Managing chronic pain or overuse injuries is challenging for both patients and physicians. According to the CDC, an estimated 1 out of 5 patients with non-cancer pain or pain-related diagnoses are prescribed opioids in office-based settings, and it's well-documented that long-term use of opioid pain medications can be associated with abuse and overdoses. CHI Memorial Integrative Medicine Associates offers acupuncture as part of their use of both conventional and alternative methods of facilitating the body's innate healing response.
Acupuncture is an effective, non-invasive medical protocol focused on correcting imbalances of energy in the body. It's used to treat a wide variety of health conditions and helps people get and stay well. An acupuncturist activates the body's Qi to improve the body's function and promote the natural self-healing process by stimulating specific anatomic sites, commonly referred to as acupoints.
"Part of my job is to lessen the pain and discomfort people are experiencing - without the need for medication or in combination with medication to provide relief," says Liza Mercado, board certified acupuncturist with CHI Memorial Integrative Medicine Associates. "For someone with back, knee or shoulder pain who doesn't want to be on medication, trying acupuncture is a great option. It's also proven helpful in my practice for people who are working with their physician to get off or lessen their medication dependence."
What is Qi (Pronounced Chee)?
In Chinese medicine Qi, or vital energy, flows throughout the body and protects it from pain, illness and disease. It circulates through specific pathways called meridians. The quality, quantity and balance of Qi influences a person's health, and it can be affected by physical or emotional trauma, stress, lack of exercise, overexertion, seasonal changes and diet. Acupuncture is recognized as an effective treatment for a range of conditions, including:
What Patients Can Expect
After taking a full health history including symptoms and lifestyle, an acupuncturist completes a physical exam of a person's pulse and tongue. This helps the practitioner create a structured treatment plan and detect any imbalance of Qi that may contribute to health problems.
"Once the imbalances are detected, hair-thin, solid, surgical stainless-steel needles are inserted to unblock the obstruction and balance Qi. The insertion creates micro tears in the tissue, sending signals to the body to send elastin and collagen to that specific location to aid in healing. Patients may experience a heaviness, tingling or dull ache where the needle is inserted. This is known as the 'Qi sensation' and is a completely normal sign that the treatment is working," says Mercado. "With Qi freely circulating throughout the body, adequate nourishment is reaching the body's cells, organs, glands, tissues and muscles. This can eliminate pain and restore balance and the body's ability to heal itself."
The number of treatments and frequency is customized for each person and depends on several factors: constitution, the severity and duration of the person's condition, and the quantity and quality of a person's Qi. Some people experience immediate relief, while others require a longer treatment plan. A minimum of one month is expected to see significant changes.
"Each person has a different medical history, and that's why it's important to offer a variety of solutions based on that individual's needs," says Mercado. "Wear and tear injuries, degenerative conditions, lifestyle, exercise level and age are all important factors I consider when developing a personalized treatment plan."