Acupuncture: Alternative to Surgery?

One man’s story of success by avoiding the knife and opting for needles



For many it’s a familiar story: Play hard and sometimes you hurt hard. Now you’re sitting across from your doctor. It’s bad. You’ve known it since the blackish-purple bruise formed. An intent expression is on his face, telling you surgery will be the only treatment for the small muscular tear, and all you can think is, “How is this going to fit into my life?”

That’s exactly what happened to Omar Mena, 37, with an injury to his hamstring muscle from playing soccer. When the married father of two isn’t spending time with his wife and daughters, he is active with both indoor and outdoor organized soccer. Mena is self-described as living and breathing sports, and the injury was devastating to him.

“I have to be out on a field competing, but I’m only as good and as able as my body allows me to be,” Mena said.

In too much pain to get his shoes and socks on without the help of his wife, Mena knew something had to be done. “You don’t realize how much your hamstring impacts your way of life until you severely injure it,” Mena said.  He wasn’t convinced that surgery and the muscular rehabilitation that goes along with it were the only way.

Mena had been to AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine’s student clinic for acupuncture only one time before, so when he sought acupuncture again he was delighted to hear that Yongxin Fan, MD (China), LAc 663, was confident that his injury would be a good candidate for acupuncture treatment.

Dr. Fan has more than 20 years of clinical experience in treating musculoskeletal issues, pain, digestive disorders, and psycho-emotional conditions. While qualified to treat any type of condition, he specializes in acute and chronic injury, many of which are sports-related. Dr. Fan explains that muscular micro-tears and partial tears all have very good prognoses when treated using acupuncture.

“Based on the research, we’ve found that acupuncture can help to recover muscle contractile structure as well as improve circulation to speed recovery,” says Fan.

After two sessions in the span of one month, Mena was back to the soccer field.

The recovery of the muscle took about six months total but required very little downtime. He now comes to AOMA for support for his lower back and the various injuries that come with playing as hard as he does.

But isn’t acupuncture painful? You’d think sticking needles into a torn muscle would be excruciating, but Mena would beg to differ. “You can barely feel the needles beingplaced. The whole process is actually extremely relaxing. After the needles were placed, I lay on my stomach for about an hour to let the needles work on my muscle. I listened to relaxing music and fell asleep until it was time to have the needles removed,” Mena said.

Dr. Fan would stress that while acupuncture cannot actually change a structural problem, like a fracture or complete tear, it can do many things to help with chronic or acute injuries, and can be a wonderful adjunct to surgical recovery to help restore function.

Whether the problem is in the muscle, joint, ligament, or a combination, acupuncture can help. Dr. Fan and the other wonderful faculty members and interns at AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine are there to help get you back to doing what you love.

About AOMA

AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine offers masters-level and doctoral-level graduate programs in acupuncture and Chinese medicine, preparing its students for careers as skilled, professional practitioners. AOMA is known for its internationally recognized faculty, award-winning student clinical internship program, and for having more licensed graduates than any other acupuncture and Chinese medicine college in Texas. Since its founding in 1993, AOMA has grown rapidly in size and reputation, drawing students from around the nation, and faculty from around the world. AOMA also conducts more than 17,500 patient visits annually in its student and professional clinics. AOMA collaborates with healthcare institutions including the Seton Family of Hospitals, and gives back to the community through partnerships with nonprofit organizations and by providing free and reduced-price treatments to people who cannot afford them.

AOMA is located at 4701 West Gate Blvd, Austin TX 78745. (512) 693-4373.

AOMA also serves patients and retail customers at its North Austin location, 2700 West Anderson Lane, Austin TX 78757. (512) 467-0370.

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