Injuries Are a Part of Life
Whether you are an active or athletic person, or one who is mainly sedentary or physically inactive, you will probably sustain an injury along life’s journey. Those who are active and those who like to play sports will inevitably injure a muscle, tendon, or ligament in their pursuit of the activity. But even those of us who don’t actively pursue physical exercise can slip and fall, twist or lift incorrectly, or strain unused muscles, causing injury and pain. Acupuncture ensures rapid and effective recovery from trauma to any part of the body.
Pain Can Be Acute or Chronic
- Acute pain warns you that you have been hurt. It starts suddenly, and when the injury heals, the pain stops. In acute injury, the pain is due to pressure from inflammation in the tissues and nerves at the site of the injury. This inflammation leads to the swelling that is observable. Acupuncture protocols, which can be used in conjunction with Western medicine for acute injury, are different from Western medicine protocols in several ways that will be discussed later.
- Chronic pain is pain that continues after the injury has healed. This can be for weeks, months, even years. In chronic injury, smaller blockages occur in the tiny branches of blood vessels that provide fresh blood to that area. Old, dead blood cells from the original trauma are unable to move out due to the blockage. The resulting ligament weakness can contribute to continual re-injury – especially in ankle sprains, knee injuries and lower back sprains. Acupuncture proves to be an excellent modality for rapid and lasting recovery from chronic injury and pain.
Acupuncture Can Provide Rapid Recovery from Injuries
Many activities that are fun for us can also provide opportunities for injury. Obvious strenuous activities like trail running, hiking, weight lifting, cycling, and motorcycle riding, can produce ankle strain, knee injury, brachial tendonitis, low back strain, bulging discs, and elbow pain. But seemingly benign activities can also cause injury and pain – roller coaster riding at the county fair can cause cervical strain, bending over a computer, or repetitive mouse use and keyboarding can cause tight trapezius muscles, wrist pain, and carpel tunnel syndrome.
Acupuncture can quickly clear the swelling and inflammation associated with all of these injuries. The practitioner will use a combination of techniques in addition to acupuncture, including herbal therapy, topical ointments, electrical stimulation, massage, and cupping.
In acute injuries, acupuncture can provide a 50% improvement after the first treatment, and injuries can often be resolved within four treatments. With chronic injuries, pain can be reduced by 80% within four to six treatments. Follow-ups are usually scheduled further and further apart until the pain is completely gone.
Success Stories of Professional Athletes
Most of us are not professional athletes. But we can learn much from the way many elite athletes now handle their pain and injuries. They have incorporated acupuncture protocols as part of their training and recovery techniques. Acupuncture protocols are non-invasive, and the rapidity with which healing and pain reduction/elimination occurs is extraordinary.
Kobe Bryant – In 2013 renowned NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant went down with a leg injury. Kobe is an advocate of acupuncture and credits it for much of his good health. With the leg injury, he experienced rapid recovery by utilizing acupuncture protocols, and even Tweeted a picture of his leg with acupuncture needles in it.
Aaron Rodgers – NFL record-setting quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a strong advocate for acupuncture. His own experience shows its importance in managing pain as well as minimizing downtime – so important to someone who makes his living on the field. In 2015, Rodgers sustained an injury right before the playoffs. He was advised to take a full week off and sit out an NFC championship game. He opted for advanced acupuncture treatment instead, which the NFL incorporates into its training practices. He was back on the field for the next game.
Tony Richardson – Another former NFL player who touts the results of acupuncture is retired star fullback for the New York Jets, Tony Richardson. Going into the 2010 playoff season, Richardson sustained severely bruised ribs, preventing him from maintaining his blocking stance. The heat and ice treatments were not working for him and he was told he would be sidelined for the first game. Then he opted for rapid recovery acupuncture treatment. He played in that first playoff game thanks to acupuncture.
This kind of news gets around. By 2016, more than 30 NFL athletes were using acupuncture as part of their training and recovery regimens.
Chinese Medicine Concepts
Chinese medicine is based on the concept that, along with blood, a vital energy called “qi” (pronounced “chee,” as in “cheese”) flows through our bodies. Injury can stop or obstruct the flow of blood, fluids and qi. Acute injury can become chronic if this obstruction is not properly treated. Acupuncture, the painless application of tiny, sterile, solid filament needles into the skin at known strategic points, can help the body heal naturally, without drugs, surgery, or side effects. Along with this placement of needles, the practitioner may decide to use therapeutic massage, cupping (see related article under “Services”), herbal medicine, dietary therapy, liniment, or electro stimulation.
These therapies are recognized by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as safe and effective medical protocols. In 2010, neuroscientists at the University of Rochester, New York, proved that inserting acupuncture needles into muscles sends adenosine, a natural stimulant for muscle repair, to the site of the acupunctured tissue. Other studies have shown that adenosine can reduce inflammation – the cause of many acute and chronic ailments.
Differences in Eastern and Western Techniques
It can be helpful for Eastern and Western healing practices to come together; yet, there are some stark differences between the approaches of the two regarding pain and injury. For one thing, patients are often told by their Western medicine practitioners to use ice packs on their acute injuries. The Chinese medicine approach to icing can be summed up in the adage “Ice is for dead people!” Ice is rarely used in Chinese medicine. It contracts blood vessels, and congeals blood and fluids, which stagnate, slowing healing and leading to long term pain and eventually arthritis in the affected area. Liniment, herbal-based, is often used in place of ice.
Snuggly wrapped compression bandages are also routinely prescribed by Western medicine practitioners. Here again, the acupuncturist would prefer to enable blood, fluids and qi to flow rather than stagnate, which is usually an outcome of snug bandaging. The acupuncturist will avoid compression.
Bringing Together East and West for Maximum Rapid Recovery
A good acupuncturist will encourage an x-ray or MRI in the case of possible fractures, ligament or tendon ruptures. Western diagnosis and treatment are important in these cases, and Eastern protocols can simultaneously speed healing and often prevent the need for surgery.
Within painful, sore or injured muscles there are often tight bands that can be felt. These points, called trigger points, often refer pain to other areas of the body. Some trigger points correspond to classic acupuncture points; some do not, and have been identified in Western sports medicine. It has been found that needling these trigger points can alleviate pain. Western medicine doctors often inject an anesthetic in these points (called wet needling), and acupuncture in those points (sometimes called dry needling) can be just as effective without the anesthetic.
Certain other areas on the muscles are called motor points. These are the spots at which nerve fibers enter muscles. It has been found that the application of acupuncture needles to motor points, which can also correspond with classic acupuncture points, is often helpful in treating common sports injuries like tendinitis, shoulder impingements, chronic spasms or sprains. By going through the skin with painless acupuncture needles, the practitioner can get closer to the motor point, producing a stronger effect than external stimulation alone. Adding mild electro-stimulation through the needles (a common and painless practice) can produce even better outcomes. Since motor points are usually located in the center of the muscles and can be different from classical Chinese acupuncture points, this technique represents another fusion of Western sports medicine and Eastern healing arts.
My Special Certifications and Training
At Russell Family Acupuncture we are happy to offer expertise in Integrative Sports Medicine. My training in this specialized field came at Five Branches University in Santa Cruz, California, from Frank He, an expert in sports medicine and pain management. This training enables me to handle sports, auto and work injuries in a way that results in excellent clinical outcomes for my patients.
I am also a diplomate in Acupuncture Orthopedics as taught at Cedar-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. This training provided me with a higher degree of clinical skills in relation to primary care evaluation of neuro-musculoskeletal disorders.
In addition I prescribe herbal remedies common to Chinese medicine. In my practice, I mix my own herbal Die Da Jiao – a “hit/fall” liniment. Hit/fall remedies were originally designed for martial arts injuries, and are so good that I use this one for any injury where there is bruising and inflammation.
Along with my dedication and commitment to holistic Chinese medicine, I continue to incorporate common Western therapeutic approaches, such as stretching, targeted exercises, and deep tissue massage, to help patients heal and to prevent re-injury.
At Russell Family Acupuncture we are dedicated to rapid recovery and are pleased to serve the acupuncture, sports injury, acute and chronic pain, and vision and eye health needs of those living in Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, greater Sonoma County, and Northern California.