assessed ergonomically – a desk and chair that is the right fit for you will relieve some of the strain on your body during all those hours you spend at work.

Get a back-pack – they may not be fashionable, but carrying a heavy bag on one shoulder places great strain on the body and often leads to neck, shoulder and back problems.

Always lift heavy objects with good posture – use your knees to lift instead of your back.

Always warm-up and cool-down before and after physical exercise – this decreases the risk of sprains and strains.

If you start to feel an unusual pain during an exercise – stop or at least slow down – it may be a signal from your body telling you that something is wrong and shouldn’t be ignored.

Do a variety of exercises – e.g. if you are a runner, swap one of your runs each week with a swimming session or a bike ride  – this works different muscles (giving your running muscles a chance to have a little break), while still contributing to improving fitness.

Eat plenty of nutritious food and stay hydrated – muscles require proper nutrition in order to repair and grow.

Don’t put off getting treatment if something hurts – the longer you wait the more serious it becomes and the longer it will take to rectify.