Treating Myofascial Pain with Acupuncture
Pain medication isn't the only way to treat myofascial pain syndrome (MPS), a condition that occurs when knotty trigger points form in the muscles. MPS is a particularly common complaint and may affect as many as 85 percent of people who have musculoskeletal pain, according to a July 2020 StatPearls article. Acupuncture offers a natural way to relieve pain and tenderness caused by MFS.
What Causes Myofascial Pain?
Your muscles constantly contract and relax as you move. If you have MPS, fibers in the muscle become stuck when the muscle contracts, causing a knot or ropy band to form. The spot soon becomes irritated and tender to the touch.
MPS can be caused by overuse of your muscles, poor posture, insufficient hydration, muscle strain or injury, repetitive movements, poor nutrition, hormonal changes, stress, or not getting enough sleep or exercise.
Pain not only occurs over the knotted area but can travel to other areas too. For example, even though a trigger point is located in your shoulder, you may also feel pain in your neck. MPS can occur in any muscle but most often develops in the muscles of the neck, upper back, and shoulders. In addition to pain, other symptoms may include:
- Decreased Range of Motion
- Joint Instability
- Mood Issues
- Difficulty Sleeping
How Acupuncture Can Relieve Your MPS Symptoms
You'll continue to experience pain and tenderness as long as the muscle fibers remain contracted. Inserting acupuncture needles into the trigger points causes the fibers to relax and lengthen, easing your pain and improving muscle strength and tone. Acupuncturists use hair-thin needles during treatments. Although you might feel a dull ache or slight tingling sensation when the needles are placed in your skin, the treatment isn't painful.
Treatments trigger the release of natural pain-killing hormones and improve blood flow to the area, making it easier for oxygen and nutrients to reach and repair the muscle. Inflammation and irritation will also decrease as a result of your acupuncture treatments.
Your acupuncturist may recommend a few other therapies in addition to traditional acupuncture, such as herbal supplements or electroacupuncture. Electroacupuncture involves attaching a gentle electrical current to acupuncture needles to enhance the effects of the treatment.
Acupuncture Offers Effective Results
Several research studies have proven that acupuncture is a safe, effective way to treat MPS. In a study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers compared the effects of both superficial and traditional acupuncture in treating trigger points in the upper trapezius muscle. The large muscle covers the back of the neck and shoulders and extends into the upper back.
After four weeks of acupuncture treatment, pain intensity and pressure decreased in both treatment groups, while neck pain improved.
Acupuncture can also have a positive effect on pelvic pain in women. Seventeen women who had moderate-to-severe abdominal myofascial pain syndrome received acupuncture treatment for 10 weeks in a 2017 pilot study published in Medical Acupuncture. Improvements in pain intensity and quality of life were reported at the conclusion of the study.
Reducing Your Risk of MPS
Following these suggestions can improve the effectiveness of your acupuncture treatments and prevent new trigger points from forming:
- Stay hydrated by drinking four to six cups of water every day.
- Eat a diet that includes whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, poultry, and lean meats.
- Stretch your muscles and change your position frequently during the day.
- Increase the intensity or duration of exercise sessions slowly to prevent overuse injuries.
- Reduce stress with mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, yoga, exercise, or your favorite activities.
Do you suffer from MPS? Acupuncture offers real relief for your pain. Contact our office to schedule your appointment.
Hindawi: Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Therapeutic Effect of Superficial Acupuncture in Treating Myofascial Pain of the Upper Trapezius Muscle: A Randomized Controlled Trial, 12/2/18