The healing process is an amazing thing. When you heal, damaged tissues regenerate, broken bones knit and grow back together, lungs recover after years of smoking, and even your brain forms new pathways after an injury. Despite traumatic injuries, illness, and everyday bumps and bruises, your body is programmed to heal.
Sometimes we forget that we’re hardwired to heal, especially if the process of getting better is taking longer than you think it should. The reality is that as you get older, you heal at a slower rate than when you were a child. In addition, the amount of trauma involved or severity of the illness, your overall health, and even the amount of pain you’re in can affect the rate at which your body heals.
The good news is that acupuncture can play an important role in speeding up your recovery in a number of ways. Researchers have found that it increases the amount of white blood cells locally where the needles have been placed, which acts to reduce inflammation. Acupuncture affects your brain chemistry to control pain through the increased circulation of your body’s own natural opioids. Furthermore, your overall circulation in enhanced by acupuncture, which clears out toxins and brings regenerative nutrients to the area of injury. Acupuncture can also help you keep your head in the healing game. It’s effectiveness in reducing stress and treating depression and anxiety is recognized through extensive research.
It’s also important to know that there are a number of things that you can do to help or hinder the speed at which you heal. Among them:
- Rest. Everything your body does, from thinking to digesting to moving your muscles takes energy, or Qi, and healing is no exception. Your body’s cells regenerate and recover while you’re resting or asleep, which is why it’s common to feel exhausted after a surgery or an illness. Give your body the time it needs to heal by conserving your energy through rest and getting enough hours of good sleep.
- Eat well. Not only is your body using a lot of energy to heal, but it also needs the building blocks to regenerate itself. That translates into eating as well as your appetite and digestion will allow. Getting adequate protein, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and plant-based fats are crucial. Also, don’t worry too much about gaining a couple of pounds while you’re recovering. Those pounds represent extra energy that you need to heal. There will be plenty of time to think about your weight when you’re up and moving around once again.
- Keep your spirits up. It’s easy to become frustrated, bored, fearful, stressed, and even depressed by your current state of health. It may be helpful to know that those feelings are common in people who are recovering from injury or illness. You may feel like you’ll never get better, worry about things that aren’t getting done, or think about how your life has been changed by your current state of health. It can be helpful to talk about your feelings to a family member, friend, or health professional. In addition, acupuncture can be an effective way to boost your mood, relieve stress, and deal with depression.
- Allow yourself the time to heal completely. It’s frustrating to feel like you will never heal, and you may feel the urge to test your body before it’s ready. In a word, don’t. Pushing too much too soon is a recipe for reinjuring yourself or reversing some of the progress you’ve already made. Give your body the time it needs to heal completely; you’ll be up and around soon enough.
- Don’t be a hero when it comes to pain. It’s incredibly difficult for your body to heal when you’re in a great deal of pain. If you’re hurting, talk to your doctor about pain medication, get some acupuncture, or try over the counter analgesics.
- Listen to what your body is telling you. It will tell you when you’re good to go. If you’re still feeling exhausted, in pain, or not feeling quite right, give things a rest. Your body is still healing.
- Tap into what complementary therapies have to offer. In addition to acupuncture, working with a massage therapist or physical therapist can be an effective way to speed up the healing process.
The bottom line is that how you care for yourself is an important component to getting better as quickly as possible. And when it comes to self-care, acupuncture can be a valuable healing tool. Your acupuncturist may add Chinese herbs, heat therapy, dietary changes, and bodywork to your treatments for the best results. A few acupuncture sessions can work wonders to relieve your pain, help you sleep better, reduce your stress, alleviate inflammation, and speed up your recovery process.