As an acupuncturist I often see muscular and tendon injuries and occasionally ligament problems. Treatment helps speed up repair, though the hardest part of rehab for some clients is adjusting their behaviour to let the injury heal. Here are my top tips for getting back to health quicker.
Seek professional advice and get a diagnosis and treatment early. As an acupuncturist I can’t give you a western diagnosis but treat on the basis of my Chinese diagnosis. Sometimes I will recommend seeing a physiotherapist or osteopath for exercises and manipulation, to help speed up your rehabilitation. Where posture is poor I sometimes suggest the Alexander Technique.
Follow your rehabilitation plan carefully and consult with your therapist if you are unsure of what you are doing. The biggest difficulty it seems for clients is doing their rehab exercises or changing their lifestyles (for example, working less or not at all on their laptop to reduce neck strain; not going back to their training schedule too soon). However much clients may want to get better, changing routines is difficult for most people but can hinder successful treatment or slow progress if not done.
Avoid or at the very least be careful of, self-treating via internet information as some can be inaccurate and misleading. The wrong exercises can aggravate injuries and increase the pain and overall healing time. For example, a tendon can be inflamed or suffering from degeneration with no inflammation – taking anti-inflammaties for the second type of injury will be useless. Get specialist advice and make sure you are being advised on doing these exercises correctly. A physiotherapist can help with this. Then longer term a well-informed personal trainer might work on correcting muscular weaknesses and imbalances.
Be prepared to work hard in your rehab and also be patient with your injury. The body takes time to heal, even with the correct diagnosis and early treatment. We all want a quick fix but sometimes this won’t happen. A tendon injury can take 6 weeks to heal, though if there is degeneration, it can be 6 months or longer.
When exercising make sure you warm up and cool down after the main exercise routine is completed. Bring the body back to its normal resting state with care. Make sure your warm up and cool down exercises are done with the same mental and physical focus as the main exercise itself. Don’t think of exercise as just going to the gym or playing sports, exercise can be gardening, walking the dog or physical activities at work too.
Posture is something all people should be aware of throughout their lives in all activities they do, both work and leisure. If you feel pain when doing an activity of any type or even when resting ask yourself why? Can changing position and correcting posture relieve the pain? Poor posture over a long time can be the cause of chronic pain in later life. Look after the body now in order to keep it healthy in the future. Get a professional practitioner to give you advice or assess your posture if you are not sure. See an osteopath, physiotherapist or Alexander Technique Teacher.
Moderate your exercise with appropriate rest. The body needs time to recuperate after activity, especially when recovering from any type of injury. Pushing the body too hard without rest will inevitably cause it to break down during your rehab or at some time in the future. Take into account your fitness level and age to gauge your exercise intensity. A technique if you have chronic pain is to pace yourself. Record your activity and pain levels throughout the day. See what aggravates you and then programme more rest periods (a good example of this technique is explained in this book Mindfulness for Health : A practical guide to relieving pain, reducing stress and restoring wellbeing by Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman.)
Traditional acupuncture can help with most musculoskeletal injuries, its holistic diagnostic methods can help not only treat the initial injury and aid its recovery but also highlight underlying weaknesses which may help in avoiding further injuries in the future. It has no side effects and will only help speed up recovery.
This short video from my professional association The British Acupuncture Council helps explain how acupuncture helps to heal injuries: