Trigger Point Acupuncture is quickly gaining recognition in America as a safe, fast, very effective way to treat pain due to muscle knots (also known as trigger points).
This article will fill you in on some best practices to take care of yourself after getting trigger point acupuncture. At City Acupuncture, we always suggest trigger point patients read this article after their first session.
Pretty much everything on this list is common sense, or at least it will be once you are familiar with how trigger point acupuncture works.
So How does it work?
At the most basic level, trigger point acupuncture works by releasing muscle knots (also known as trigger points). There is still some controversy over exactly how muscle knots form, but once they are there they can cause a lot of pain.
The key here is blood flow. Every cell in your body requires access to blood in order to bring nutrition in and waste out of the cell. Muscle cells in particular work very hard and as a result can generate a lot of waste. When a knot forms in a muscle, blood flow is restricted to some of the muscle's cells. This leads to a lack of nutrition and a pileup of waste in those blood-deprived cells. This is what causes the pain signal - your muscle is letting your brain know that there is a problem with the blood flow to the knotted cells.
In a trigger point acupuncture session a skilled, licensed acupuncturist uses a hair-thin acupuncture needle to get through the muscle knot and trigger the affected muscle into rapid contraction. It's almost like the needle tip pushes a reset button on the muscle, causing it to jump in response. By regularly causing this jump for a short period, the acupuncturist can undo the muslcle knot, flooding the area with new blood to nourish the tired muscle and wash away the built up waste. The pain signal stops because there is no further need for the muscle to tell the brain that there is a problem.
Ok, so now that you know that trigger point acupuncture works by releasing muscle knots and reclaiming full blood circulation through the affected area, the following tips should make a lot of sense:
1. Drink a lot of water.
If this doesn't immediately sound like common sense consider this: your blood is predominantly made up of water. By drinking a lot of water you are giving your body the material it needs to create new blood, which increases your overall blood volume. This in turn increases circulation because there is more blood to go around, so to speak.
2. Use a heating pad.
Heat is a vasodilator. This is a fancy way of saying that heat makes your blood vessels bigger. The bigger the vessel, the more blood can fit through at a time. So, since the name of the game is blood circulation (getting fresh blood through the area to nourishthe cells and take away waste), a heating pad is a good friend indeed after trigger point acupuncture. For the full story on heat, feel free to check out this previous post on the difference between using ice and heat for muscle pain.
3. Gentle movement is key.
It is best not to overwork a muscle immediately after trigger point acupuncture. Going to the gym the next day might be fine but it's important not to overdo it, or to start working out again too soon. Instead, favor gentle movements to increase blood circulation through the area. If the pain is in your back, be sure to get up at least once every hour while working on a computer to walk around. If the pain is in your neck and shoulders, swing your arms and roll your head every 30 minutes or so.
4. Give it time.
It is very common to feel sore after trigger point acupuncture! By maintaining a healthy blood flow through the affected area you can limit the amount of soreness substantially. In all cases the soreness should be gone by the day following your session.
And there you have it - If you follow the 4 simple rules of water, heat, gentle movement, and time, you can be sure to make the most out of your trigger point acupuncture session. If you have any questions about trigger point acupuncture, don't be shy! Just click here to contact me- I usually can respond within 24 hours.