While most people notice a marked improvement in their symptoms following acupuncture, some feel worse before they start feeling better. In natural medicine circles, this is sometimes referred to as a healing crisis. The idea is that as your body starts undergoing the changes involved in moving toward health, things get stirred up. This can cause not only an exacerbation of current symptoms but also the recurrence of previous ailments that had been dormant.
Body parts where acupuncture needles get inserted can feel sore after needles are removed. You also may experience muscle soreness away from the needling site if a trigger or ashi point was released during your treatment. Soreness from acupuncture typically dissipates within 24 hours. However, big trigger point releases can cause residual soreness that lasts a few days.
Although less common than soreness, bruising can occur at the needling site. Sometimes bruising is the result of a hematoma, a localized collection of blood that gets initiated when the needle punctures the skin. Bruises, unfortunately, usually last longer than soreness from an acupuncture needle. Still, they generally are not anything to worry about beyond the aesthetic inconvenience.
In addition, you may experience drowsiness after your manual therapy or a “bruised” feeling in the area that you have been massaged. The drowsiness will normally subside after a couple of hours. This feeling may help you fall asleep, particularly if you have been having trouble doing so.
The bruised feeling may linger for a few days, as the tissues are not used to being manipulated in such a manner. This will not impair the healing of your condition since the small amount of “micro-trauma” caused by the massage is in the superficial layer of the body. Additionally, it signals the body to heal. This reaction will normally subside in a few days and will usually re-occur after the second or third treatment, as long as the treatment is administered at minimum, a week apart.
If a lump appears at a needling site, simply push it with pressure for 2 minutes then apply ice cube for 3-5 minutes.
Here is a list of things that can help you achieve the optimal result after treatment:
- Drink lots of water.
- Plan to rest and avoid engaging in strenuous or highly stressful activities. This is especially important for the first few visits.
- Take a hot Epsom salt bath for muscle aches and tightness in general.
- Do not over-exercise, engage in sexual activity, or consume alcoholic beverages 6 hours before or after treatment.
- Continue to take any prescription medicines as directed by your regular doctor.
- Chinese herbs or an over the counter anti-inflammation medication such as ibuprofen may be used to minimize pain associated with treatment.
- Remember to keep good mental or written notes of what your response is to treatment. This is important for your doctor to know for future visits.
Should you have any concerns or questions regarding your treatment administered by GWCM please contact our office immediately!
You don’t have to literally lie down or take a nap (although, bonus if you can). By rest, I mean, go easy. Don’t help your friend move into a six-floor walkup apartment. Don’t babysit for your sister’s colicky baby and two-month-old puppy. Don’t stay up really late that night. Some people get a jolt of energy after acupuncture, but better to savor the boost—chances are, you need it. Resting allows the physical and emotional restoration that acupuncture sets in motion to continue.
Go light on exercise
A lot of people ask whether they can workout after acupuncture. Exercise is fine—light, gradual movement can be a nice adjunct to an acupuncture treatment—but be gentle. If you’re a runner, try walking on the day you have acupuncture. If you normally take advanced yoga classes, give a beginner or intermediate class a whirl. If you’ve never hiked to the top of that mountain, acupuncture day probably isn’t the best day to try.
One of the most common questions I get from people who are going to acupuncture for pain relief is, “Should I use heat or ice?” Heat is the answer almost every time. From an acupuncture perspective, many pain conditions are caused by stagnation. Things are not moving smoothly through the channels, causing blockages that lead to pain. Acupuncture restores flow, helping to eliminate these blockages. Looking at pain in this way, ice is counterproductive—it causes things to remain stagnant and slows down the healing process. After acupuncture, choose heat.
Avoid alcohol and coffee
This is for two reasons:
1) It’s important to stay hydrated after acupuncture because it can cause toxins to be released into your system. Staying appropriately hydrated helps flush out these toxins. Since alcohol and coffee both cause dehydrating effects on the body, they should be avoided after acupuncture.
2) Alcohol and coffee mess with your bodily awareness. One of the main goals of acupuncture is to bring greater clarity and awareness to how we really feel. Since alcohol impairs the senses and coffee falsely heightens them, both can potentially counteract or mask the effects of acupuncture.
You don’t have to eliminate these things from your life, but steer clear for a day or two after acupuncture.
Turn off the TV
Acupuncture helps bring you into a place of balance, where your sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight response) is no longer in overdrive. Your mind is calmer and clearer, enjoying a respite from the overstimulating world in which we live. As soon as you click on that TV, it all comes flooding back—incessant advertising, screaming pundits, news flashes, noise and more noise. Keep the TV off and you’ll extend your state of acu-bliss.
Eat good food
Acupuncture helps bring the toxins out. Don’t knowingly put them back in by eating poor-quality food. Avoid processed foods and sugar. Think about food as sustenance, and eating as an opportunity to continue healing your body after acupuncture. When we think of food in this way, fast food and other junk become less appealing. After acupuncture, imagine the foods that would make you feel nourished and healthy, then go eat them.