Muscle spasms, also known as muscle cramps or a charley horse, are involuntary contractions of the muscles. Although these contractions can be very painful, they are rarely dangerous or a cause for concern. However, severe or lasting pain should always be examined by your doctor. Common areas affected are the feet, thighs, lower legs, hands, arms, abdomen, neck, shoulders, jaw and even along the rib cage. Although there are many self remedies to treat the occasional mild muscle spasm, acupuncture may provide relief for more painful and common occurrences.
There are many causes for muscle spasms, such as injury, misuse, overuse, diet, stress and anatomical irregularities. Some muscle spasms can be prevented by proper stretching before strenuous sports such as running or swimming, or with repetitive activities such as tennis. Certain dietary factors such as dehydration or low levels of potassium and calcium are also preventable causes. More painful or recurring spasms could be a result of a prolonged stress, a structural issue or an injury that may require medical attention such as a herniated disk.
Acupuncture has been around for more than 2,000 years. Though popular in Asia and parts of Europe for centuries, acupuncture has grown in popularity only recently in the United States. Due to this increased public interest, more studies have been conducted in an attempt to measure and validate the claims of practitioners and their patients. According to a 2007 National Health Interview Survey, 3.1 million U.S. adults and 150,000 children had acupuncture in 1996. In a study conducted by the Department of Pediatric
Acupuncture is the practice of inserting thin needles into the skin for a variety of health conditions. Acupuncture practiced today, including the acupuncture points and diagnostic techniques, remains similar to ancient times. The needles used in modern practice, however, are sterile, stainless steel and single-use-only for safety purposes. An acupuncture treatment for muscle spasm should include a full physical examination and question-and-answer session. The acupuncturist may try to re-create the spasm by asking you to perform the movement or position that creates the issue in an effort to accurately diagnose and treat the issue. The acupuncturist may then choose to insert a needle on a specific acupoint or exactly where the pain is. Both methods are considered appropriate and effective within the acupuncture field. If appropriate, electro-stimulation is added to the treatment by attaching small wires to the needles in order to send small micro-currents to the muscle in an effort to relax it. This is rarely painful, and many patients find the sensation enjoyable.
Acupuncture is considered safe with minimal risks when administered by a qualified practitioner.
Ask your doctor if acupuncture is right for you. You should also find a licensed acupuncturist or ask your general practitioner to refer you to one. Your acupuncturist should be able to tell you how many sessions you’ll need and whether your treatments are covered by your insurance. Remember, though acupuncture may be effective for your condition, it’s not a substitute for the medical care provided by a physician.