Moxibustion Is More Than A Natural Way To Relieve Acute And Chronic Pain

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 75 percent of overdoses from prescription drugs are due to prescription pain killers.

Since 1999, deaths from overdoses of prescription pain medication have risen 265 percent for men and 400 percent for women.

In 2010, two million people used prescription pain medications for getting high and bought them without a prescription. These statistics are quite alarming for many doctors who have treated lots of patients who were addicted to pain medications due to chronic injuries.

Fortunately, there is a safer way to treat injuries and alleviate pain. It is called moxibustion. This ancient form of Chinese medicine is very safe to use and is slowly gaining popularity in the US.

For people suffering from chronic pain, moxibustion can be a natural way to alleviate pain. It can help ease ailments without the side effects of surgery or drugs. Both patients and doctors find it very useful in the treatment of knee arthritis and low back pain.

Moxibustion involves the burning of a mugwort plant near or on an acupuncture point to stimulate the flow of energy or Qi and increase circulation to relieve pain and accelerate recovery.

Dried leaves of the mugwort herb are grounded into paste form which is called Moxa. This substance is then heated on acupuncture needles or on the skin of the patient.

Uses and Health Benefits of Moxibustion Therapy

Initially used by ancient Chinese medicine practitioners to foster healing and prevent illness, moxibustion is now mostly used by practitioners to relieve pain by boosting the flow of blood to parts of the damaged by injury. It stimulates acupuncture points and balances the flow of Qi (energy) which increases health and heals certain conditions.

By burning the moxa, the practitioner allows the heat to ease stiffness related to arthritis. The heat from the burning moxa has the same effect as that of heating pads or a heat lamp providing a soothing effect whilst improving circulation and relaxing the muscles.

Moxibustion can be used to treat additional conditions including diarrhea, menstrual cramping, and stomach pain. It is used in combination with ginger and other substances. We need to remind you that it is important to look for an experienced practitioner since moxibustion involves the use of fire directly or indirectly to the body which can lead to injuries on the skin.

Direct and Indirect Moxibustion Therapy

Direct moxibustion is rarely used in the US because the moxa is directly burned on the skin, which can potentially lead to a burn injury. However, traditional Chinese practitioners believe that the burn and ensuing scars are indispensible parts of the healing effect.

In indirect moxibustion, the moxa is wrapped into a cigar-like stick called a moxa pole. The stick is burned with a match and is hovered an inch or two away from the skin. The edge of the stick is moved in a small circular motion over the acupuncture point until site of treatment gets warm and a bit red. This process is administered for five to ten minutes which leads to a slow buildup of heat, which enables the healing qualities of the oils and heat to penetrate the skin without burning it. The oils possess blood activating and penetrating qualities independent of the heat from the moxa.

There is also another type of moxibustion procedure that involves the use of acupuncture. In this process, a moxa herb is placed on top of an acupuncture needle and lit while the needle is stuck into an acupoint. This technique helps to bring in heat into a specific point through the needle. Many acupuncturists use this type of treatment in order to relieve pain immediately.

In order to get optimal results, the heat should be focused on a specific acupoint for a certain period of time. While some people experience instantaneous relief, others may only experience relief after undergoing several rounds of treatment.

Moxibustion Therapy – Its Physiological Effects

The heat from the smoldering moxa stimulates the flow of blood and Chi, relieves pain and increases warmth in the body resulting in good overall health.

According to Chinese practitioners the heat from the burning moxa adds a specific frequency of infrared energy that augments Chi that the body needs to heal. They also believe the immune system and metabolism of the body can be enhanced by the application of indirect heat to some of the important acupoints.

Relief of Pain through Moxibustion

Moxibustion therapy works well for all sorts of injuries. It can be administered once the swelling and inflammation subsides which is usually after the acute phase of an injury. Some practitioners have had good success in curing tendon and muscular injuries, knee arthritis, joint pain, and back pain by combining acupuncture with moxibustion.

It can also with menstrual cramps and muscle stiffness. Moxibustion also works well with cupping therapy and acupressure massage.

Moxibustion can be used to:

  • Warm injured areas that are cold to touch which is often the case for chronic injuries in which pain gets worse during damp or cold weather
  • Eliminate congestion and blockages caused by the buildup of fluids and blood after an injury
  • Lessen stiffness, pain, and swelling

Important Things to Consider

In indirect moxibustion as long as the hot elements are safely handled in a controlled setting, this method is considered safe to use. To shield the skin from the fire and prevent burns and injuries, place a small slice of ginger on the skin.

Moxibustion should not be given if:

  • You have hypersensitive skin or if you suffer from diabetic neuropathy
  • You have skin ulcerations or open lesions
  •  If you are pregnant, avoid having moxibustion on your lower back or stomach area
  • If have active heat, redness, and inflammation
  •  If you have a fever

If you are sensitive to smoke or suffer from a certain respiratory condition, you can request your doctor to use smokeless moxa sticks on your treatment.

Tracey R. Walker, L. Ac, MSOM – Board Certified Acupuncturist and Herbalist in Pueblo, CO

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