Treating Pain

"I didn't realize how much pain I was in until after I left your office and didn't feel any!"

Last week, a patient suffering from sciatica shared this testimonial. It made me think about the nature of pain and what our brain does to mask it or, conversely, heighten it. Sometimes, we get used to having a particular pain, so it's almost as if our minds become numb to the pain sensations. Other times, our mind focuses on pain, worries about pain, and gets frustrated with pain. These things can make pain worse.

In Chinese Medicine, an old saying “bu tong ze tong, tong ze bu tong” means “no free flow, pain; free flow, no pain.” In essence, if you do not have free flow of energy and blood in the body, this leads to the perception of pain. When you reestablish free flow, then there is no pain.

Lots of things can block free flow- stuck blood, cold, heat, scar tissue, too much fluid, medical devices, stuck energy- and each cause has it's own treatment. Emotions can also cause blocked energy. Frustration and anger, in particular, affect the flow of Liver energy and cause it to get stuck. Since the Liver is in charge of free flow of energy in the whole body, this can mean big problems with circulation! The Liver is also the organ most affected by stress, or "unfulfilled desires." Any time you want something to be different, including pain, you are stressed, and this causes your energy to get stuck.

One way to get Liver energy moving is to do some deep breathing. Three deep breaths, exhaling with sound, is sometimes all it takes to get things moving. The action of the diaphragm helps to relieve the stuck Liver energy. Deep breathing that you do in Yoga and with vigorous exercise is great for this reason. Meditation which combines breathing and awareness is a fantastic way to manage pain.

Acupuncture is a great therapy to get energy moving, and some recent fMRI studies show that it changes the way the brain experiences pain. Most people that come into our office are experiencing some type of pain, and most people get great results after 1-2 treatments. Some people get long lasting results after just a few treatments while others continue treatments for pain management.

One patient always says "It's like the pain is lifted right out of me when I'm laying there in a treatment. I can’t afford not to come."

Self- Care: ACUPRESSURE for Neck and Upper Back Pain

People spend more and more time hunched over keyboards and looking at smart phones, and while we love these technological advances, they wreck havock on our necks and backs! Neck and shoulder pain are some of the most common complaints in our office.

One answer, get blood flowing in the muscles. Keeping blood flowing to your muscles prevents tension and "knots" and can help prevent pain buildin up. Try stepping away from your computer at least every 2 hours, stretch, and walk around. Take a bath at night with epsom salts. Use a microwavable heat pack. Get a massage. (Have you had an appointment with our massage therapist, Christine Cummings? She works wonders on sore necks and backs). If you can't make it in for a massage, or in between massages or acupuncture treatments, try acupressure at home.

Acupressure is a form of massage that involves pressure applied to specific acupuncture points. Different points have different functions and can be used for different ailments. Some points are used in a local area for a specific problem. For example, in the neck, there are a number of points used for pain. Other points, called distal points, affect an area of pain from far away.

If you press along a muscle and find a sore point, it's is called an "Ashi" point. If you find an ashi point, it may help ease pain to apply pressure to this point for a few minutes.

There are many useful points in the treatment of upper back and neck pain but here are two simple and effective points you can try at home. Always consult your doctor if you have pain that isn't going away as it can be a sign of something more serious.

  • GB 20 -- just under the base of the skull in two small muscular grooves at the back of the neck (green dot on image)
  • GB 21 -- on top of the shoulder, 2"-3" from the side of the neck (yellow dot on image)

Apply firm pressure to these two points for 5 seconds, first GB-20, then GB-21, then repeat for 2- 3 minutes. It may best to do this treatment a few times per day at first. Direct pressure downward at GB-21 should be avoided on any woman who may be pregnant, as this point has a strong downward effect and is used to induce labor.

Also consider emotional causes of neck and shoulder pain- Are you overthinking and is there too much energy in your head? Trying to bear the weight of the world like Atlas? Worrying and grinding your teeth at night? All of these things can contribute to neck and shoulder pain. Consulting a good therapist helps.

If neck and shoulder tension continues to be a problem for you, it may be best to seek medical attention as these symptoms could be signs of serious medical conditions!