Acupuncture pain management for chikungunya
The chikungunya virus has landed on our shores and many of us are now in full mosquito management mode.
By now we know that the main symptoms are fever and severe joint pain, which maybe accompanied by other symptoms such as headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash.
Unfortunately, there is no medicine for the chikungunya virus and the course of treatment is simply to ease symptoms.
Fortunately, most persons with the virus will begin to feel better after a week or two, although in some cases the joint pain will persist for months. In cases where there is severe pain extending for a long time, acupuncture can be used as part of a management plan, to reduce pain and swelling and improve mobility.
WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?
Acupuncture is the insertion of very thin needles at specific points on the body in order to treat a number of conditions in what is typically a comfortable procedure. Acupuncture points, of which there are close to 1,000, are grouped into pathways/meridians all over the body. Acupuncture is most popularly used in the treatment and management of pain arising from a number of conditions. Treatments can be administered regularly to reduce pain, tenderness and swelling in the affected joints, relieve headache and muscle pain.
HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK?
Acupuncture points stimulate the central nervous system to release chemicals which either change the experience of pain or release other chemicals, such as hormones that influence the body's self-regulating systems. These biochemical changes stimulate the body's natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.
Since several joints are usually affected, acupuncture points are selected that have an effect on the overall musculo-skeletal system and are able to relieve pain in cases where several joints are affected. These points are primarily found along meridians whose points are indicated for any disease of the joint or muscles in the body. In the joints, which are most affected, additional acupuncture points are also selected which circle the affected joint.
Once the very thin acupuncture needles have been inserted in the selected points, a mild electrical charge is usually applied to some of the needles to enhance the stimulation at the acupuncture point and the effectiveness of the treatment.
Primary acupuncture points for pain in the hands:
Baxie points - located at the junction of the finger digits.
Primary acupuncture points for pain in the neck and back: Back bladder points - located 1.5" lateral to the lower border of each vertebrae along the spine.
Primary acupuncture points for pain in the knee:
XIYAN and ST.35 - These two points are located at the lower inner and outer border of the patella of the knee.
In addition, if you are infected with the chikungunya virus, it is important to get plenty of rest and drink fluids to prevent dehydration. Paracetamol may be also be used to relieve pain and reduce fever.
The best approach is to adopt measures to prevent the infection by avoiding mosquito bites. These include using mosquito bed nets, window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside, ensuring there are no containers with standing water outside your home, wearing clothing that covers as much of the body as possible, and using insect repellants containing DEET for long-lasting protection.
Dr Tracey-Ann Brown is an oriental medicine practitioner of acupuncture and herbal medicine, adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology in Oriental/ Chinese Medicine. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com