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What an Acupuncturist Does to Relieve Pain

Severe back pain woke me up last Thursday morning and I found myself all twisted up like a pretzel. Sheets wrapped around me like nacho cheese. When I went to get up, 10 out of 10 pain jolted me back down like a thunderbolt.

Holy moly. This was different.

With regular acupuncture treatments, my acupuncturist is usually able to nip any aches and pains in the bud. With this acute pain, it was impossible to lie still. T minus 1.5 hours until my first patient of the day and no identical twin acupuncturist to step in.  This is what I did to get back on my feet again and relieve pain fast:

1.       Heat.  Place a heating pad or hot water bottle right where it hurts. This helps increase circulation and helps unblock the pain.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, normal circulation is like a garden hose with water running freely out. When you experience pain, it’s like someone is kinking the hose and the water pressure builds up and no water flows. With the help of heat or stretching, massage or acupuncture for example, these techniques help “unkink” the hose to help water to flow.

2.       Gentle stretching (or yoga). If the pain is not too much, a gentle stretch may help release it.*

Beginners: If you are new to stretching or yoga, a private session with a yoga instructor or personal trainer. The instructor/trainer can tailor stretches and poses to suit you while taking your injury into consideration. With constant attention and prompting, this is a safer way to practice stretching or yoga than going it alone or taking a group class.

Intermediate/Advanced: For back pain, try child’s pose and cat-cow pose. For neck pain, try sphinx or cobra. Oftentimes, stretching the opposite muscle (known as the antagonist) works better than trying to directly stretch an injured muscle.

For example, if your hamstrings hurt, try stretching your quadriceps. If your biceps hurt, try stretching your triceps. If your low back hurts, try stretching your abdomen. This is a good technique to do with the help of your health care practitioner or personal trainer.  They can safely guide you through stretches and ensure you don’t make the injury worse.

Always remember to go slow and listen to your body. Don’t push through any resistance your body is encountering.

3.       Magnesium. This is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the U.S.  It’s estimated that only about half of the U.S. adult population consumes enough magnesium in their everyday diets.

This supplement works wonders for pain management. It works by relaxing muscles, stopping spasms and causing vasodilation. It can also regulate bowel movements and prevent constipation. Magnesium can be taken as a supplement.** It is also found in foods like chocolate, spinach, and almonds. (In fact, most chocolate cravings can be quelled when you supplement with magnesium).

Another way to reap the benefits of magnesium is to take an Epsom salt bath. This is magnesium sulfate. Epsom salt works through your body absorbing it through the skin.  We recommend this to patients all the time.

How to Enjoy the BEST Epsom Salt Bath

  1. Add 2 cups of Epsom salt (plain or scented) to your bathtub
  2. Add warm water
  3. Soak for about 20-30 minutes (make sure to immerse your area of pain as best as you can)
  4. Stand up and rinse off your entire body (any residue from Epsom salt may cause dehydration if you skip this step)

Recommended: Take an Epsom salt bath at least 1-3 x’s/week to experience its benefits to the fullest.

How the Day Ended

With the help of these 3 tips, I was able to get the pain down to a 2 out of 10 and able to move with ease, and treat patients. By the end of the day, the back pain was completely gone.

We recommend trying all 3 tips. If the pain does not subsist, please talk to your acupuncturist and they can provide acupuncture for pain and/or refer you out as needed. As a general rule, the sooner you address the pain, the fewer treatments you need and the sooner you will feel better.

Interested in learning how acupuncture for pain works? Ask Lynn here.

Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22364157

* Always talk to your physician before starting any exercise.
** Work with your healthcare practitioner to choose the right dose of magnesium for you.

Lynn Palmgren Acupuncture Oak Park
About Author
Lynn Palmgren specializes in acupuncture for pain management and insomnia and helps people feel good again. She is a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist and co-owns Palmgren Acupuncture in Oak Park, Illinois. You can find Lynn at Google+ and Twitter.


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