If you have been experiencing pain from tennis elbow for some time, it might seem like nothing you do will help to relieve the discomfort.
Despite following your doctor’s orders to rest, and restricting the use of your elbow in order for it to heal, you still feel pain. Even after using heat and ice and an elbow brace to minimize the inflammation, you are still feeling frustrated with the sore feeling in your elbow when you use it for just about any activity.
Acupuncture for Tennis Elbow
When the sharp pain in your elbow becomes debilitating and the nagging ache and tenderness you feel makes it difficult to do daily tasks, you may want to consider alternative treatments to help with pain relief.
One treatment that could be helpful for relieving the symptoms of tendonitis and tennis elbow is acupuncture. This is not a new approach to tennis elbow treatment, with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) using acupuncture for 2500 years as a way to treat pain.
Acupuncture is now becoming more mainstream and is more widely accepted in modern western medicine as a medical treatment.
The theory of the way acupuncture works according to TCM theory is that it helps to unblock pathways in the body where energy flows from our cells.
When there are blocks in the pathways, the energy flow is restricted and this can lead to symptoms including pain. In treating tennis elbow using acupuncture, the areas where blockages are occurring can be released, to help minimise the pain experienced in the elbow.
An experienced acupuncturist will know the points on your body to place the fine, sterile needles so as to unblock the areas where the energy flow is being restricted. The needles used for the treatment of tennis elbow are often rounded, as opposed to the traditional pinpoint shape, so that the needle can enter the muscle tissue beneath the skin without causing damage.
The points that are stimulated may not even be near the elbow, due to the intricate energy circulation system causing blockages in one part of the body which then can have the effect of blocking energy in another place. When the needles are inserted in the specific regions, they stimulate the points that are causing the block and increase the blood flow to the area. This allows the body to start the healing process, which reduced inflammation and strengthens the damaged tendons.
A more scientific explanation of how acupuncture works to relieve pain which has been uncovered by various studies is that the needles stimulate the nervous system and release neurochemicals that promote physical and emotional wellbeing. When certain pressure points are stimulated by acupuncture then the brain receives messages to reduce pain and stress which then promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety.
Evidence of the Benefits of Acupuncture for Tennis Elbow Treatment
Now, you might be wondering: Does acupuncture work for elbow pain?
While acupuncture might not be the best treatment or even a long-term cure for tennis elbow, there is enough evidence through two studies that show positive results, which indicate that acupuncture is a viable treatment option for sufferers of tennis elbow.
The Mayo Clinic conducted a study of patients suffering from tennis elbow or tendonitis who were treated with acupuncture. The results were very positive, with 18 out of the 22 patients who were treated experiencing long-term relief from their pain when treated with acupuncture. Prior to having the acupuncture they had tried all the usual methods of treating tennis elbow without relief.
Success Rate of Acupuncture for Tennis Elbow
Further research involving 22 patients with chronic elbow pain was conducted by thee American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and similar results to the Mayo study were found.
After four acupuncture treatments the patients had positive outcomes in their pain relief. 19 patients were completely healed of their tennis elbow pain and the remaining 3 patients had massive reductions in their symptoms and could use their elbows normally again.
How is Tennis Elbow Relieved with Acupuncture?
According to the British Acupuncture Council the pain and inflammation which is a result of tennis elbow may be relieved through acupuncture treatment in the following ways:
- stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal chord
- delivering analgesia via alpha-adrenoceptor mechanisms
- increasing the release of adenosine, which has antinociceptive properties
- modulating the limbic-paralimbic-neocortical network
- reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors
- improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility by increasing local microcirculation which aids dispersal of swelling
It seems conclusive that if you suffer from tennis elbow then acupuncture is definitely worth a try. It may not cure the condition completely, but it may provide an opportunity for pain relief. It can also be used along with other traditional methods of treatment to finally experience the relief you need.