Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture and Surgery - Together Again

East and West

 An acupuncturist takes a pulse.

Researchers now conclude that acupuncture helps in the recovery from total knee replacement surgery. This underscores the difficulty in pitting east versus west when conceptualizing appropriate treatment protocols. Somehow acupuncture is relegated to an unproven oriental model whereas biomedicine is relegated to a proven occidental model. Does this really make sense?

Some of the very first advances in medicine emerged in China. The great Hua Tou, who lived from 140 - 208 CE, invented several forms of surgery and was the first person in China to use anesthesia during surgery. The discovery of the Hua Tou Jia Jia acupuncture points are attributed to Hua Tou and he was also known for his herbal medicine, moxibustion and Daoyin exercises.

We now fast forward to the modern era wherein a modern view of acupuncture is that of an ancient and mysterious art. Surgery is considered a new and more scientific phenomenon. However, surgery is quite ancient and modern acupuncture techniques and equipment have seen enormous advances. From electroacupuncture to laser etched stainless steel acupuncture needles, the art of Chinese medicine continues to advance. To the same extent, herbal medicine has enjoyed the support of pharmacological analyses and clinical trials.

People continue to hem and haw over the scientific methodology regarding the efficaciousness of acupuncture and all of Chinese medicine despite overwhelming historical and scientific evidence supporting its efficaciousness. Literally, there is not a week that goes by without the publication of new research demonstrating the benefits of acupuncture and herbal medicine. Historically, the integration of acupuncture with surgery is approximately 2,000 years old. The lack of applying acupuncture protocols to the operatory and post-op results in diminished patient clinical outcomes.

The newest knee replacement surgery research is a common example of the benefits of an integrative medical model. In a controlled study, acupuncture was shown to significantly reduce knee inflammation and pain levels in the post operative period following total knee replacement surgery. Acupuncture also measurably increased patient outcomes by efficiently restoring the range of motion to the knee. Putting it simply, a surgeon may fix or replace a part but it an acupuncturist who then speeds the rate and quality of the recovery.

In some ways it can be said that it is unfair to place the entire outcome and responsibility of a knee replacement surgery upon the doorstep of a surgeon. A surgeon performs the replacement surgery but it is the recovery period that determines whether or not complications such as adhesions and infections ensue. Follow-up care with acupuncture helps to prevent scar tissue formation, clotting and osteophyte growth. Acupuncture also assists in reducing swelling in the local region and improves the micro-circulation of blood to peripheral nerve roots and rootlets. The improved circulation prevents infections and significantly reduces pain and speeds recovery periods. This latest research underscores the value of working together as a medical community instead of working against each other to the exclusion of improved patient outcomes.

Mikashima, Y., et al. "Efficacy of acupuncture during post-acute phase of rehabilitation after total knee arthroplasty." Journal of traditional Chinese medicine= Chung i tsa chih ying wen pan/sponsored by All-China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine 32.4 (2012): 545.

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