Muscle soreness can be caused by a number of different factors, but it is usually caused by exercise, injury to your muscles, or tension (which is often related to stress). Other factors can include osteoarthritis (and less commonly rheumatoid arthritis) in your joints, infection, and conditions such as lupus or fibromyalgia. But no matter the cause of your muscle soreness, acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can help – it's just a question of how quickly.
Despite the fact that TCM (of which acupuncture is one of the main modalities) is based on clinical trials and a not modern scientific understanding of the human body (it is over 5000 years old, after all!), it may nonetheless help you to know a little of what happens in your body to cause muscle soreness. When it comes to exercise, the soreness is caused by tiny tears in your muscles and connective tissue. This muscle soreness usually goes away on its own, although the healing can be sped up with acupuncture treatment. Arthritis, while actually a degenerative disease of your joints, is often accompanied by muscle soreness and even weakness as well. Lupus (an autoimmune disorder) and fibromyalgia (cause unknown) can leave your muscles aching terribly. These more complicated conditions can also be treated with acupuncture, and with significantly positive results. The question is only how long it will take to feel relief, but generally speaking the longer you have had the pain the deeper it is within your body, and the longer it will take to find relief. With that said, oftentimes after only a few sessions some relief occurs, although it may not be lasting until further sessions have been performed.
Injury to your muscles from a fall, car accident, poor lifting technique or otherwise obviously take longer to heal than basic exercise soreness, and so acupuncture is excellent for helping these conditions, as it helps improve blood flow, nerve conduction, and even lymph drainage, which is very important in healing. Acupuncture is also remarkable for its ability to increase your tolerance to pain, a phenomenon not quite yet figured out by science. Infection, another potential cause of muscle soreness, requires antibiotic use for treatment. TCM, while excellent for so many things, does not work quickly enough to make the use of antibiotics avoidable in this instance.
In terms of a TCM diagnosis, it is your Spleen (capitalized here to differentiate from the scientific definition) that is responsible for your muscles. In addition, energy blockage in your body is usually what manifests as pain, and so your Liver would need to be treated as well, since your Liver is responsible for governing the flow of energy in your body. Further diagnosis (i.e. through TCM pulse taking) would reveal more detail, but your Spleen and Liver would certainly be the place for your acupuncturist to start. Be sure to seek out a Registered TCM Practitioner to treat you, as this type of acupuncturist is best trained in the ancient medicine.
For more information, and to obtain your own free TCM diagnosis, contact us.
By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner
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