July 26th 2006 - Copyright by Karen S. Vaughan.
There are different nonpharmaceutical ways to deal with the pain.
According to gate theory, a little pain drives out a larger pain, up to a certain threshold. So for instance I might drive my index fingernail into my thumb when pain starts to get too bad.
With acupuncture, needles stimulate the body's immune cascade and endorphins and encephalins, chemicals that cause relaxation and good feelings flood the area.
Increasing circulation also has a good effect on pain, which is why linements work. Heat or capascin-based linements or cool stimulating menthol-based linements will increase circulation. The cool linements like Icy-hot are best for the early stages of acute pain, while the warming ones are better for longer term pain.
Circulation also comes from massage, electro-stimulation acupuncture, tens units, ultrasound, qi gong machines and even hands on healing like Reiki or Therapeutic Touch which uses body sound waves emitted through the giver's hands. (Bet you didn't know you emitted sound waves, but you even have radio waves.)
Much of the pain comes from blockages to energy or blood circulation. Sometimes you need a vigorous and sometimes painful stimulation to break the blockage- trigger point massage, some needling, chiropractic. This can be especially true of nerve pain.
Scarring causes blockages, so after the acute healing is over, you might want to find an acupuncturist to needle the scars so you can reintegrate the energy locked up in the scar. It makes the scars go down or go away too. They "surround the dragon" with tiny needles that go from good skin to scar tissues, and the microcirculation helps the scars to go away.
Sometimes deep relaxation unblocks circulation, where muscle contraction has prevented the free flow of blood and qi. Sacro-cranial osteopathy, Japanese acupuncture or network chiropractic is very subtle, and gently unblocks and balances.
I once had a serious back spasm that left me doubled up like a 90 year old lady with arthritis, and I needed a cane to walk. I was doing weight-loss hypnosis at the time, so I hobbled over. The therapist gave me a half hour session (only focusing on the weight loss) and then I used the light and sound machine with recorded therapy. When I finished, to my surprise, I was able to stand straight and walk without the cane. The deep relaxation allowed the blood to flow into the area and to unblock the pain so the pain chemicals could dissapate.
And stretching and differential strengthening is really key for healing from pain. We often reinjure ourselves with bad posture which stresses joints and muscles. Especially after a trauma, where pain is locked up in our muscles, we need to gently stretch and unlock the body. The fright of an accident or other trauma can cause contractions, and we need a way to let it go.
The other thing to be aware of is that we often lock emotion into our painful body areas. Emotions cause physical and chemical changes in our bodies, and that gets locked into a cramp or pain. And sometimes it is not from the latest physical incident- a trauma can bring up old traumas. So in addition to the physical, we need to look at the emotion and give it permission to go. I find that focusing on emotions during a massage can help. Other people find that actually talking to the body part and listening to the things that come up will allow them to let go.
Our bodies are smart. Pain is an important signal from a body that something- be it a physical blockage or an emotional incident triggered recently- needs to be dealt with.
Acupuncture and Herbs by Karen Vaughan, L.Ac in Park Slope and Manhattan.
118 East 37th Street, New York, NY 10016
Brooklyn, NY 11215