Acupuncture for Pain Relief

What is pain? What is pain? According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), pain is described as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage”. When there is pain, you are supposed to stop what you are doing to prevent further harm. Unfortunately, it is common practice for many grappling and BJJ athletes to take painkillers to mask the problem, while continuing to over-exert the injury and cause more damage than before. There are also the many unwanted side-effects associated with taking painkillers that can hinder the healing process.

The use of acupuncture is a good option for pain relief, and it has been used by many mixed martial arts competitors to ease the aches and pains from training Acupuncture is the best-known modality within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and has helped billions of people over the last 3000 years. Its goal is to uncover underlying causes of the health problems while alleviating symptoms. TCM differs from Western medicine in that it sees the body as cultivating a garden rather than a picking apart a machine. If one area of the body is problematic, it can affect another area.

Acupuncture is capable of treating a large range of ailments because of Qi. What is Qi? Put simply, it’s the flow of “vital energy” within our surroundings and us. We gather Qi from what we eat, from what we breathe, from our genetics and from our environment. Qi flows in a network of meridians or channels in our bodies. Each meridian corresponds to an internal organ, and well-being is attained through unblocking this flow in the meridians using specific points on the body. Using acupuncture and other TCM modalities, these points regulate Qi circulation in the channels and remove damaging influences.

For many grappling and mixed martial arts competitors, an ankle sprain is a common injury that can be treated successfully with acupuncture. When the foot rolls inward, body weight shifts and falls to the outside of the foot. There is a twisting and tearing sensation then pain and weakness. Some ankle sprains are slow to heal and can prevent or interfere with daily activities for a long time afterwards. Sometimes, the injury seems unharmed only to swell up shortly after. Not only ligaments (fibrous tissue connecting bone to bone) are traumatized, the muscles and tendons (fibrous tissue connecting muscle to bone) can be affected.

The usual Western approach for treating a sprained ankle is RICE: rest, ice, compression and elevation. Ice is almost never applied in TCM since cold makes the muscle contract and freezes the fluids causing inflammation in place, consequently preventing the fluids from reabsorbing. Likewise, compression constricts blood movement and keeps the fluids stagnant. Rest and elevation are however employed in TCM.

TCM views the injury as a stagnation of blood and Qi, which blocks circulation and creates pain and swelling. The warmth is from the accumulated Qi overheating within the barrier and pain is the product. If the static blood and fluids are not freed, the injured area has less Qi than before and needs more Qi to force circulation. Eventually, this part of the body becomes sensitive to cold and dampness. The pain could come again when energy is exhausted like in times of sickness or stress. By this point, it can develop into a Bi syndrome, or “chronic obstruction”. There is an absolute significance of taking care of a small injury before it evolves into a bigger problem.

Acupuncture opens the network of Qi and blood to restore the injury. In TCM, the major organs associated with the tendons, muscles and bones are the Liver, Spleen and Kidney. Triggering specific points for the Liver, Spleen and Kidneys will promote their functions to heal the body. Because TCM is holistic, each organ cannot be fully explained unless the relationships with the other organs are understood. A qualified individual would be able to discern the Organs involved and develop a pattern diagnosis to aid you to the road to wellness. A National Certification Committee of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) licensed acupuncturist who has studied TCM would be the best choice in finding the right practitioner for you.

Michelle Lee, L.Ac, MSTOMProgressive Spinal and Sports Rehabilitation, P.C.10076 Darnestown Road, Suite 200Rockville, MD

Michelle Lee is a board certified Diplomate in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology from the National Certification Committee of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Ms. Lee has experience in treating various types of pain including sports injuries. She can be reached at the address above or if you have any questions regarding how acupuncture can help your with your training injuries.

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Michelle Lee L.Ac MSTOM