Is Acupuncture an effective treatment for healing Tennis Elbow or perhaps just a means of temporarily relieving your pain?
There seems to be plenty of evidence that Acupuncture can relieve the pain of Tennis Elbow – And, in that sense, it's a much healthier, non-toxic alternative to pills and shots – But the big question is...
“Will Acupuncture help your Tennis Elbow injury heal?”
But those treatments (and many others) have no positive healing potential – They just end up suppressing your symptoms temporarily.
And, unfortunately, symptom suppression does not equal healing.
Is Acupuncture different? Does it actually promote the healing and repair of the muscle and tendon tissues involved in these often maddeningly difficult and frustrating injuries?
Honestly, I don't know – But, since Tennis Elbow is my specialty, I do have an opinion about it, so, I'll share that opinion with you, and you can decide if it's reasonable and helpful or not.
Here's my take in the podcast and article below, as well as the "Podcast Video" above.
Podcast Version On Acupuncture For Tennis Elbow
(You can download this podcast episode, play it later and keep it if you want.) Just click the "download" link below - And please subscribe on your favorite platform:
How Does Acupuncture Work, In Theory?
Acupuncture is a technique that falls under the broader category of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM.)
A typical Acupuncture treatment involves the insertion of very thin, filament needles into specific points in the body.
And these points, or places, are along 12 invisible pathways that Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to as 'Meridians'
The theory is that this intervention can “unblock” the flow of energy – referred to as 'Qi' or 'Chi' in TCM – which is thought to flow along these Meridian pathways in the body.
And restoring the normal flow of this energy is thought to be essential to healing and the reversal of disease in TCM.
“Acupuncture effectively treats tennis elbow by allowing for a more natural energy (Qi) flow throughout the body.”
“In the Traditional Chinese Medical perspective Qi flows through the body along pathways also known as meridians. Using this principal tendinitis or tennis elbow is like a river that has been dammed.”
Is there any way to measure this with the tools of western medicine?
I don't think so, however, what has been studied and is how the insertion of Acupuncture needles into the body may have the effect of stimulating the release of Endorphins – The natural pain-numbing chemicals produced by our own bodies.
So, that's part of the evidence for Acupuncture's effectiveness when it comes to relieving and managing pain…
But that still leaves us with the question of healing potential; what does it have to do with the healing of injured tendons? (Or the tension and adhesions in the muscles involved.)
There are a handful of medical studies on Acupuncture and Tennis Elbow that look encouraging – Then again, at least one of them had no placebo group, which doesn't leave it with much validity, in my eyes.
Let's Look At The Typical Case Of Tennis Elbow:
The nature of the injury is usually 'Tendinosis' which is a failed healing state where the tendons are breaking down and degenerating – rather than healing like they should.
And (in my experience and perspective) there is usually a lot of tension and “Velcro-like” adhesions in the muscles of those tendons, which I see as a major causative factor in the injury process.
All of this stuff is very stubborn physical stuff!
So, will sticking needles in these tissues and “unblocking the Chi” reverse this state of affairs?
I want to be open-minded and believe that Acupuncture could have some effect on the healing process – that it could help stimulate healing and aid in reversing that state of degeneration…
But I can't see it having any effect on those nasty, Velcro-like adhesions in the muscles.
On the plus side, Acupuncture looks like it can be effective when it comes to relieving pain.
(And sometimes you just need some relief, right?)
But on the minus side, Acupuncture tends to be very expensive.
Here in the S.F. Bay Area, where I live, it often costs $100. or more for a session.
And you're not going to just have one session and hope for a miracle, are you?
Now, I'm admittedly biased here, BUT...
If I was preparing to pay over $100. per treatment, I would put that toward hands-on therapy AKA 'Manual Therapy' that would “get in there” and release those muscular adhesions…
And deeply work the tendons to break the cycle of stagnation and degeneration.
This is what I do for a living – and it's what I teach my student / members in the self-help programs, here at Tennis Elbow Classroom.
Again, I'm biased, but I don't believe there is any better way to break that vicious cycle and to stimulate tendon healing than by working those muscles and tendons by hand.
Although, there may be a time and a place for some Tennis and Golfer's elbow sufferers for more aggressive needle interventions, in the form of Platelet-Rich Plasma injections
But, personally, I would only consider that if I had proven (by MRI or Sonogram) severe Tendinosis or a tear, which had the possibility of healing without surgery
My Experience With Acupuncture In The Treatment Of My “Tendonitis”
30 years ago I suffered a debilitating wrist 'Tenosynovitis' tendon injury, which undoubtedly put me on this path to becoming obsessed about Tennis and Golfer's Elbow!
Among all the usual, useless standard treatments, like braces, icing and ultrasound treatments, I received a series of Acupuncture sessions.
It must have been well over a dozen treatments and, although at the time, I desperately wanted to believe it was helping...
The best it seemed to do was give me some temporary relief from my symptoms, which were not that bad, in the first place – As long as I didn't try to work…
What I wanted was to heal and get back to work – but it just didn't seem to help me actually recover.
I ended up having to quit my job and stop doing Bodywork for over a year.
(If only I knew then what I know now!)
But all I really had to go on was the “common wisdom” and the advice of Doctors, which was to take anti-inflammatories, ice it, wear a brace and go to Physical Therapy - (article and video on P.T.).
(None of which helped me recover, whatsoever.)
And there was no Internet to speak of in 1990 to help me better educate myself.
Speaking of educating oneself, I'm confident you'll find this site, Tennis Elbow Classroom, to be the most comprehensive resource on Tennis and Golfer's Elbow available on the Internet, bar none.
Be sure to explore all the free articles and videos I have here for you as well as my free video course: Tennis Elbow 101
And check out my premium self-help programs if you have a stubborn injury and want to learn how to treat yourself at home with the most effective self-massage techniques, powerful stretches and essential exercises.
Learn To Treat And Heal Your Own Tennis Elbow Or Golfer's Elbow At Home With This Video Program
I'll be your personal tutor guiding you through step-by-step video lessons, where you'll get the therapy techniques, key stretches and essential exercises you need to treat and recover from your injury at home. (Without any special equipment.)
Tennis Elbow sufferers, get started here: Tennis Elbow Classroom
Golfer's Elbow sufferers, get started here: Golfer's Elbow Classroom