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Acupuncture For Pre- and Post-Surgery

By Mahmoud Yeganeh, MD, L.Ac, and Diane Sheppard, Ph.D., L.Ac.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) takes a holistic approach to health and regards illness as a sign that the body is out of balance. Unlike western biomedical science, TCM does not make a distinction between the physical, mental, and emotional components of life.

Acupuncture indirectly stimulates the central nervous system (CNS). When an acupuncture needle is inserted into the body, it triggers a cascading effect on neurotransmitters in the brain. Among these neurotransmitters are endorphins which act as the body’s own natural opiates. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, influencing such things as the body’s perception of pain and physical and emotional well-being.

With this understanding, we can see how acupuncture can be used to greatly reduce pre-operative stress and anxiety. It is important to note that acupuncture does not provide a true anesthesia or unconsciousness, since it preserves all normal sensory, motor, and proprioception sensations. Rather, with the release of endorphins, patients experience deep states of relaxation, calm and drowsiness. Being in a relaxed state prior to a procedure has multiple benefits, among which is a more positive attitude and a reduction in the need for strong anesthetics or opioids.

Pain after surgery is common, often severe and largely unnecessary. It can prolong the hospital stay as it can affect all organ systems. The goal for post-operative pain management is to reduce or eliminate pain and discomfort with minimum side effects. It has been shown that acupuncture treatment before surgery, followed by acupuncture treatments after the surgery, significantly reduces levels of post-operative pain as well as the need for painkillers post-surgery.

Acupunture also helps ease nausea and vomiting, common post-operative symptoms that effect up to 70% of high risk patients. These are basic human reflexes that protect against absorption of toxins. Contributing pre-operative factors to risk include young age, gender (women are three times more likely to suffer post-operative nausea and vomiting as men), prior experience leading to anxiety, smoking status and a history of motion sickness. Causes during procedures include type and duration of surgery and type of anesthetic used. Post-operative factors include pain levels, and medications used to alleviate that pain.

Post-operative acupuncture is also extremely useful in restoring balance and enhancing the body’s immune system. After an invasive procedure, the immune system and the gut are weakened, and use of opioids and antibiotics can further compromise intestinal health, leaving the body vulnerable to infection and other issues. It is widely accepted that acupuncture accelerates the healing process by enhancing immune function, elevating the production of blood complements and increasing the circulation of blood, lymph and body fluids. It restores harmony to the gastrointestinal tract as well.

Dr. Yeganeh received his medical degree from Kerman University of Medical Science in 1993. He is also a licensed acupuncturist and works part time with Dr. Sheppard at AcQPoint Wellness Center in La Quinta. (760) 775.7900. www.Acqpoint.com

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