I am endlessly fascinated by the similarity of response people have to a given situation. Psychologically, we may each show up in our own unique way. But in terms of the end result, I observe the same patterns take place day after day in my practice. This is a very brief article about acute injuries – neck pain, back pain, tendonitis, fractures, sprains and strains, black and blue marks, pulled muscles, etc. Specifically, it is an observation of how people generally respond to injures, and some basic guidelines in Chinese medicine for dealing with them.
There are three mistakes I see on a daily basis. Observation of the following three rules will insure a more rapid and complete recovery from injury, be it acute or chronic:
• Do not ice. Icing is almost never the correct thing to do from a Chinese perspective, despite the fact that it is always the first thing to do from a Western perspective. Ice causes circulation to literally freeze. Although this may feel good in the short term, the long term consequence is diminished capacity for healing. Pain always arises from blockage, and ice always causes blockage. Acupuncture, internal herbs, and topical applications can reduce swelling and pain without causing impediment to circulation and healing.
• If it hurts, don’t do it. No pain no gain is a cute concept, but it has no place in the treatment of pain and injuries for the majority of the people. It is generally our ego which gets hurt more than our bodies, and we respond with great willfulness to keep on going. However, this is generally wasted energy. Rehabilitation, stretching, and strength training all have their places, but typically they come a little further down the line. Blockages need to be resolved before any of these can happen successfully. In a practical sense, in addition to proper treatment, this means rest and more rest. Pain is a biological mechanism which keeps us from doing things which injure us even further. Yet, I find that getting people to stop doing things which aggravate their condition is one of the hardest things to accomplish, second only getting them to make dietary changes.
• When you think you’re ready, wait two more weeks. The second people feel better, they are right back to it. With acupuncture, reduction of symptoms can sometimes be immediate. But pain can resolve long before the tissue is healed. What is so important that it can’t wait? Sometimes pain is there exactly for the purpose of making us slow down and look. When we do not do this willingly, we are sometimes forced to do it. In the end, there is no shortcut. Proper self care early on will almost always lead to a quicker recovery. Forcing the process will generally cause it to drag out.