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Acupuncture and Functional Medicine for Chronic Pain: A Path Forward

For many of us pain is a constant in our lives.  Perhaps it started as an injury years before, a repetitive stress, a tension pattern, or an autoimmune issue and has slowly progressed until it is now detracting from the enjoyment of life.    The pain leaves us limited in both our work and recreation.  It leaves us fatigued and detracts from relationships with friends and family.  Massage, medications, manual therapies, and PT may only bring temporary relief.  But why does the body not heal?

 

Chronic pain is treated poorly in standard medical care.  If no structural abnormality shows up on imaging or if no obvious immune marker shows up on bloodwork then no diagnosis can be made.  The doctor shrugs, diagnoses a chronic pain syndrome and prescribes medications that can often lead to long term health damage or addiction. The patient is often left feeling ignored, confused, and hopeless.  Luckily, the combination of acupuncture and Functional medicine is perfect for this situation.  It gives us the tools to not only target the injured tissue and reduce pain immediately but also to understand why the body’s healing mechanism has become compromised.  Let’s briefly examine both of these tools and look at why they work together synergistically.

 

Acupuncture is a neurological tool.  It is a way of directing the body’s resources, through targeted central nervous system stimulation, onto an injured or inflamed distribution of tissue.  It is the only medical modality that actually directs the body’s own resources and attention onto an injury that has become chronic.  Because this mechanism of acupuncture mobilizes the patient’s own healing response it can often immediately change pain patterns that have been unresponsive to other types of care.  The mobilization of the body’s resources leads to permanent healing rather than just masking the pain with medication.

 

Functional medicine is a way of assessing and correcting the underlying drivers of systemic inflammation that often are the culprits of chronic pain.  Inflammation and pain, obviously, have their purpose.  The body needs to identify its injured part and mobilize blood flow to heal.  But, when our body is chronically stressed it often loses the ability to regulate inflammation.  The primary stress hormone of the body, cortisol, is a gluco corticosteroid.  It is the hormone of the body chiefly tasked with regulating inflammation.  If cortisol production has been compromised and is too high or too low this disrupts the body’s ability to manage inflammation and can result in a chronic pain pattern.  Unfortunately, chronic pain is also a major stressor and can itself cause this disruption of cortisol.  Other drivers of inflammation that can lead to chronic pain are low grade infections, dietary intolerances, emotional stress or anxiety, detoxification issues, and autoimmune issues.  Through Functional medicine testing we are able to carefully examine all of the body’s major systems to discover why it is not healing chronic pain.  Without identifying and correcting the root cause of the body’s inability to heal chronic pain can remain an entrenched pattern.

When these two medical systems are joined something profound happens.  The body replenishes the resources that have been depleted by stress or illness.  Those resources are targeted to the injury and the body is again able to heal.  The pattern of chronic pain and inflammation is disrupted and finally replaced by health.  If you have been struggling with ongoing pain start your path to healing today.  Call me and let’s discover and correct what is at the root of your pain.

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