11.10.2013

From Pain To Pleasure

Article originally featured in FOP Magazine.

“No Pain, No Gain?” Bullshit.


Your personal trainer might tell you differently, but pain is not productive and it is not therapeutic. We like to think that if something hurts we’re doing it right. Go to any gym and you’ll see everybody pushing themselves to the extreme in the name of fitness.

image by Frank-o Fotos http://bit.ly/1c2CyGP

Similarly, some people love painful, deep tissue massage, but it only leaves them sore without any lasting benefit. There is a reason why the body naturally resists when it experiences pain. 

Pain is information. It’s the body’s way of trying to get your attention, bringing your focus to the source of the issue. Whether it’s muscular tension or a broken bone, something is wrong or out-of-whack.

In Chinese Medicine, we consider pain to be a kind of blockage. Wherever there is pain there is stagnation. Things aren’t flowing the way they’re supposed to. Stagnation can be physical (back pain, a sprained ankle, headache, etc.) or emotional (stress, anger, depression, etc.). The longer stagnation is allowed to build up, the worse it becomes.

So how do you break up stagnation and get things moving? You can stretch, get a therapeutic massage, or you could try acupuncture.

What Do The Needles Do?
I am sure you are wondering how a little needle can make your pain go away. Imagine that the body is a system of lakes, rivers, and streams. There are areas of excess (raging rapids) and there are areas of deficiency (drought). Inserting an acupuncture needle into specific points is like opening up a gate or dam and letting all of that water flow freely, reducing the excess and building up the deficiency, until it levels out.

This movement can help break up stagnation and reduce your pain. Now if that explanation is a little too woo woo for you, no worries, the Western explanation is kinda similar. When an acupuncture needle is inserted into the skin, your nerves send signals back to your central nervous system alerting the body of this foreign invasion. This is when shit starts moving. Feel-good endorphins are released, oxygenated blood starts flowing, your immune system gets activated. Just like the woo woo water image, all this movement makes you feel good and reduces your pain.

Acupuncture is phenomenal at breaking up stagnation and relieving pain, but if you have never experienced it firsthand, I’m sure the idea of being poked with needles sounds frightening and far from the uber zen image typically conjured. 

Many people ask me if acupuncture is painful and I quickly reply “no.” Now don’t get me wrong, you definitely feel something when those tiny hair- thin needles are inserted, but I wouldn’t call it pain. With my patients I talk a lot about sensation, because you definitely want to feel something. It may feel electric, buzzing, humming, or heavy - the list goes on and on. Sometimes you may not feel anything at all. It all depends on what you’re being treated for, what point is being needled, and of course the technique and skill-level of the acupuncturist. 

The more acupuncture you get, the more things start to move freely, the less intense the sensation becomes.

What’s The Point?
Most people already associate acupuncture with its pain-relieving abilities, but its potential goes far beyond that. A study done last year actually proved that acupuncture can reduce stress on a cellular level. 

Even if you think you can handle the daily stressors that life throws your way (living in a city, commuting from place to place, work deadlines, family/relationship obligations, financial worries, lack of sleep, self-induced pressures, etc.), both short- and long-term stress are wreaking havoc on your body. 

Stress makes you fat, stress contributes to premature aging, and stress can have a negative effect on your sex life. Getting acupuncture on a regular basis can help to counteract stress’ nasty effects on the body.

Acupuncture taps into the central nervous system, taking us out of the fight or flight state and puts us into the rest and digest state. This is why people who get acupuncture for issues like knee pain begin to notice their digestion improve and their sleep deepen.

Because of its endorphin-releasing abilities, acupuncture usually leaves people feeling pretty blissed-out after a treatment. Acupuncture can help with detoxification process and can be very helpful if you are trying to quit smoking (or other drugs).

Unlike most of Western medicine, acupuncture and Chinese Medicine looks at the whole person and acknowledges that pain is usually a sign of something deeper. Getting acupuncture is like hitting the reset button, but if you don’t address the root of your issue its probably gonna come back.


A well-trained acupuncturist can help you get to the root of your issue, whether it’s pain or something more complex. To find the acupuncturist who is right for you visit: acutakedirectory.com.