Acupuncture & muscle spasms


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Many of us will have to deal with muscle spasms or cramps at some point in our lives. This is a condition which if extremely commonplace, affecting people of any age and walk of life, and while unpleasant, it does not pose a serious health risk. There are, however, cases of prolonged or chronic muscle spasm which can benefit from treatment. For such instances, acupuncture can offer a drug-free solution with lasting benefits.

What is a muscle spasm?

There are somewhere between 650 and 800 muscles in the human body, all of which are designed to relax and contract in response to signals from the brain and spinal cord carried along specialist nerve cells. Each one of these muscles is potentially vulnerable to muscle spasm, also known as muscle cramp, or in some more colloquial settings, charley horse.

The NIH (National Institutes of Health) has reported that virtually everyone will experience spasms at some point in their lives. These can affect muscles anywhere in the body, but the most common ones affected are usually on the legs, neck, or shoulders. Spasms can be caused by any one of a number of reasons, including poor diet, excessive stress, over exercise, physical deformities, or injury. Regardless of the cause, spasms are always painful to some degree.

The spasm itself is just an abnormally strong and extended contraction of a particular muscle or set of muscles. It is particularly common in muscle groups that are used very often, and most especially when those groups are subject to undue stress to which they are not accustomed.

While many spasms pass over time, particularly with conventional and conservative treatments like the application of heat, stretching or massage, instances of sustained or prolonged cramping can be very effectively dealt with through acupuncture.

It is important to point out that severe muscle cramp that persists for any length of time should be discussed with your doctor even if you are consulting an acupuncturist, if for no other reason than to err on the side of caution.

Acupuncture and muscle spasms

The ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture has attracted a lot of attention in the Western world, and while controversy surrounds many of the purported conditions acupuncture can treat, the technique has proven effective to many in the relief of muscle spasms. Physiotherapists here in the UK have the option of pursuing a post-graduate qualification in acupuncture to add to their repertoire of treatments.

Acupuncture is used to relieve pain and disease by stimulating specific points in the body. The more modern interpretation of this practice is that these points are rich in nerve endings or muscles that are targeted by the needles integral to acupuncture. Traditionally however, the purpose of acupuncture has always been the restoration of healthy and unobstructed Qi flow.

In traditional Chinese belief, Qi is a life energy vital to maintaining good health. In this instance, by restoring Qi flow to a muscle affected by spasm, an acupuncturist is thought to also restore good health, evidenced by the muscle’s relaxation.

The treatment itself will be performed via the application of sterile, stainless steel needles designed for acupuncture. These will be applied to specific acupuncture points pertaining to the site of the spasm, and your acupuncturist is likely to perform a thorough physical exam to determine which muscles are in spasm and which acupoints to target.

An effective acupuncture session should help to relax muscles in spasm. If you suffer from chronic cramping, you might need a series of treatments, or you might need to complement your acupuncture with an alternative treatment like massage therapy or electro therapy.

In the hands of a trained acupuncturist, muscle spasms can be treated very safely. Most muscles subject to spasm are thick and placed away from sensitive organs, and with the appropriate training and experience an acupuncturist will know how to ensure that every needle administered is applied safely and effectively.

Acupuncture is a great alternative therapy that has proven useful in remedying a variety of conditions. That being said, the treatment is not a replacement for ‘classical’ medical care, and if you are suffering from any kind of long term illness, including chronic muscle contractions, you should always consult your doctor on top of any other measures you might make. You should also ensure that you only commission the services of a fully trained acupuncturist with the experience necessary to deliver effective and safe treatment.


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