At Acupuncture in the Park, pain relief is one of the most common treatments we perform. Many people believe that pain is a very simple thing: you have pain, and you want it to go away. Or at least you want it to be better.
For some people, pain is anything but simple. It can be debilitating, and it can take over your life. Over the years that we have worked with people in varying forms of pain, we’ve learned that the consequences of that pain can be far-reaching. In this post, we’d like to share a few things that we know about pain and relief from pain from the standpoint of Chinese medicine:
-Pain can wipe you out. It can seriously and completely deplete your energy, and here’s why: In Chinese medicine, pain is considered a blockage. Whether your pain is caused by a tight muscle, loss of circulation, infection, inflammation, or trauma, if you have pain, it means that your circulation of blood and energy is impaired. Pain is like a dam that blocks the flow of water in a river, There is a lake upstream from the dam and a trickle of water on the downstream. Your energy on pain is that little trickle of water. When you hurt, you’re not firing on all cylinders.
-Your pain has a personality. It has a quality and can be sharp, stabbing, dull, achy, burning…you get the picture. Your pain may also respond better to heat or it may feel better when you ice it. Sometimes you have pain that likes pressure–like a trigger point in a muscle. However, there are types of pain where touching it will send you through the roof. As an acupuncturist, the quality and circumstances of your pain matter, and it tells me a lot about how best to treat it.
-Pain can show up far away from it’s source. For example, many people who come in with symptoms of sciatica have a piriformis muscle injury in their butt. The muscle is pressing on the sciatic nerve, causing pain to occur down the side or back of their leg, sometimes all the way into the foot. When this happens it’s called referred pain, and our job is to treat this referred pain at its source.
-The longer you’ve had the pain, the harder it is to treat. Your body likes habits, and it’s no different with pain. The pain symptoms you’ve had for years are treatable, but it’s a little more of a challenge because your body is “stuck” in a pattern of pain.
-The better your overall health, the better able you are to heal. Children seem to heal before your very eyes, mostly because they’re young and usually pretty healthy. Likewise, adults who are healthy in general respond better to acupuncture and tend to heal faster. As you get older or if you’ve had health problems, it can take a little longer to find relief from acupuncture.
-There are physiological reasons behind acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating pain. Researchers have found that acupuncture alters your brain chemistry–in a good way. It increases the circulation of your body’s natural pain-killing opioid and endorphins. Acupuncture also blocks the circulation of a chemical called adenisone which transmits pain signals to your brain. Locally, at the site where an acupuncture needle is inserted, the concentration of white blood cells is increased, which helps to clear out the inflammatory process in that area. That’s why if your elbow is hurting, your acupuncturist is likely to place a needle near the point of pain.