Ask The Acupuncturist
Car Accidents and Rapid Injury Recovery
Hey Everyone! It’s your friendly Portland neighborhood Acupuncturists. Did you know that acupuncture can help you with car accident recovery, healing from a sports injury, or recovering from a surgery? Today we want to talk about car accidents and rapid injury recovery.
Heal Better with Acupuncture
Acupuncturists are like the Electricians of the health care world. Acupuncture is no longer a mystery, it’s all about bio-electricity. We want to make sure you are keeping the lights on with acupuncture. In this article we will be talking about how acupuncture works and the 3 Stages of Injury Recovery. After every injury or surgery, acupuncture can improve and speed up that healing process. What you do now will impact how you feel in the decades to come.
“It’s Just a Flesh Wound!”
Please indulge the Monty Python reference. Fact of the matter is that we all get into pain and there is a lot more to recovering than a stiff upper lip. Some people were injured playing sports, maybe a car accident, or so many other possibilities. Other folks need help healing arthritis or chronic pain. Sometimes just sitting at our desk for hours, days, and years causes all the trouble!
Here are a few tools you need to know about and why. By taking a few simple steps you can make all the difference 20-50 years in your future. Health is the most important investments you can make.
Lets explore the 3 Stages of Healing:
- Inflammation (Many types of chronic pain and arthritis get stuck in this stage)
- Rebuild and Repair
- Remodeling and Strengthening
The actions we take at each stage of recovery will determine the speed and extent that our body can heal. Often people feel old injuries many years after the actual injury. How we heal…how the damaged tissues are repaired will determine the future.
At The WellBridge Clinic, we use Acupuncture and a number of other resources available to ensure our patients heal quickly and completely. As we guide our patients back into health, education is a foundation of our process.
How Acupuncture Helps Car Accident Recovery
If you’re going to remember anything, remember this part. Acupuncture helps the body heal after an injury by changing a multiple things in the body. A good acupuncturist doesn’t even have to work on the injury directly to help you feel better. This is crucial because after a car accident, people often have strained or torn ligaments and muscles are in spasm. Please do not twist, pop, or mash on those muscles. Don’t let the doctor, physical therapist, chiropractor, or massage therapist twist or stretch that injury. Not yet! There is a time and a place to have someone stretch, ‘pop’, or exercise that injury. Just wait until the muscles relax and the ligaments have a chance to heal with the guidance of an acupuncturist.
So how does acupuncture help?
- Firstly, Acupuncture reduces inflammation so there is less swelling and pain.
- After that, acupuncture increases circulation. This helps the muscles relax and lengthen again so people can turn your head, or bend your knee.
- At the same time, acupuncture triggers several processes in the body to reduce pain signals. We expect patients should feel at least a 50% reduction of pain during and after their acupuncture treatment. That pain relief will increase from hours to days to weeks, to months and years.
- One of the greatest benefits that acupuncture has to offer is stress reduction. After accidents many people experience hyper vigilance, poor sleep, and anxiety. Acupuncture reduces stress hormones and changes.
One important tool that our patients love are Pain Relief Patches. Martial arts masters have been using herbal pain relief for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Today we use dynamic herbal formulas and make it easy by placing them in adhesive patches. Herbal pain relief patches are pharmacologically active and improve circulation in the tissues. Keep in mind an acupuncturist will prescribe different patches for different phases and different types of injury.
Stage 1 of Injury Recovery
What is happening at Stage 1? This is the first 1-3 days after an injury or surgery. After a car accident, many people have strained and torn ligaments, muscle spasms, and pain with movement. During this time inflammation dominates the healing process.
The body’s job is to repair any torn muscles and ligaments. The injuries then undergo a series of chemical transformations to promote the formation of fibers to strengthen the repairs. The surrounding muscles are tight from the injury and to protect you by limiting your movement.
Nerves are working at this time, sending signals back to the brain for repair and to let you know something is very wrong. Towards the end of the inflammatory period, the immune system triggers cells called monocytes which ‘clean up’ the dead cells.
During Stage 1 is the only time we recommend using ice. The best choice at this time is to Rest, Ice, add Compression, and Elevate (RICE). There are crucial acupuncture treatments, nutritional herbs, and topical herbs that can expedite healing during this time.
This is an important time to schedule acupuncture. Most acupuncturists are able to lower inflammation and reduce pain without ever working on the injury itself. That’s right. We don’t have to touch the injury. That comes later. It’s important to leave that injury alone. It doesn’t need to be twisted or squeezed. Save that for later. Acupuncture works on nearby muscle groups and through your central nervous system to speed up your recovery. Our patients at The WellBridge Clinic get relief immediately during the treatment.
Stage 1 Recovery Tips
- Acupuncture (don’t worry, we don’t work at the site of injury)
- Cooling herbal pain relief patch or poultice under the compress
Stage 2 of Injury Recovery
Stage 2 is the repair phase. The body begins the process of rebuilding the damaged area. New cells begin working in the area to create scar tissue. Gently increasing circulation at this time will determine how well and how quickly the injury heals. You want well organized scar tissue. If those damaged muscles and ligaments keep getting twisted or manipulated, the repairs can cause more problems later.
There are several types of acupuncture treatments that are important during Stage 2. These acupuncture treatments balance the nearby muscle groups and increase the circulation systemically and at the site of the injury. When the muscle tissue is more relaxed and has more nerve and blood circulation, the body can repair the injuries cleanly. At this point the acupuncturist will be working on the injury as well as with nearby muscle groups. People will keep feeling better and better for longer periods of time. At this point people also report better sleep and less anxiety when getting back in a car.
During Stage 2 we minimize ice or cold therapies or use ice in conjunction with heat. We are phasing out ‘Bio-Freeze’ and other ‘Icy’ type of topical products. The goal is to enhance circulation in the area. While ice provides pain relief, it does not promote healing when used alone. We switch to topical herbal patches that increase circulation. We recommend ice only immediately after activity, aggravation of the injury, or followed by a Far Infrared Heat Therapy.
Predict the Weather with Sore Joints
Have you ever heard anyone describe pain when the weather changes? The pain that people describe when the weather changes is due to a change in the barometric pressure in the atmosphere. When the atmospheric pressure changes, pressure on fluids in our body changes also (remember we are 70% water). People often experience pain with pressure changes because the scar tissue is blocking the free flow of fluid in the damaged area. So no….grandpa wasn’t crazy. It is fluid dynamics. When we heal well, the new tissue is organized better. This is how we can avoid being reminded of our breaks, sprains, and strains in the future. That’s why we say “use your tools!” Don’t worry we can fix ‘barometric joint pain’ at anytime of life…just schedule an appointment. It’s never too late to start.
Stage 3 of Injury Recovery
Yay! It’s time for remodeling and strengthening. At this stage, new fibrous tissues are being created that can transform into stronger scar tissue for the final step in healing. Now the collagen fibers are reorganized to better support muscle tension and increase strength.
All aspects of our body operate or are influenced by electrical ion gradients. Acupuncture works by changing the electrical ion gradients in the fascia and cells. This enhances the cellular processes that are responsible for organizing and rebuilding the muscle tissue so that injury can be as strong (or stronger) as it was before the injury.
As always we are stimulating the body to heal by working from the inside-out (acupuncture and pharmacologically active nutritional herbs) and the outside-in (topical herbs). We prescribe topical herbs that increase circulation. InfraRed Heat Therapies, like moxibustion, mineral heat lamps are also important therapeutic steps.
We avoid ‘Icy’ types of topicals that promote contraction of the muscles and blood vessels. We only use ice immediately after a workout or aggravation of the injury. The goal here is to increase circulation. There are very elaborate Chinese herbal formulas in pain relief patches that are used to enhance circulation and cellular processes.
Acupuncture treatments are balanced between reducing pain, increasing circulation in the injury itself, and balancing other parts of the body that have been compensating for the injured area. Everyone is getting back to what they love to do at this point and those of us at The WellBridge Clinic get the satisfaction of another person’s speedy success.
The WellBridge Clinic Can Help
The WellBridge Clinic is a Functional Medical Clinic that specializes in Acupuncture, Herbal and Nutritional Medicine. Our Purpose has always been to get to the root of any health problem so you get better and stay better. Your healthy, vibrant life is our job.
We do that through time tested and science approved medical procedures and by educating our patients… Because the alternative is just juggling symptoms.
We are located in Portland, Oregon and serve patients locally and around the world. Click here so you can schedule an appointment or a free consultation to see how our team can help you. We are in the clinic 6 days a week. Call us anytime 503-544-9611.
John Rybak, LAc., MSAOM
Scott Baker, L.Ac., MSAOM