A traditional Chinese saying states, "If there is free flow there is no pain, if there is pain there is no free flow." In acupuncture this statement is interpreted through the channel system, which is the blood vessel network that links and communicates with the organs. Pain is the first sign of a channel obstruction and is usually a straight forward condition to treat with acupuncture. It often involves needling locally around painful and inflamed areas. Usually, pain treated in this manner is located within the fascia, muscles, and connective tissue. Here in NYC I often see pain conditions involving headaches & migraines, neck, low back, and joints. There may be arthritis or degenerative joint disease. Treating this way increases blood circulation and promotes the healing of tissue. There are times however, when pain can be a very complex thing to treat and unless the practitioner knows what to look for, pain treatments can be a long drawn out process.
In the Huang Di Nei Jing, the body is comprised of 5 tissue planes. The skin, the tissue under the skin called the subcutaneous/fat tissue, sinews, vessels, and bones. Each tissue plane can be pathologically obstructed with a corresponding acupuncture technique to resolve the blockages and re-establish free flow in that aspect of the channel. My teacher would often say that to resolve complex medical conditions, the key to unlock it is often found in a clinically silent area, areas that no would think to look at. I have found through experience this to be the case especially when inflammation is rampant and the patient is in a great deal of discomfort.
I remember a case where this was demonstrated. A female in her 30's initially came to the clinic because she had strep throat. She was treated by the senior practitioner using acupuncture and herbs. The herbal formulas were cooling in nature to counteract the inflammation. She was also treated with acupuncture points to reduce inflammation in the throat and clear heat in general since she was running a fever. After a few days, the patient went to her primary care physician because the strep was not resolving. She was placed on antibiotics for 7 days, which helped her feel better for a few days, but soon afterwards the symptoms of strep returned. She was given a second course of antibiotics in addition to the acupuncture and herbs. The medication helped with the strep, but she developed a urinary tract infection in the process.
The patient was then treated with acupuncture and herbs by the senior practitioner to clear heat out of the bladder and resolve dampness i.e. the UTI, but still remained in a lot of pain even after the session. I then asked her if she could stay for a little longer because after examining her, I found blockages in the inflow and outflow tracts of the lower abdomen. The pelvic region's main vessel passes through this area. After treating the obstructions, the pain and discomfort instantaneously left her body and the urinary tract infection gradually improved over the next couple of days and resolved. This was the first time she had real relief from acupuncture during this whole crisis.
In my experience, as a Midtown NYC acupuncturist, treating pain and illness effectively with acupuncture occurs when we treat the obstructions that are causing the body to express symptoms. Unless we know where to look and what these obstructions look like, we might only be treating symptoms and not the root cause. To understand acupuncture we must begin with the foundation. This means knowing the channel system in its entirety and the appropriate acupuncture techniques to re-establish the channel's function.