The most common complaint about spinal injuries is that they don’t heal properly.
You may think it’s the injury itself, but many people experience some degree of discomfort when they get hurt, particularly when they’re younger.
So what’s really happening?
A new study out of McMaster University in Canada suggests the spinal cord isn’t simply injured by a physical impact but instead, it’s actually injured by another, more complex phenomenon: acupuncture.
“Acupuncture, or qigong, is an ancient form of Chinese medicine,” says lead author Sarah Haggerty, a professor in the Department of Anatomy and Physiology at McMaster University.
“It is a type of meditation, or yoga, practiced by Chinese masters who seek to calm their mind and body.”
HaggerTY and her colleagues conducted a controlled study on 10 people who had experienced spinal cord injury and who had undergone treatment.
The people in the study were then instructed to perform acupressure in a controlled setting in which they would feel their spinal cord in a circular, horizontal, and vertical position.
They were then asked to repeat this process with a group of healthy control participants.
The acupuncture treatment lasted for eight weeks.
After eight weeks, the acupuncture treatment participants had significantly lower levels of spinal cord inflammation and inflammation in the muscles and connective tissue in their lower spine than did the healthy control group.
This suggests that, in fact, the acupression was actually treating the injured spinal cord.
“The acupuncture treatments were successful in relieving symptoms, including pain and stiffness,” Haggertty says.
“However, we found that acupuncture had no significant effect on the severity of pain or stiffness.”
In other words, the participants didn’t experience any pain or discomfort after acupuncture.
It’s unclear what the actual causes of the spinal injury are.
The researchers say their findings suggest that acupuncture could be a promising alternative to traditional spinal manipulation for patients who have not recovered from spinal injuries. “
This may explain why acupuncture is often used to treat spinal injuries in the first place.”
The researchers say their findings suggest that acupuncture could be a promising alternative to traditional spinal manipulation for patients who have not recovered from spinal injuries.
Hagger, who was a postdoctoral researcher at McMaster before taking the position of head of the department, says that it’s possible to “treat a chronic spinal injury with an active manipulation without the side effects of physical and psychological trauma.”
The study was published in the journal Neurology.
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“These findings highlight the value of non-destructive acupuncture as an alternative to spinal manipulation,” Haganty says.
[More from Live Science] “We know acupuncture is effective in reducing pain and swelling but we don’t know how it works in treating spinal injury,” Hagerty says, because of its relatively low effect on inflammation.
This is because inflammation in a healthy body can occur as a result the immune system attacking tissue.
“We want to find out more about the mechanisms of acupuncture and to develop new ways to target and manage inflammation in humans,” Haginty says by email.
“In addition to the potential for pain relief, acupuncture has other potential benefits, including improving coordination, improving mood, and reducing the risk of developing pain later in life,” she adds.
Previous research has shown that acupuncture can reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and post-stroke pain.
But the new study found that the effects were not related to the specific type of acupuncture, but rather to the underlying mechanism of injury.
Haganity says the study showed that there was a significant difference in how the participants felt after acupuncture compared to after an active control group exercise.
“In addition, the researchers also found that acupressing in a control group did not improve the severity or length of the post-acupuncture pain,” Hagidy says.
What this means is that acupuncture may be beneficial for treating the postoperative pain, but the real goal is to develop a treatment that can help prevent future spinal cord injuries in people who have recovered.
References: “Acupressured spinal cord,” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20684578 “Spinal cord injury: a case-control study,” http:www.nature.com/nrs/journal/v17/n4/full/nrg2.html?sid=a0a8f3ac7b1b3c9d09c8f6b0e9f6c5f2f1#axzz2xrzv4hfC4hHjbUg “Acupuncture for lower spine injury: A case-cohort study,” http://www,ncbi,nlm