By Liz Kelchak, M.S., L.Ac.
Many people think of acupuncture when dealing with a chronic pain condition but very few seek out Chinese medicine when dealing with an acute trauma? Why not rush to your acupuncturist after spraining your ankle? Because most people don’t know the benefits of doing so!
Over the years working at East Wind, I have successfully treated many patients for sports injuries such as: sprains, strains, broken bones, falls- you name it. I myself have seen the wonders acupuncture and Chinese herbs can do for broken bones. I broke the L2 vertebrae in my spine in 2010 due to a dune buggy accident. I did have x-rays to determine the severity of my injury but I used Chinese medicine to heal. With less than 2 months of acupuncture, herbal and physical therapies, I healed rapidly and never required any surgery or pain pills. I still don’t have any pain, 4 years later!!
Recently (Aug ’14), I attempted to surf at Pacific Beach in California and came down hard on my twisted ankle after a gnarly wave. The swelling and pain started quickly. Luckily, I had brought along the proper tools to relieve the swelling and promote healing. First, I started off by palpating the injured area, looking for discoloration, extra tender points, and the acupuncture channels the pain was following. Taking a lancet (a small medical implement typically used for capillary blood sampling), I punctured around the area of swelling and the tips of my toes at the Jing Well point. This technique works almost immediately and my ankle pain diminished quickly, I was able to walk without a limp, and the visual swelling had gone down tremendously. I never iced it!. This is a technique I have used many times on patients with great success. I have seen it work for old injuries as well but it generally takes longer (3-4 times of lancet use) before results are seen when with acute injuries it’s like a miracle. Now I still had some discomfort and bruising, so I continued to bloodlet a few more times and got a few acupuncture treatments to insure this injury was healed completely!
This procedure, called bloodletting, has been around for over 3000 years and treats more than just injuries. According to The Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine-Bloodletting therapy is clinically applied by pricking certain acupuncture points, foci, pathological response points or superficial veins on the human body with a three-edged needle, a plum-blossom needle or a syringe needle. This causes slight bleeding and therefore treats the problems. With skillful manipulation and drainage of an appropriate amount of blood, it has the functions of alleviating pain, activating blood flow, eliminating blood stasis and diminishing the inflammation. At present, bloodletting therapy is indicated to treat heat syndromes, excess syndromes and some deficiency syndromes.
So what actually happens when you sprain something? When an area of your body experiences a physical trauma your body can damage blood vessels and tear tissues causing swelling and bruising. The body will react by rushing more blood to that area as blood carries the things we need to heal. All of this swelling makes it difficult for the blood to recirculate so its stuck there causing impingement on nerves, tendons, and tissues and of course, causing pain. Now, one could take advil to reduce swelling and pain, but it doesn’t promote the movement of blood, the necessary thing to allow the body to heal. Whereas with bloodletting, the deoxygenated blood is able to move out of the body allowing new blood to come in, relieving the swelling and pain and encouraging faster healing. (something Advil won’t do)
There are many ways licensed acupuncturist can help with injuries and it usually involves a combination of acupuncture, Chinese herbs, liniments, diet, and stretches. So next time you have an injury call up your local licensed acupuncturist for a non drug and non surgical solution.
Written by: Liz Kelchak, L.Ac