Nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by prescription pain medications, according to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention, which is a 300 percent increase in sales since 1999.
Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses have risen 400% for women and 265% for men since 1999.
In 2010, 2 million people used prescription painkillers without a prescription and for getting high. These number are very alarming and I have treated lots of patients who were addicted to pain medications because of chronic injuries.
There are much safer alternatives for pain relief and healing injuries. A good friend of mine who’s a holistic medicine practitioner introduced me to Moxibustion which is steadily gaining popularity in the US.
If you suffer from chronic pain, Moxibustion is a natural therapy for pain relief that can help ease discomfort without the side effects of medications and surgery. I find it to be really helpful for treating low back pain and knee arthritis.
It’s a traditional therapy used in Chinese medicine that involves burning an herb over or near an acupuncture point to improve circulation and stimulate flow of Qi or energy for pain relief and faster recovery.
Dried leaves of the herb Mugwort (Folium artemisiae) are ground into a paste called Moxa. This mixture is then heated on the patient’s skin or on acupuncture needles.
History of Moxibustion
The practice of moxibustion was first seen in China around 500 BC and according to some authors it was extensively used by the legendary Chinese doctors Bian Que. It was a way to treat chronic conditions without use of acupuncture for patients who were too weak for the traditional needle-based therapy.
The practice has become common throughout Asia, particularly in Japan, Vietnam, and Thailand. While moxibustion is often considered a form of acupuncture, experts actually think that moxibustion came about first. Acupuncturists often combine the two therapies for maximum pain relief.
Benefits And Uses Of Moxibustion
Moxibustion was first used to prevent illness and promote healing. Today, practitioners use it more for pain relief by increasing blood flow to areas damaged by injury, balancing flow of Qi (energy) and stimulating specific acupuncture points along meridians.
The heating effect of burning moxa is similar to using a heat lamp or heating pads that are often used to ease stiffness associated with arthritis; the heat also provides a soothing effect while relaxing the muscles and improving circulation.
Moxibustion is also used in combination with other substances like ginger to treat abdominal pain, menstrual cramps, and diarrhea. Since it’s used to treat all sorts of different health problems and injuries, it is important to choose an experienced practitioner.
Types Of Moxibustion Therapy
There are two types of moxibustion therapy: direct and indirect. Direct, in which the moxa is burned directly on the skin, is rarely used in the United States because of the potential for a burn injury. Though the traditional Chinese practitioners consider the burn and resulting scars as an important part of the therapeutic effect.
With indirect therapy the herb mixture is wrapped into a cigar-like stick called a moxa pole, which is lit and held an inch or two from the skin. The tip of the pole is moved in small circles above the acupressure point till the areas gets a little red and warm. This is done for 5-10 minutes to slowly build a sensation of heat, allowing for the therapeutic effects of heat and oils from the mugwort to penetrate the skin without risk of burning. The oils have penetrating and blood activating properties independent of the radiant heat.
A third method combines indirect moxibustion therapy with acupuncture. The herb is burned on top of an acupuncture needle while the needle is inserted into an acupuncture point. This method is used to deliver heat to a specific acupressure point via the acupressure needle. Moxibustion combined with acupuncture is one of the most common methods used by Acupuncturists to use this therapy for pain relief.
For best results, heat should be applied to the specific acupressure point for a specific length of time. Though some people notice relief right away, you may need to have several sessions to get lasting benefits.
Physiological Effect Of Moxibustion
Heat from the burning herb increases warmth, helps with pain relief and stimulates specific acupressure points resulting in overall well being. The herb mugwort is a natural emmenogogue, meaning it increases blood circulation.
Chinese practitioners believe that the burning moxa increases a specific frequency of infrared energy, which supplements the life force, or “qi,” that your body needs to heal. They also note that applying indirect heat to specific pressure points can raise the body’s immunity and metabolism.
Moxibustion For Pain Relief
Moxibustion therapy is very effective for treating all sorts of injuries. It’s generally done after the acute stage of injury, once the heat and swelling has gone down. I have had good success using moxbustion in combination with acupressure points for back pain, knee arthritis and other joint, muscle and tendon injuries.
It’s also a wonderful treatment for relieving muscle stiffness and menstrual cramps. For back pain, most experts recommend that moxibustion should be used with acupuncture. I have also seen good results when it’s combined with acupressure or cupping therapy.
It is used to:
• Reduce swelling, pain and stiffness.
• To remove blockages and congestion due to accumulated blood and fluids after an injury.
• To warm the injured area which is cold to touch (Vata and kapha condition in Ayurvedic medicine). This is often seen in chronic injuries where pain is worst in cold or damp weather.
Contraindications / Precautions
Indirect moxibustion therapy is very safe as long as the hot elements are handled safely in a controlled setting. For maximum safety without reducing effectiveness, a small slice of ginger can be placed on the skin to shield it from the burning effect of the heat.
Avoid if you have a fever.
Avoid if you have active inflammation, redness and heat.
Avoid over the abdominal area and lower back during pregnancy.
Avoid over open skin lesions or ulcerations.
Avoid if skin sensitivity is poor, eg. diabetic neuropathy.
For patients with sensitivity to smoke or those with respiratory problems, smokeless moxa sticks are also available.
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