• I Feel the Pain – 5 techniques for treating chronic pain

    June 19, 2019 | Julie Moore
  • I am in pain. The day after a fun, active weekend with family, I woke up with a nagging tenderness in my foot. I mostly ignored it and went about my regular activities. Big mistake! A week later my pain level spiked from a tolerable 3-ish to a 9…sometimes a 10! My life came to a screeching halt. It turns out I have a stress fracture in my foot. And that excruciating pain was my body saying ‘rest and give me time to heal.’ (Maybe more on listening to your body in another blog?!!)

    As I write this I’m dealing with pain that limits my activity. But, with rest and some TLC (acupuncture!), I know this will pass in another week or so. Unfortunately for so many people, pain is a chronic, seemingly endless experience putting constraints on their lives. My foot ‘crisis’ has been a reminder of the impact pain can have on the body, mind, and spirit. Yes, I had to give up some of my favorite things for a while (e.g. my bike is getting a good rest, too). But there are real, practical challenges like getting to and from work, climbing the stairs, going to the bathroom or walking the grocery store aisles to get food for the week. When the pain is at its worst, sleep may be disrupted, thoughts are less clear, and energy is zapped. It’s easy to imagine how, when prolonged, these limitations can really wear you down and even lead to more severe health problems.

    In April I attended a workshop focused on the use of acupuncture and oriental medicine (AOM) modalities to manage pain. We explored both the physical and emotional effects of pain and AOM as a long-established safe, effective tool for treating it. And with the opioid crisis upon us, both the American Pain Society and American College of Physicians recommend acupuncture as an alternative, non-pharmacological treatment for chronic pain.

    At Windrose Acupuncture I use several AOM modalities when treating pain. Here are my top 5 approaches and how they work to alleviate your pain.  

    1. Acupuncture is believed to trigger the release of natural pain killing chemicals such as endorphins and our own natural opioids. It also regulates blood flow, facilitates muscle relaxation and normalizes neural pathways which carry pain signals to and from the brain.
    2. Trigger point needling is a subset of acupuncture targeting the release of tight tender points in the muscles or stimulating the muscle motor points to restore muscle length and elasticity. This localized technique is also great for stimulating blood flow at the point of pain.
    3. Gua sha is a cross fiber massage technique that increases blood flow and helps flush the lymphatic system. This is particularly useful in breaking down adhesions in myofascial tissue to restore flexibility. (Note: I love to use gua sha to release emotional as well as physical tension!)
    4. Cupping, the use of suction cups to increase blood flow, has benefits similar to gua sha. Cupping is particularly good for treating muscle tension.
    5. E-stim, aka electro-acupuncture, helps initiate muscle/soft tissue growth and repair. In combination with trigger point, it stimulates neuromuscular proprioception and re-education; i.e. breaking the muscle’s pattern of knotting or tensing up.

    The results?

    These treatments typically leave patients with decreased pain levels, improved muscle function and range of motion, and shortened recovery time. In addition, I give my patients tools they can use at home to alleviate or prevent future re-injury; this includes stretching and muscle strengthening. If you suffer from pain, chronic or acute, make an appointment and see how AOM can help you.