Six Ways Acupuncture Can Help You Recover After Surgery

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1. Speed up healing time - Acupuncture focuses on optimizing your nervous system’s autonomic responses to stress. When the nervous system is in balance, we can reduce systemic inflammation and ensure your immune responses are switched on and targeting the correct tissues. Treating local areas affected by surgery - usually with heat rather than needles - restores circulation, bringing fresh blood and nutrients to the damaged tissue to be repaired. Ultimately speeding natural healing responses and recovery time.

2. Release and prevents scar adhesions- Adhesions are like snags in the underlying fascia around the incision site. They present as bumps, uneven dermis, discoloration, numbness, tingling or pain on or around the scar. Scar adhesions block circulation and energy flow and have been linked to some chronic post-operative conditions like pain, headaches, and depression. Japanese Acupuncture protocols never needle the scar directly but instead around and sometimes under the scar, and heat for circulation, and bringing fresh blood and nutrients to the scar site with a combination of Moxa, infrared heat and/or diode rings or ion pumping cords.

3. Integration of trauma - whether or not you were awake for surgery or remember the original incident that preempted surgery, your body holds the implicit (out of direct cognition) somatic memory of being injured/sick and operated on. The trauma is held in a network of neural pathways in subcortical levels of the brain and may be reawakened with direct or subconscious stimuli. This can present post-op as depression/sadness, mood swings, anxiety, flashbacks and ghost/phantom pain. It may also mean lowered windows of tolerance to daily stimuli such as minor stressors, loud noises, or full work schedules as the nervous system remains in a state of overstimulation or hyper-vigilance. Acupuncture helps by stimulating the Dorso-lateral Prefrontal Cortex (part of the brain the stores traumatic memories) to release the “bracing” tension from the nervous system - where the nervous system is stuck in “fight or flight” - and helps to form new neuropathways (over time) around feelings of safety.

4. Detox anesthesia and pain management medications- Most commonly an anesthesia and/or pain meds will be administered during a procedure. These can be hard for the liver to metabolize, congest lymph, interfere with digestion and/or tax the kidneys. Kiiko style acupuncture has specific protocols for detoxing medications, reducing systemic toxicity, and restoring digestive functioning.

5. Rebalances after organ removal: Surgeries to remove organs such as the gall bladder, appendix or fibroids leave an imbalance from left to right in the inner workings of the fascia through the abdomen, which can throw off the alignment and tension patterns in the deep core abdominals. Based on the principals of Chinese medicine and Japanese Hara Diagnosis, these stagnant areas can eventually lead to constriction around organs and impaired function, but can also be released again with the right choice of treatment to counter-balance and release adhesions.

6. Aids ligament, joint and muscle function: If you had surgery on a limb, the movement patterns are affected both pre- and post-surgically due to casting/bracing/crutches/immobilization. During the recovery period, the gait and movement patterns shift to protect the affected area as it takes time to heal. The body wants to prevent any further injury, which is necessary in the short-term but gets in the way of normal function later on. Without slow re-education that "yes, it is safe to move the area again", the muscles may start to freeze in response to pain. This then creates a cascade effect of over-compensation methods throughout the body (i.e. hip hikes up during a step because knee or ankle won't bend, which then affects the low back, ribcage, shoulders and neck). Acupuncture, in line with physical therapy, helps safely and gently stimulate the nerves to "wake up", speeding up activation of inhibited muscles and restoring alignment.