Pain Relief Treatment In Swansea

man with back pain down spineThe dread of moving a limb, turning in bed, the searing pain, the ache that keeps you up all night. The irritability and low mood from constantly suffering pain. It can affect every aspect of life. Simply twisting to pick up the house keys as you leave your house goes from a fluid unconscious movement to a guarded stiff operation in multi-parts. Stop. Twist. Pickup keys. Turn. Move out the door. All consciously thought out in staccato movement. Pain is not fun, but life without pain would be almost imaginably difficult.

Pain Is Good, Sort Of…

The paradox is that life without pain would be very dangerous indeed. Injuries and poisons send pain signals to the brain for good reason – so we know there is a problem in the affected area and then modify our behaviour and movements.

Say for example I’m playing squash. And, not unusually for a squash player, my achilles fires off a rifle crack snap. Nociceptive & proprioceptive nerves send pain signals up to my brain indicating a problem. Modified motor nerve impulses then send impulses back to the area to restrict movement, resulting in a limp. I take the weight off my injured leg and transfer it over to the leg that works so I can hobble off court and consider my fate.

This is good pain. Pain that serves a purpose. I feel pain and I stop walking to reduce further damage to the affected area.

  • Did you know?
    The National Institute For Health & Care Excellence (NICE) recommend a course of acupuncture for relief of back pain, tension headache and migraine.

Fast forward 3 months ahead. My achilles has healed perfectly, but I’m still experiencing pain. This is bad pain An MRI of the affected area shows no abnormalities so why am I experiencing pain still?

Pain Doesn’t Always Correlate To injury

A 1995 study in the Journal of New England Medicine (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejm199407143310201#t=article) took 98 healthy people with no back pain and MRi’d their backs. Shockingly 52% of the 98 people had disk protrusions in their lower back, but no pain. Only 36 percent of those examined had a normal disk at all levels.

So why weren’t these people with disk protrusions in agony? Because pain does not always originate from injury of the musculo-skeletal system. It can originate from a wonky nervous system.

The Nervous System And Pain

To understand pain we need to understand the nervous system. The nervous system is split into 3 main sections:

  1. The Proprioceptive Nervous System: This gives the body information about pain location.
  2. The Nociceptive Nervous System: This feeds pain signals back to the brain. Pain signals come in two main flavours:
    1. A-Delta Fibres: These fibres are covered in myelin sheaths, which conduct the nerve impulse quickly and result in the sharp, burning & electric feeling.
    2. C Fibres: These fibres don’t have a fatty myelin cover and so conduct pain signals less efficiently. These pain signals travel slower. The pain from C fibres tends to be a dull, persistent aching
  3. The Motor Nervous System: Nociceptive & proprioceptive nerve fibres travel from the body to the spine and up into the brain. Motor nerves on the other hand travel from the brain to the tissues sending messages to move. You might wonder what these have to do with pain as they don’t send signals to the brain? As we’ll see later these are implicated in pain.

Following The Pain Journey – How Does The Nervous System React?

Lets assume I’ve just been running and injured my knee. Something that I tend to suffer from at least once a year (the injury, not running)…

What happened during this process?

An element of mechanical injury agitated local nerves. The nociceptive and proprioceptive nervous system are stimulated. A-Delta fibres conduct pain signals to the brain. Now without proprioceptive nerve fibres the body wouldn’t know where this pain was.

Proprioceptive nerve fibres are wrapped round the nociceptive nerve fibres and send signals up to the brain to tell the brain where the pain is. If the proprioceptive fibres weren’t there the brain would just register pain without understanding where it is.

Proprioceptive fibres are as fast or faster than A-Delta fibres so the brain gets a signal indicating injury in the knee. Split seconds after the sharp pain arrives. Shortly followed by the less intense C fibre dull ache.

No Brain, No Pain

Sounds simple? Well, its not quite that simple. While pain signals may flow up to the brain in roughly the same manner, the way those signals are processed varies wildly. Depending on how your brain interprets these signals, you may feel a lot of pain or a little pain.

This is a really important point to understand . Perception of pain does not necessarily correspond to the strength of the signals being sent from the injured site.

The brain decides how it will interpret the pain signals. If you’re anxious the brain may be more responsive to pain signals and up the amplitude – interpreting the pain to be more severe. If you’re more relaxed the brain may well then decide to muffle the pain signals and drop the amplitude.

Neurological experts are starting to suggest that pain signals generally err on the side of safety, sending louder signals to shock into inaction. In terms of evolution this makes sense. A primitive hunter with no medical knowledge would need strong impulses to adjust behaviour so as not to cause further damage or spread poison.

So can you control pain?

Yes and no.

No in that you can’t just decide not to have pain anymore. The part of our brains that modulate pain is primitive and instinctive. The way to get on top of pain is to reduce stress and anxiety levels in the body.

Often patients present in my clinic with stress, anxiety and pain. Sometimes the pain has generated the stress, sometimes the stress & anxiety has generated the pain. Usually the two work nefariously hand in had to drag patients down into an ever decreasing circle of increasing pain and lowering mood states.

You can’t control the perception of pain directly but you can affect your mood state. Notice I said you can control your mood state. You can’t directly get a handle on stress and anxiety. So calming the nervous system is a good start.

And don’t be afraid. Almost all chronic pain will resolve over time.

How Acupuncture Can Help

Acupuncture is great because, in contrast to most pharmaceutical pain killers, the side-effects are minimal. Normally the worst you can expect, if you’re unlucky, is a small bruise. Acupuncture is thought to work through a number of methods:

  • Improving micro-circulation of blood. Blood flow is essential to affect a cure
  • Reducing local inflammation of tissue
  • Releasing stubborn knots and tension in muscles that can’t be broken down by manual therapy

The main methods I use for pain management are Distal Needling and trigger point acupuncture.

Distal needling is a highly effective form of needling popularised by Dr Tan. The site of pain is never directly needled. For the majority of patients pain relief is instant. A course of treatment will be needed for the effects to last.

Trigger Point therapy was popularised by Janet Travell. in successfully treating Kennedy’s back pain when he was senator, Travell earned herself the honour of being the first female White House physician. Triger point therapy involves needling or massaging tender points in fascia that often refer pain to another part of the body.

To learn more about acupuncture and the styles I practice please click here.

Acupuncture with Tim in Swansea

Tim Wright Acupuncturist in SwanseaI have a BSc Honours degree in acupuncture, a License to practice acupuncture, a Diploma in Tui Na (Chinese Massage) and am a Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga teacher. I am also a full member of the British Acupuncture Council and have a licence to practice from Swansea County Council.

I trained at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine in Reading and was fortunate enough to have been supervised by some of the best acupuncturists in Europe, including Peter Mole and Angela Hicks.

If you would like to discuss more or book a treatment please contact me on 01792 366288 or email tim@goweracupuncture.co.uk.

Clinics

  • Mumbles
  • Swansea

Contact

Accreditations

  • BSc Honours Acupuncture
  • Licentiate in Acupuncture
  • Member British Acupuncture Council
  • Yoga Alliance certified yoga teacher