Orthopedics is the term for the medical specialty devoted to diagnosis, treatment and management of problems with the musculoskeletal system. Originally, orthopedic physicians focused on the care of children with spine and limb deformities, but they now treat patients of all ages. An orthopod might set a broken bone, provide medical treatment to patients with conditions like arthritis, develop a rehabilitation plan for person after serious injuries or perform a surgery like a total joint replacement or knee ligament repair.
Technically, chronic pain is any pain that lasts more than 12 weeks, according to the National Institutes of Health. The severity of the pain is not an issue, and chronic pain can range from a mild ache to debilitating pain with movement or even at rest. Other symptoms such as sleep disturbances, fatigue, mood and appetite changes are relatively common with chronic pain. The primary goals of treatment are to reduce the level of pain and improve function, even if the cause of the pain cannot be corrected.
The theory behind acupuncture rests on energy flow throughout the body. Pain results when the flow of energy is blocked, and acupuncture targets specific areas called trigger points or acupoints to improve energy flow. Research shows that no matter what the cause of the pain, acupuncture can help in about half the cases. Scientists aren't sure whether acupuncture affects neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that transmit pain signals), hormone levels or some other part of the body.
In addition to acupuncture, practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) use therapies such as herbs, exercise, cupping massage and diet, all of which may be helpful in chronic pain. Herbs are used both for pain relief and to reduce inflammation (willow bark, for example, is the source of salicylic acid, which is synthesized in aspirin). Cupping and massage can help relieve muscle tension and spasm. Diet assures proper nutrition, but may also help to reduce inflammation or to promote better sleep and increase energy levels.
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