Earlier today, I found a fun video on Youtube of an Australian doctor talking about acupuncture. What made this show particularly interesting was that the doctor himself was struggling with some knee pain and, as part of his investigation, underwent a series of acupuncture treatments for it. The treatment shown in the video is almost exactly the treatment I use for knee pain in my own clinic here in Walla Walla. At the end of the video, the doctor also mentions one of the physiological reasons I think that acupuncture is particularly valuable for joint injuries.
The doctor notes that acupuncture produces increased blood flow in the local area where the needles are inserted. After the body suffers a traumatic injury there are two big jobs it has to do. First, the body has to clear away all the debris caused by the injury. Much like the aftermath of a building collapse, the site of the injury contains wreckage–dead cells, as well as pieces of ruptured cells—that would impede the rebuilding process if they were allowed to stay at the site. Second, the body has to get the right raw materials to the area in order to repair the damage.
Both of these processes are directly linked to blood flow through the area. It is the blood flow in that area that carries away the debris, and it is the blood flow that delivers the nutrients necessary for repair. In joints and other highly boney areas of the body, circulation is necessarily restricted by the presence of these structures. Imagine two building projects going on at the same time—one is located next to a four-lane highway right by the on and off ramps. The other building project is taking place at the end of a winding dirt road far out in the country. It’s easy to see which one will be completed first.
By increasing blood flow to the injured area, acupuncture can aid the body’s natural ability to heal itself. There are also several things you can do at home to help this process along as well. After the first 24 hours following the injury use heat rather than ice. Ice will constrict the blood vessels leading to the injured area. Not a good thing when it comes to healing. Second, begin to move the joint again as soon as possible after the injury. Gently moving the joint through its range of motion without strain or force will also help with circulation