This is my attempt to explain how DNA works to relieve pain. First, let me preface this letter by saying that until recently there have been mistranslations in the historical Chinese texts which has resulted in some successes, but in many cases a lack of desired results. The vast majority of practitioners of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) are following incorrect concepts and not achieving the results that are available. After 30 years of practice and constant studying I have come to achieve what I believe is a true explanation and treatment method for pain.
There are 3 type of nerves in the body that are involved with Acupuncture.
1. Sensory nerves primarily nociceptive fibers;
2. Proprioceptor nerves which are involved in position
3. Motor Nerves which are involved in motor function
The nociceptive nerves and the proprioceptive nerves travel from the body to your spine and then to the brain, including the midbrain and thalamus.
The motor nerves travel the other way from your spine to the muscles. Of course these nerves help you contract/relax the muscle groups so you can move your body. When you have an area, say the shoulder, which has an impaired range of motion or is stiff, this is the brain telling the motor nerves to limit motion so as to protect the area of pain, in this case the shoulder.
When you place a needle into a person the nociceptive nerves start firing because of a localized minute injury. The 2 primary nociceptive nerves I am concerned with are the C fibers and the A Delta fibers. The goal of placing needles is to have C fibers transmission, which are perceived as a dull aching. A Delta fibers give a sharp or burning sensation and are highly undesirable effects. What I am achieving is the C fibers transmitting a slight pain signal to the brain. As the nociceptive nerves tell the brain that there is pain but not where it is, the brain relies on the proprioceptive nerves to do that. These 2 fibers are intertwined throughout the body.
What has been discovered is that the Acupuncture channels which you have probably seen run vertically through the body. Along these channels are muscle groups, blood vessels and nerves, such as the Proprioceptive and Nociceptive nerves we discussed earlier.
Chronic pain is pain that no longer has any purpose whatsoever. Pain that has been around more than 3 months or longer. In chronic pain the brain should be releasing enkephalins and endorphins (which are ten times stronger than morphine) which should stop the pain. Also involved is Substance P, a peptide that transmits pain signals from the sensory nerves to the central nervous system. It has also been associated with the regulation of stress and anxiety. This compound is thought to contribute to such painful disorders as arthritis and fibromyalgia.
When you have pain the brain is supposed to flood the Substance P receptor sites with enkephalins and endorphins. Why do we then have chronic pain? Because the signal strength of the proprioceptive nerves has to be strong enough for the brain to release the pain killing substances. In people with chronic pain the proprioceptive pathway has been damaged/attenuated, and is not working properly. It is common that a patient can’t tell you exactly where the pain is because they are not getting the proper Proprioceptive signal to the brain. Now the brain sensing what it perceives as a damaged body area will not want you to use that body part and through the Motor pathway will make the area stiff/”frozen” and not work very well.
Because of the lack of proprioceptive signal the brain restricts blood flow to the area and you can’t heal. The opioids dull the pain but never treat the underlying cause. The reason they still have the pain is because there is no enkephalin release. The body gets locked into a sensory/motor loop, sometimes for years.
When we stick a needle in, it jumps the strength of the Proprioceptive pathway as it has sensed a new pain area. Once you increase the signal strength the thalamus/mid-brain releases the endorphins and enkephalins and the patient leaves the office with no pain. However, 2 -6 hours later the old neural threshold reestablishes itself, and the pain comes back. So they come back to my office and I jump the threshold again by sticking needles in. After repeating this process the pain does not come back. Why? Because the body is deigned to not be in chronic pain. It is very destructive to the gene. And it’s not healthy to walk around in pain. With the Acupuncture we reboot the neurological system and reestablish neurological homeostasis.
Needles are not placed into the current painful area but into areas of the body that are related in the brain to the painful area. For example, for foot pain, the wrist is the mirrored target area. Thanks to thousands of years of practice by the Chinese the Acupuncture Channels to treat are then isolated and targeted. I must explain a misconception that haunts my profession. That is the idea of a magical energy flow, called Qi that flows through the body. There is no magic energy flowing through the body. The Chinese by dissection and practice found that there are longitudinal muscles that run down the body and alongside the muscles are nerves and the vascular system. The correct translation for Qi is actually oxygen. The preferred and possibly only way to heal a damaged area is to increase the blood flow to that area along with the nutrients and oxygen that the blood flow brings. When the brain senses a damaged area and not wanting it to spread to the whole organism it constricts the blood flow to that area. This is a left over mechanism from the time when we had an injury it could very well be life threatening. However, once the pain has stopped, even temporarily like after an Acupuncture session the pain the brain increases the blood flow. After repeating Acupuncture for a while the pain will cease and the blood flow will return to normal. When this occurs the Motor Nerves no longer send signals that limit range of motion. What is expected is that within the first 6 treatments, delivered at 3 times per week for 2 weeks the patient will have a noticeable improvement in their pain and treatments continue at a rate of about 2 treatments per week, at an estimated time period of about one month for every year they have been in pain. I also do not complete each treatment unless the patient states that the pain is gone or at least 90% gone. This has a dramatic effect on the patient’s psyche. The few patients, approximately 10% that do not respond as expected either have a structural disorder, a neurological disorder (possibly early stage of MS or Parkinson’s) and are beyond my ability to treat and are promptly discharged.
The obvious question now is “why does the patient have chronic pain?” My best estimation is that along with restricted blood flow the patient is in a weakened state from having been in pain for a long time, the use of medications that weaken or make tired the patient, surgery and the patient’s age. The patients that have chronic pain are weak and tired. This is why in addition to Acupuncture, I wait until the patient has seen results and now believes that my treatment do in fact work. Then I recommend to the patient that herbs are taken which are well known to increase blood flow and energy levels. I must add one thought I have. Why does a patient try every other form of treatment, sometimes for more than 5 years, take any medication prescribed, continue that treatment even though they are not getting cured, and then come to me and expect immediate results? The Acupuncture and Herbal treatment is a therapy and like any therapy requires time and repetition.
Many insurance companies understand the value of acupuncture and include acupuncture in their benefits. Each company is different. They should be able to discuss with you with the information for you plan. Our office will provide you with all in information necessary to be reimbursed from your insurance company.
My intention is to give you an understanding of how Chinese Medicine views the treatment of pain, which has been demonstrated in more studies on the subject than there have been studies on any other subject. There have been over 50,000 studies, virtually all attesting to the effectiveness of Acupuncture in the treatment of pain, which may be found on Medline and other services. Additionally you should know that Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal treatment is the form of medicine used by people on this planet more than any other form of medicine and has continued for almost 3,000 years.
A word about herbal treatment. While Acupuncture is the most effective form of pain relief in the world; in China all other disorders are treated by Chinese Herbal medicine. That is really the main form of treatment in China. Such disorders include Rheumatoid Arthritis, Attention Deficit Disorder, all gynecological disorders (such as endometriosis and infertility in men and women) and especially fatigue, anxiety, depression and insomnia. Patients are welcome to come to my office and should I feel I cannot help them, there will be no charge. These cases are usually limited to structural problems such as bone on bone disorders, Parkinson’s disease, patients requiring surgery, and multiple sclerosis.
There is one book in case you have further interest in the subject that explains very well how Acupuncture works. The book was published by Oxford University Press and underwent years of peer review (including M.D.’s) without a single correction. It is written by Donald Kendall and entitled The Dao of Chinese Medicine.