Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sports Injuries? Yes, acupuncture can help.

Spring and Summer are the two most active months of the year, in terms of we humans getting outside and playing. Golf, tennis, swimming, surfing, soccer, lacrosse, you name it, we do it. That is why this is also the time of year when the number of sports injuries goes up. People who were dormant in Winter months come out of hiding, out of shape but raring to go. It is common for people who are getting back into exercise to try to do what they used to do before they became deconditioned, and they get hurt. Strains, sprains, bumps, bruises, pulled muscles. They can be a pain in the...neck. Thankfully acupuncture offers solutions to getting you back out there sooner, helping your body heal itself.

I've had many patients limp into my office and walk out feeling better. The sooner you get treatment, the better, but even after a month or two of limping around, you can get significant relief.

Acupuncture works differently than pain killers and NSAIDs (ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.). While it does help with the pain, it is not just deadening the pain, it is increasing blood flow to the area so that the body heals itself. The concept of increasing Qi flow to release stagnation (which is the cause of pain according to Chinese medical theory) is why the pain goes away. NSAIDs have been shown to slow healing according to recent studies. Acupuncture actually improves and encourages the healing process. It improves blood circulation, decreases swelling, relaxes the muscle tissue and can improve overall function of the painful area. In my experience, the only time acupuncture doesn't work for injuries is when something needs to be dealt with surgically, like reattaching a tendon. After the surgery, however, acupuncture can help with healing.

"Jane," a 50 year old female, came in to see me with a sprained ankle, that after 4 weeks of rest, ice and taking it easy, hadn't improved. She was limping and in significant pain. She just wanted to be able to get back to her step aerobics class which she loved.  After I treated her with acupuncture and moxa, she was able to walk without a limp. After 2 treatments she could stand on one leg on that foot. After 3 treatments she could do step aerobics without jumping, and after 4 treatments she was back to normal with no restrictions in movement.

I have many other stories just like this one, where after no change or improvement in their injury, people get better and back to their lives with acupuncture. Not all sports or other types of injuries take 4 treatments, some more, some less. I've had people recover in one treatment while others take maybe 10-12. It all depends on the nature of the injury (how acute or chronic), how soon after injury you sought treatment and how significant the injury really is (minor sprain or full muscle tear or bone break). How does acupuncture work? Scientists are still working that one out. As far as I'm concerned, Qi flow = no pain. That is how I practice.

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