You wouldn’t know it to look outside (the picture to the right is from last year), but spring is finally here—well, technically at least. And after Vancouver’s unusually long cold snap, many are anxious to shake off the dark dreariness of winter. If you’re feeling a little funky trying to gear up for the warmer months ahead, now is the perfect time to consider getting some springtime acupuncture.
Here are some reasons why you need acupuncture this spring.
With the start of a new season, we also run the risk of getting sick. As the weather changes, it can take a while for our bodies to adjust. But for so many Vancouverites, the first sign of the springtime sun is like a long lost friend, tempting us to prematurely shed our scarves and gloves. If your body hasn’t had the chance to properly acclimatize, you could wind up getting sick. Getting some preemptive acupuncture will help boost your immunity and prepare you for the seasonal change.
Ahhhh…spring! Blossoming flowers, budding trees, sprouting grass—what a wonderful time of year. That is, of course, if you aren’t one of the many that suffer from seasonal allergies. For allergy sufferers, springtime means itchy watery eyes, a runny nose, sneezing, congestion, and headaches. Don’t let allergies keep you indoors this year. Acupuncture has been shown to treat allergic reactions. Just make sure to get treatment early, before springtime pollen has a chance to send your immune system into overdrive. You might also ask me about biopuncture allergy treatment.
Spring is all about change. And while many of us welcome it, the change in season does come with its own set of stress-inducing challenges. Final exams, adjusting to the time change, and taking on more work to prepare for summer vacation are all things that can send our stress levels through the roof, thus opening the door to a wide range of symptoms, including muscle pain, digestive issues, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and hormonal swings. Treating yourself to some calming acupuncture will help you control your stress before it controls you.
Deal with Sports Injuries
Cycling, running, softball, and hiking— spring is a great time to get active again and enjoy the great outdoors. Unfortunately, after a long winter of inactivity, it’s also the time of year when sports-related injuries start popping up. If you are looking to prevent injuries (or treat them when they do), acupuncture will help keep you active all season long.
Yes, you need acupuncture this spring
Now that spring has finally sprung, there’s no time like the present to get some acupuncture. You’ll be better equipped to meet the challenges of seasonal change head on and enjoy everything this marvellous time of year has to offer.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome–TOS, for short
When it first began with shoulder and upper back, I thought it was just muscular tension from leaning over the computer or patients as I’m doing acupuncture. But as the initial pain resolved and the throbbing pain moved to my forearm, I knew what it was. Thoracic outlet syndrome.
Unfortunately, I was on my way to a week long yoga/surf retreat, so there was little I could do to address it immediately. The forearm pain progressed to tingling and numbness in my fingers, so sitting still in meditation or savasana (corpse pose–lying down on back and remaining still) was really a struggle. I one-handed some of the yoga poses and skipped out on others. Surfing and paddle boarding were a bit of a challenge, but workable. Perhaps it aggravated my TOS since the numbness persists, but at least now the pain is gone.
Isn’t it interesting though that once you experience something yourself, you seem to draw in others experiencing the same? Such is the case for me in my practice, so I thought I would blog about thoracic outlet syndrome, so you can know if maybe you or someone you know has the same.
What is thoracic outlet syndrome?
TOS is a condition caused by compression of the nerves, blood vessels, or both as they pass through a narrow area between the base of the neck and the armpit, called the thoracic outlet (makes sense). It’s kind of like the more commonly recognized carpal tunnel syndrome, except where the arm meets the torso instead of at the wrist.
How it thoracic outlet syndrome diagnosed?
First, symptoms are considered. Do you have:
- neck, shoulder, or arm pain
- numbness or tingling in the fingers
- weakness in the hand
- impaired circulation to your hands and fingers
- redness or swelling in your arm
- hands or arms that are easily fatigued
If you have those, you can try out this the Roos test. Raise your arms by your sides and bend at your elbows 90 degrees, hands facing front. Quickly open and close your hands for up to two minutes. If the affected side feels worse than the non-affected side, reproducing your symptoms, then you may have TOS.
You can also get electrical and radiological tests.
What causes thoracic outlet syndrome?
The thoracic outlet really doesn’t leave much space for the blood vessels and nerves to pass through, so anything that causes compression on them can result in TOS. I mentioned that mine is predominantly tight pecs minor muscle. But it could also be tightness or inflammation in the scalene muscles (along the side of the neck) or an extra rib called a cervical rib.
My thoracic outlet syndrome was from carrying one dog in a front body carrier while walking my other dog who sometimes pulls me forward (my first and only time doing that). I wish I could say it was from doing something amazing like a one-handed handstand or saving someone’s life, but sadly, it wasn’t.
You might also get it from an imbalance of strong chest muscles to upper back muscles, improper weight lifting, impact injury, repetitive movements, poor posture, obesity, or just that you happen to be born with a cervical rib.
What can you do about thoracic outlet syndrome?
Stretching is helpful. Check out this video for a few stretching options. Stretching the neck and the chest helps open up more space for the structures to pass through the thoracic outlet. Balancing that with strengthening exercises to help pull the shoulders back and position the head better over the torso are also helpful.
I use a rolled up yoga mat to lie on (place it between your shoulder blades and stretch your arms out to your sides or over your head), but you can also use a rolled up towel, blanket, or sheets. Or, another option might be to do a Zipline and stretch out this way! Not exactly practical, but definitely more fun! 😉
What I find most helpful is acupuncture. While I was at the retreat, I was unable to get someone to acupuncture me and I was unable to acupuncture my own shoulder, pecs, and back, so I did a very simple forearm treatment (shown partially completed above) that helped. Oh, and kinesiotaping to support the muscles. That really helped in between the acupuncture sessions.
I’ve been doing a fair amount of acupuncture for sprains and strains lately, so I thought I’d share why you want to make acupuncture one of your first choices for treatments if you are unlucky enough to injure yourself.
I’ve sprained my right ankle twice. The first time, I was playing intramural volleyball in high school. I jumped up to block a ball, and when I landed, someone’s foot was on my side of the net, so I crash landed when I came down on it. It was a bad sprain. I still remember how it felt when the doctor stuck his finger into the tennis ball-sized swelling that I had once called an ankle. The image here is kind of what my ankle looked like, though my legs were somewhat less hairy. 🙂
I had a number of physio sessions–icing, taping, ultrasound, and exercises. I was on my school’s volleyball team so after a week or so of rest, I continued to play with my ankle tightly wrapped. Once healed, my ankle was not the same. I turned it constantly. The stretched ligaments were no longer as supportive as they should have been.
The second time I sprained my ankle, I was in TCM school. I was simply running across the street when my ankle did its then common floppy roll. Boom. On the ground and writhing in pain. This time I had TCM on my side. I received acupuncture and Chinese herbs, and I did my own version of stabilizing exercises. I was told by the medical doctor that my ankle would be worse, even more prone to sprains and strains, as those lazy ligaments would have even more laxity. They don’t. My right ankle is now just like my left–uninjured and strong–ankle. This is just one of the reasons I recommend acupuncture for sprains and other injuries.
Acupuncture for Sprains and Injuries
Acupuncture can help improve local blood flow to an injured area. That helps bring in healing nutrients and remove waste products from damaged tissue. Acupuncture can also relieve pain, allowing you to be able to sleep well, instead of struggling to get comfortable at night, for faster recovery. Acupuncture supports stress management. One of the ways it does so is by causing a release of feel-good hormones like endorphins. If you are less stressed, your body can be in a healing state instead of a defensive state.
If you’re worried about needles, don’t. If your injured part is too sensitive for me to treat directly, I can treat around it. And, acupuncture is not painful. Acupuncture needles are skiiiiinnnnny. Super skinny. That makes it easy for me to treat you comfortably.
So, if you are injured, don’t hesitate. Come in for acupuncture for sprains, strains, tears, inflammation, bruising, fractures (after proper xray, bone setting, and other medical emergency treatment, of course), or other injury so you can heal faster and better than with time alone.
If you are planning on participating in any of the many athletic events of spring or summer–from Tough Mudder to BMO Marathon, SunRun to GranFondo, or beach volleyball tournies to Grouse Grind Challenge–you are probably in training now, or at least thinking about it. Nothing will stop your plans faster than an injury. You may be making your best times one minute and having to stop to heal up an injury the next. While you’re pushing your limits, consider that your body may need a little extra TLC. Read on about things you can do to prevent injuries: Mitigate Vancouver Training Injuries Or skip that and just come in for acupuncture 😉
Concussions are more than simple bumps on the head, and can result in much more than just a few headaches. Rest is the first prescription, but there are many more things that can be done. After seeing a report on the news recently about one of our CFL players and his lawsuit prompted by his concussions, I wrote this article for 24 Hours Vancouver. Read more by clicking here.
I don’t have much of a green thumb.
I’m thankful that I’m a Dr. of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the 21st century because if I were doing this in the earlier days of TCM, I would have had to grow and collect my own herbs–and that would not have been great for my patients.
What I can do is help you gardeners get back to your plants if pain, injury, or other health issue are interfering with your fun in the dirt. Click here to check out my article in 24 Hours Vancouver, “Kneeling gardeners face growing pains.”
I didn’t participate, but I applaud those that did the Vancouver Sun Run this past weekend. It took dedication and training to be able to get out there and enjoy it. Some, unfortunately, are now injured and sore. Some had to skip the event due to injuries acquired leading up to the big day. Some injuries are unavoidable and fluke. Others could have been predicted—overtraining or undertraining or improper preparation.
I don’t like to run. I will run, if I have to—like if I’m late for yoga class or running away from doing chores. Growing up, I chose figure skating, volleyball, dance, and diving; not soccer, basketball, or track and field. But, though the specifics of training regimens changes based on the sport or activity, there are some basics that can be followed for any activity.
1. Pick a training routine that you can do
I usually make at least one mistake in pushing myself too hard when I start a new activity. My head says yes; my body says no. I nearly threw up during my first Crossfit-like class (they tell me that’s normal, but don’t believe them that it’s okay…it’s not ok to vomit when you’re exercising). I banged up my knee and sprained my finger trying to compete with the best Grouse Grind climb time of a 20-something fitness trainer I know. I even strained my hamstrings doing 40 straight days of Vinyasa power yoga when I was brand new to yoga.
So, do as I say, not as I have done—I’m getting smarter about this, I swear I am.
Build gradually when you start a new activity. It’s fine—and admirable—for couch potatoes to pursue a goal of doing a marathon, but the process needs to be paced.
2. Get the basics
Though some high level athletes do advertise for junk food companies, athletes know that getting the right nutrition is key to a good performance. It should come as no surprise that whole foods and lots of veggies are good, while synthetic ingredients and processed foods are not.
Get your zzzzzzs. Sleep-time is when your body does much of its healing and repair. Sometimes pain and injury can interfere with a restful sleep. If that’s the case, then make sure that your healthcare provider addresses that. An easily absorbed magnesium supplement may help relax your muscles enough to relieve some tension and help you drift off. To find out how Melissa officinalis and other herbs can help with sleep, check out my blog here, “Melissa Helps You Sleep.”
3. Treat and prevent
Don’t wait until your pain becomes chronic before you get treatment. Acupuncture, biopuncture, Chinese herbs, and supplements can help speed your healing time by decreasing inflammation, relieving muscle spasms and tightness, and improving local circulation.
Even better, try preventing injuries by planning ahead. In addition to proper training, support your healthiest self so that you can more quickly recover, even if you do overdo it. Tomorrow my article on acupuncture pre- and post- event comes out in 24 Hours Vancouver, so pick up your copy, look for it online, or wait for me to post it as my next blog.
Now, get up and get active!
Anyone following the NFL—and many who don’t—know that Peyton Manning is one of the best quarterbacks in history. Last year he set single-season records for touchdowns and passing yards, and of course this year his team is playing in the Superbowl against Seattle.
I am a Peyton Manning fan. But the reason that I am writing about him is because of his recovery—a resurrection, really—from a neck condition that resulted in four surgeries and would have ended the career of most professional athletes.
So, what did Peyton do to have one of his best years yet, at age 37, following such physical trauma? I don’t know the details of his rehabilitation, but there are some pieces that we do know.
- Peyton sought help from the experts and his athlete friends. He found out what he could about his condition, though he recognized that every individual heals differently.
- He rested. For almost three months after his fourth surgery (a second vertebral fusion) he did not pick up a football.
- He started slow and built himself up patiently. He was forced to listen to his body, and with the guidance of his trainers he started with minimal movement and minimal weight, throwing darts instead of footballs, lifting only five-pound weights, and sitting in front of a mirror practicing his throwing action.
- He changed the way he plays. His right arm is still weaker than his left, so he had to relearn and alter his game to match his new body.
- He put it all into perspective. His older brother Cooper was a promising wide-receiver who had to quit football at a young age because of spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spaces within the spine, putting pressure on the spinal cord). At age 16 Peyton was told by his doctor that his neck curvature was a potential problem, but he was fortunate to be able to play without major injury for 20 years, and he didn’t take his talent for granted. He also became a proud father of twins and said that though it was hard to be fighting for the return of his physical gift, the gain of having his kids was an equalizer. “I would take that trade any day of the week,” he said.
I don’t know if Peyton received acupuncture or biopuncture, but I do know that these therapies would have helped improve local blood flow to support the healing of the injured tissues. They can also reduce inflammation, release tight muscles, and relieve pain. But you know that already, right? 😉
Have you ever hit your shin so hard that the moment it happened you knew it would be a doozie, but you get to wait a few seconds after the hit while you hold your breath and wait for the pain to arrive? You have enough time to figure out what exclamation you are going to make. Are there innocent little kid ears around? Will “shoot!” help or does this hit require something a bit more expletive?
I did this a little while ago. You can see the cut that happened immediately. But what you don’t see in this picture is the bruise that should have appeared. Should have appeared, but never did. Why? Because I immediately started a routine of applying Traumeel cream to the area. Then reapplied every 3-6 waking hours for a couple of days. No bruise. Pain went away quickly. This picture was taken 2 days after the hit, when my shin should have been a lovely shade of blue or maybe yellow.
I love colourful, but prefer my skin not display a rainbow. Thank you Traumeel! Oh, and I should mention that I do injections of Traumeel for those who have deeper pain than just a bruise.
I treat people daily for various injuries. Most of them are old injuries or repetitive strain injuries. But occasionally I also see new injuries: sprains, strains, bruises, and swelling. And sometimes I need to treat my own injuries. I recently wrote up a blog about a fall that I took, a lesson on the Grouse Grind.
I fell on my knee, leaving it bruised and swollen. I bruised my leg and my arm. And I sprained my finger. Luckily I have some remedies to treat this! To the right here is a picture of my treatments. Of course my first fix was icing my injuries to take down the swelling. But as soon as I got home I started applying Traumeel cream alternating with Lymphdiaral cream (only because I have both and depending on which was closer to me at any given time).
I also started using Lymphdiaral ampoules right away. I use these as injectables at work, but since I didn’t have any syringes at home, I drank them. The next day my homeopath friend gave me some arnica tablets, so I started taking that. Acupuncture has also helped!
Though my sprained finger is still swollen, these treatments have sped up my healing so that I was able to go kayaking a week later and do the Grind again the week after. And return to my regular yoga classes.
While I don’t want to injure myself again, it’s been a good chance for me to practice what I preach! So, if you happen to injure yourself, don’t wait until it becomes a chronic nagging issue, address the problem right away for faster healing!