Pain in the body, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is the result of Qi or energy not moving. Acupuncture helps the energy to flow again, thus relieving pain in three different ways:

  1. Via ‘ashi’ or pain points. These are similar to trigger points used in sports massage or the dry needling technique used by some physios, osteopaths and chiropractors. The body is palpated for points of pain, which are then needled to release tightness.
  2. Via the meridians. Meridians are channels where the energy flows. Most have names related to organs of the body (e.g. Kidney, Stomach). Often people suffering from musculoskeletal ailments will feel the pain flow in a line which often correlates to a meridian., e.g. patients with sciatica usually feel pain running down the outside or the back of their legs (Gall Bladder and Bladder meridians). In these scenarios, the acupuncturist usually needles at specific points along the meridian.
  3. Sometimes a patient is suffering from a musculoskeletal pain due to a weakness in the body. Here, the acupuncturist needles points throughout the body to strengthen it.

Other TCM treatments for musculoskeletal problems

  1. Cupping. This is used to move Qi either in one specific spot (static) or in a larger area (moving). One theory is that cupping causes microtraumas, initiating a positive inflammatory response, and as a result, mobilises antibodies to the area that needs healing.
  2. Moxa. This is the burning of a herb, artemisia; the heat produced helps to move Qi and relieve pain. It is often used in stick form and burnt a few centimetres above the skin.