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Acupuncture for Injury Rehabilitation

Updated: Oct 1, 2023

Rehabilitation from an injury can be difficult, but not knowing how to best support your body can make the process take even longer. Let's shorten it with acupuncture!

Foot rehab with a yellow stretchy band

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, there are numerous energetic imbalances that may predispose someone to a particular injury. Anyone young or old can suffer a traumatic injury to the body, and when that happens recovery can seem to take ages. Everyone knows that the process of injury rehabilitation can be exhaustive and lengthy, but what is really going on inside your body that is creating such a powerful reaction? In TCM and acupuncture, there are a few different causes to consider when looking at injury rehabilitation.

Traditional Chinese Medicine credits the following for making the body vulnerable to injury and preventing that injury from healing in a timely manner:

Blood Stasis: Blood stasis is often caused by trauma to the local area, such as falling or getting hit. Symptoms of blood stasis include sharp and stabbing pain that is worse with pressure, bruising, and skin discoloration. When the stasis is severe it may affect sleep. Most physical injuries such as bone breaks, contusions, fractures, tendons, and ligament tears frequently have a blood stasis component.

Practitioner examining a client's leg

Qi Stagnation: Qi stagnation can be caused by trauma but more frequently is caused by over use, or repetitive motion. Pain from a Qi stagnation injury tends to be dull, achy, throbbing, and diffuse. Normally it is worse with pressure, but may be better with gentle movement. Common injuries that often involve Qi stagnation are tendonitis, muscle strains, chronically tight muscles, and shin splints.

Heat: Both Qi stagnation and blood stagnation can generate heat, which is a TCM explanation for lots of kinds of inflammation. Any injury that presents as red, hot, and swollen has a heat component to it.

Cold: Just as pathogenic heat can be a factor in injuries, so too can pathogenic cold. There is an idea in TCM that cold can “directly strike” an organ or energy system, leading to severe, acute, cramping pain. This often occurs after exposure to cold, such as running a race on a cold day, swimming in cold water, or sitting in an ice bath after a workout. Cold can also be a factor in certain chronic aAchillesreas of pain, particularly when a bone is involved or when the injury is in a location that doesn’t get a lot of blood flow.

Blood deficiency: Any acute injury has a component of stagnation or stasis. However, there may be an underlying blood deficiency that allows the tissues to be more susceptible to injury. The blood is said to nourish the tendons, so this is particularly true in tendon injuries such as tennis elbow or achilles tendonitis. Blood deficiency may also be a result of a sports injury, such as a concussion, which means the body needs more resources to rebuild itself after the injury.

Looking for the common markers of injury is just the first step in determining what is wrong, and then looking at how it can be helped. TCM utilizes the following treatments to help speed up and aid recovery

acupuncture needles in the upper trapezius

Acupuncture: Acupuncture can help to increase blood flow to an area, reduce pain, inflammation, and help tissues heal.

Chinese Herbal Medicine: Herbal formulas can either be taken orally or applied topically depending on the herb and what it is being used for. Different herbal formulas target pain, tension, inflammation, swelling, or circulation. Herbal formulas can be tailored to fit any of the diagnoses mentioned above. Clinically, we often use topical applications of herbs for soft tissue injuries such as tendonitis, muscle strains, and sprains. Certain formulas are also appropriate for bone injuries such as fractures, breaks, and spurs.

burning direct moxa on the upper trapezius

Moxa: Burning moxa, or moxibustion, can be a very effective therapy for many injuries. Moxa is burned over certain points or locations to reduce pain, increase the range of motion, eliminate cold from the channels, and reduce inflammation. Moxa is frequently used for injuries to the bone.

Gua Sha: Gua sha refers to a TCM technique of scraping along a channel or particular muscle fibers with a hard curved tool. Gua sha breaks up adhesions that have formed in the muscle tissue, increases blood flow to the area, and helps eliminate toxins stuck in a particular location. Gua sha is excellent for treating Qi and blood stagnation injuries.

Cupping: Cupping is another technique from TCM that uses special sterilized cups to create suction over large muscle areas. This helps muscles to relax, pulls toxins out of the channels, and helps to physically pull apart layers of fascia that get stuck together with injury.

If you are currently trying to recover from an injury, TCM can be a great resource to help aid your healing journey.

Yours in health & wellness,

Dr. Angie signature

If you or someone you love is struggling with injury recovery, book our New Patient Special and see if acupuncture is right for you!

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