Pain from injuries or overuse are one of the main reasons people seek an acupuncturist. It is also the most common reason doctors refer patients to my Portland acupuncture practice. Acupuncture is well-documented to relieve pain, and works as a stand-alone treatment or in conjunction with other therapies. As we enter spring then summer, many of you will spend weekdays at the office and weekends being active. Portland offers tons of options for weekend activity: races, Sunday Parkways, hiking in the city/the Gorge/the mountains, taking a rock climbing trip to Smith Rock, or camping at the coast. You push the physical limits of your bodies this time of year, then deal with the consequences. What follows is DIY pain relief followed by a special Weekend Warrior Treatment offer:
Make friends with a foam roller
Foam rolling is a great habit to start. Buy this specially shaped foam, and use your body weight to help roll and massage your tight muscles. This works best for larger muscle groups, like your back, glutes, and legs. It can even help you work on that pesky IT band. You’ll find how-to videos on YouTube that can teach you how to work with your foam roller. Use it daily if you have any chronic problems, like a chronically tight low back from sitting at your desk, or knee issues from a tight IT band because you bike commute. Foam rolling is not for acute injuries, but is great for tight/overworked muscles.
Invest in some topical tools
Topical relief can be a life saver in that first day or two of a strained muscle. You know the days — when it is hard to sit down, when getting out of bed is a task. Here’s the deal, though: most of the topical pain relief products out there don’t really do much. Here are some that do:
- One of the best I’ve found that you can buy locally in Portland is called Bobcat Balm. It actually does lessen your pain for a while. It’s pretty incredible.
- There is also an essential oil blend by DoTerra (full disclosure: I do have a DoTerra account, but only accidentally — I do not sell them, I actually do not find them overall to be that great — except for this one) called Deep Blue that has gotten me through a muscle spasm and has benefitted patients with pain. It has camphor, wintergreen, blue tansy oil, and helichrysum which all help reduce inflammation and pain and improve circulation.
- Topical arnica salve or gel can be really helpful for sore muscles. It is best known for the treatment of bruises, but I find it to be a life saver when I pick up a long-neglected activity, like the first snowboard of the season, the first time in a Barre class in 6 months, or the first run after a long absence. Combined with homeopathic oral arnica beads, you get a double whammy that can make a big impact in hastening recovery.
Warm it up
If you’re still solely using ice for your pain, it’s time to diversify. In Chinese medicine we almost always favor heat for pain (unless it is searing hot pain with visible redness and swelling as in a fresh injury), and now standard Western science is backing us up. Ice can make a spasm or tight muscle worse. The idea of using ice on an inflamed injury is justified — heat may make swelling and pain increase. However, the icing phase should be short, and is often limited to only the first day. Then heat, particularly moist heat, can make you feel a lot better. It also stimulates circulation, which theoretically can speed up the healing process. Usually, if you follow the rule of doing what feels the best, you will also be doing what helps the most.
There you have it. Those are some of the things that I keep on hand at home to use whenever I have muscles tightness, pain, or mild injury. You’ll find all of the things I mentioned in my medicine cabinet, and I’ve used all of these things on my husband and kids as well. Do you have any favorite go-to treatments for overworked muscles? I’d love to hear about them in the comments. And read on if you live in the Portland area and need a little recovery boost!
Weekend Warrior Acupuncture Treatment
Now that the sun is coming out more often, you will no doubt be trying to make the most of each rain-free moment. If you find that you overdid it and need some help, come on in for the Weekend Warrior Treatment. It includes the following:
One pain-focused acupuncture session
+ 15 additional minutes of cupping, moxa, or electrical stimulation
(whichever is most appropriate)
+ One topical pain reliever to take home
All for $99.
A savings of $30.
Click here for scheduling.