Acupuncture Can Assist Firefighters!
Today’s installment deals with a hero to many a person! Burning buildings, medical crises to avert or assist with are everyday tasks for the modern day firefighter. Firefighters have been battling the elements for centuries, putting life and limb on the line to bring safety to people, and protect property. Today, Fire and Rescue is still a mix of full-time paid, paid-on-call, and volunteer responders. In fact, in 2011, 1,100,450 firefighters from 30,145 local fire departments protected the United States. That’s a lot of people!
This heroism does not come without its risks — 70,090 firefighters were injured in 2011, and strain, sprain, and muscular pain were the leading type of injury. Here’s where acupuncture can help the firefighter!
A sprain is a stretch and/or tear of a ligament (a band of fibrous tissue that connects two or more bones at a joint). A strain is an injury to either a muscle or a tendon (fibrous cords of tissue that connect muscle to bone). Depending on the severity of the injury, a strain may be a simple overstretch of the muscle or tendon, or it can result from a partial or complete tear.
That sounds painful! And keeps a firefighter from doing what they do best — running around saving the day!
Acupuncture can be used to reduce swelling and pain and increase blood flow to the area to promote healing and increased range of motion. Acupuncture can also be used to balance the body’s natural muscular structure, avoid bracing from surrounding muscles, and strengthen the site of injury.
Acupuncture is a very effective treatment for acute or chronic muscle tension and soreness, even if there is no diagnosed injury. Acupuncture relaxes the individual muscle fibers, releases endorphins, and increases blood flow to tense and blocked areas. If the injury is serious, it can also prepare the body for surgery (if it is needed) for a faster recovery. Post-surgery, acupuncture can target the pain and assist with tissue regeneration. Acupuncture to the rescue!
We will now move to the opposite end of the spectrum — a serious matter that affects many first responders…Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
PTSD is defined as an anxiety disorder triggered by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. Over a 30 year career, a firefighter bears witness to many of life’s traumas. We can characterize PTSD as a dysfunction of the body’s stress-coping system, which could lead to depression, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts. It can be subdivided into three categories: re-experiencing the trauma (intrusive memories), the numbing of affect and the avoidance of trauma-related stimuli (emotional numbing), and symptoms of excessive arousal not present before the event (increased arousal). Some of the physiological effects of PTSD include a higher resting rate, higher resting blood pressure, cognitive and mood disturbances, and abnormal changes in cortisol and norepinephrine (a hormone similar to adrenaline and “The Stress Hormone, respectively).
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is being seen in persons whose work exposes them to traumatic events or who treat trauma survivors. These occupations include military personnel, firefighters, police officers, emergency medicine specialists, search-and rescue personnel, and disaster investigators. Acupuncture can assist in alleviating some of the ailments related to PTSD such as anxiety/panic disorders, depression, insomnia, and mental fogginess.
Fatigue is another common symptom associated with depression or PTSD. Many firefighters are so tired that they become inactive. Inactivity is associated with chronic medical conditions like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and osteoporosis. This could lead to depression and helplessness. PTSD sufferers commonly express a feeling of helplessness.
Acupuncture helps to improve fatigue immediately, after the first treatment. Often patients remark that for even other primary concerns, fatigue was the first improvement they noticed. That is encouraging, and helps them continue further treatments for the other perhaps more stubborn symptoms.
Acupuncture does help to identify causes and relevant events with effects residing in the body memory. It is good to pinpoint some of the stressed and traumatized areas, release and reduce the levels of stress, so a new level of calm and comfort is gained. Point sites may be on the upper back, neck, lower back, hands or feet. Acupuncture is good for reducing anger, fear, sadness, worry, anxiety, depression, and stress of all kinds.
Acupuncture is of great benefit to all those looking for relief of many ailments, from the basic to the complex, the emotional and the physical. We’ll leave firefighting to those brave, glorious people, and get back to what we do best — helping to heal!
Thank you to all those that make such a great difference to us all — you are valued more than you know.
For more information about acupuncture, please visit us at www.ctacupuncture.com
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Author: Andrée Lambertson
Sources: U.S. Fire Department Profile Through 2011, by Michael J. Karter, Jr.
Firefighter Fatalities in the United States-2011, by Rita F. Fahy, Paul R. LeBlanc and Joseph L. Molis
U.S. Firefighter Injuries 2011, by Michael J. Karter, Jr., and Joseph L. Molis. Bryant, RA, & Harvey, AG. (1995).
“Posttraumatic Stress in Volunteer Firefighters: Predictors of Distress,” Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 183, 267-271. Del Ben, KS, Scotti, JR, Chen, Y, & Fortson, BL. (2006).
Prevalence of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in Firefighters,” Work and Stress, 20, 37-48.