Bret Moldenhauer D.Ac, L.Ac, of the Institute for Acupuncture and Wellness, writes:
The Eskimo people have about seven different words to describe the many formations of snow in their environment. Traditional Chinese Medicine shares this phenomenon in regards to the concept of pain. It is important to realize that pain is a stimulus. Pain can be a symptom as well as a disease. It can be a measure of recovery, or a sign of complications. One thing is very clear when it comes to the TCM model of pain: Qi and its movement cannot be separate from the concept of pain. Qi is the basic energy that pervades all forms of life, animate and inanimate. The nature of Qi is one of constant movement. When this movement is blocked or restrained disease can arise. The job of an acupuncturist is to maintain and guide the flow of Qi through your body. There is a well know theory in TCM that states, “Where there is blockage there is pain. Remove the blockage, remove the pain.”
During the needling process the goal is to stimulate the movement of Qi in the body. When needling one may feel numbness, soreness, aches, distention, electric, flowing, hot, cold or a combination. These sensations are all manifestations to the western mind as different types of pain. In TCM these different sensations give us clues to what the body is telling us. Acupuncture therapy takes advantage of this feedback by allowing the brain to process the input. Letting the brain recognize these sensations is actually part of the healing process; some would say the treatment would be incomplete without them.
Because the nature of acupuncture is to move, tonify or sedate energies it is not uncommon to feel many of the sensations well after the treatment — in some cases after several days. Some patients have reported feeling aches along the surface of their legs or down their back a day or two after a treatment. These are sensations of energy moving well after the activation process was initiated. Pain that would not be a part of this process would be any bruising occurred from broken blood vessels during the treatment, or sharp searing burning pain caused by nerve damage.
In some cases needling deep into certain trigger points can cause some soreness for the day. It is important to drink plenty of water after a treatment due to the fact that many toxic elements can be released into the body for elimination. These toxins can be a source of discomfort most commonly known as the healing crisis. This is a necessary step in cleansing the body and can be a sign of a healthy transition. Talk with your acupuncturist about pain and your concept of pain. He or she will be able to help you see pain and its many faces in a more complete light. Pain is not just something to be frightened about or avoided but used as a tool to help guide your course of treatment and track your success.