A recent study from Harvard researchers published in Brain suggests that acupuncture, performed twice a week for 8 weeks, can effectively relieve pain from mild or moderate carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition caused by the compression of nerves by swollen or inflamed tendons and ligaments at the wrist. Not only did acupuncture subjectively relieve pain, but its consistent use also resulted in “measurable physiological improvements in pain centers in the brain and nerves” (NY Times, 2017), as measured by nerve tests and functional MRI. Researchers found that these objective neurophysiological changes were strong indicators of lasting, long-term effects (continued pain relief 3 months after the study concluded).
Why is acupuncture so effective for carpal tunnel and other tendinitis-related issues? It works on several different levels. Carpal tunnel is a repetitive stress injury generally related to computer keyboard overuse. However, pain occurs not only as a result of as well as physical injury and inflammation of your tendons, but also blocked energy and blood flow.
It turns out that sitting in front of a computer for long periods of time significantly disrupts your body’s energy field and acupuncture meridian system; your computer’s powerful EMF field especially affects areas already compromised by physical stress or injury. The energy pathways, or meridians, that run through your wrists are even more affected if you are using a laptop, as a result of resting your wrists directly on the computer itself (vs. a traditional keyboard somewhat isolated from the computer).
Interestingly, stress also will disrupt your energy flow, exacerbating any kind of tendinitis or inflammation issue. The Liver and Gallbladder organs and their respective meridians are responsible for nourishing and energizing your tendons, keeping them flexible and strong. Interestingly, they are also responsible for regulating your body’s response to stress, so whenever these organs are working overtime in stress management, energy flow gets blocked in your tendons, decreasing blood circulation and leaving them more vulnerable to injuries caused by repetitive stress.
When repetitive stress and sedentary, stressful office jobs are coupled with anxiety, this combination creates a real recipe for tight and painful wrists and arms. The meridians that get activated when you experience anxiety (the ones connected to your Heart and Pericardium organs) also run right through your inner wrists and up your arms. Whenever those organs are working overtime to help you manage anxiety, the energy gets blocked even more easily in their corresponding meridians, especially in areas already suffering from physical tension and overuse.
Acupuncture helps increase blood and energy flow to your wrists, unblocking whatever energy is stuck in these areas and healing any damage in your tendons. It also helps to rebalance and strengthen any meridians systems and organs related to processing anxiety and stress, so that your energy flows more strongly and smoothly through the meridians that nourish your tendons and are located in your wrists. The study in Brain showed that when performed for a period of eight weeks, therapeutic effects lasted even three months after the study ended. So if you are getting treatment for carpal tunnel, or indeed any kind of pain or tendinitis condition, it’s important to know that you most likely need consistent treatment for 2-3 months not only for short term relief, but also long-term healing of both the energetic and the physical damage present in carpal tunnel syndrome.
From the mind-body-spirit perspective, to effectively prevent or resolve carpal tunnel syndrome, or indeed any pain condition, you also need to examine the underlying emotional cause, as emotions can block energy and blood flow in certain organs and their connected meridians. Why is it that some people can type away for years and never experience carpal tunnel, while others experience this syndrome (as well as headaches, neck pain, back pain) within months of being hired for an administrative office job? The key difference is how these folks react to and deal with emotional stress. When you are emotionally flexible, when you take responsibility for letting go of stress and really challenge any deeper beliefs that trigger anxiety, this is your best bet for resolving or preventing blockage of energy with negative emotions and pain. Who or what is the real pain, emotionally speaking? Can you totally change your perspective so that the situation seems genuinely positive and constructive instead of negative (a challenge, but doable)? When you can figure this out for yourself and truly get in the habit of changing your perspective, in every single situation in your life, so that you no longer react by being stressed-out and anxious, then you will never need to worry about developing pain.
Reference: Bakalar, N. Acupuncture Can Ease Wrist Pain of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. New York Times. March 2, 2017.