Covid-19, Stress and Jaw Pain

Covid-19 is having a very negative impact on our collective mental health; in fact, a tidal wave of mental health issues in the wake of multiple and extended lockdowns has been predicted.

At the clinic, we are now treating more patients with pain conditions related to stress, anxiety and depression.

Amongst these conditions is what is often referred to as temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD). TMD is characterised by very unpleasant pain and sensitivity about the jaw, either on one or both sides. TMD is also commonly associated with difficulty fully opening the mouth due to stiffness, deviation of the jaw to one side or sometimes clicking. A stiff and sore upper neck, resulting in referred pain to the back or sides of the head may also accompany TMD.

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The effects of Medical Acupuncture in the Brain

Once the acupuncture needle penetrates the skin, fascia and muscle, nerve endings are stimulated, sending action potentials (i.e. nerve signals) to the spinal cord, then the midbrain from where they then pass to other areas of the brain.

One of these areas is the somatosensory cortex which processes sensory information and registers the needle sensation, usually felt as a deep, dull, ache, numbness or tingly feeling. Needling should not be aversively painful - if it is the needle should be removed.

The action potentials then stimulate other parts of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex, limbic system, hippocampus, cerebellum and very importantly, the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus can be thought of as the brain's central controller, which influences other parts of the brain, the nervous system and hormonal systems.

The medical acupuncture experience, created by an experienced practitioner, has been shown to modulate different brain networks. A brain network can be thought of as different parts of the brain working together in a coordinated way to achieve a specific function.

One important network is the default mode network which regulates the body's resting state. The body must wind down from a stress state and restore itself to a resting state regularly; otherwise, persistent stress-related illness and disease may occur over time.

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How Medical Acupuncture works - A Mechanisms Review part 2

There are five physiological mechanisms which can be used to explain how medical acupuncture works. Each can be used for a different purpose which is why anyone using medical acupuncture must be able to make a conventional medical diagnosis and have an understanding of the underlying pathology to be effective when using a medical acupuncture approach.

The different mechanisms require variations in the treatment technique and so this needs to be tailored to the individual patient.

This blog will discuss the second of the four mechanisms, the segmental effects:

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How Medical Acupuncture works - a Mechanisms Review

There are five physiological mechanisms which can be used to explain how medical acupuncture works. Each can be used for a different purpose which is why anyone using medical acupuncture must be able to make a conventional medical diagnosis and have an understanding of the underlying pathology to be effective when using a medical acupuncture approach.

The different mechanisms require variations in the treatment technique and so this needs to be tailored to the individual patient.

This blog will discuss the first of the five mechanisms, the local effects:

The local effects refers to the ability of acupuncture to activate specific sensory nerve fibres in the skin and muscle. Needling near the sensory nerve endings sets off action potentials (nerve impulses) which spread around and along with the local network of nerve fibres – this is called an axon reflex. 

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Treating Runner's Knee with Dry Needling

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), aka 'runners knee' is one of the most common forms of knee pain in adults under the age of 40.1

PFPS is characterised by diffuse and often vague pain about the front and underside of the knee-cap and is aggravated with squatting, prolonged sitting, stair climbing as well as running.2

I have treated several clients over the past few months who, due to COVID-19 restrictions, took up outdoor running. Continuing to exercise, especially outdoors, has immense benefits; however, if the body is not prepared for running, problems can occur.

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