Dr. Darshan S. Khalsa's Blog

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PAIN, SUFFERING, AND THE ROAD BACK TO HEALTH July 23, 2010

Pain is one of the major reasons that people seek medical attention, and physical pain is responsible for about 25% of patient visits to our practice.  Pain is very mysterious… sometimes a small stimulus can lead to great pain and likewise, very simple treatments can often lead to great pain reduction.

For physical pain, I often use a technique called “Battlefield Acupuncture”; we insert small gold plated needles into the outer ears and pain intensity usually drops dramatically in a matter of minutes. We see this happening over and over again, even with people who have been in pain for months or years….how can this possibly work?  Read on for our explanation…

What is pain?  We know it when we feel it.   Pain is often defined as an unpleasant sensory or emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.  In a larger sense, pain can include emotional suffering not specifically tied to tissue damage, but to damage of any sort.  Pain may come in all degrees of intensity, from mild to intolerable.  Duration and frequency of occurrence can increase our feelings of pain or suffering.

Pain can serve a very useful purpose to motivate us to withdraw from damaging or potentially damaging situations, protect ourselves while healing occurs, and to avoid the causes of pain in the future. Most pain resolves promptly once the painful stimulus is removed and the body/mind has healed, but sometimes pain persists despite removal of the stimulus and apparent healing of the body; and sometimes pain arises in the absence of any detectable cause.

The Western medical view is that physical pain is initiated by stimulation of nociceptors in the peripheral nervous system, or by damage/malfunction of the peripheral or central nervous systems. Traditional Chinese Medicine and other forms of Energy Medicine take a very different view:  We view pain as being primarily caused by a blockage of energy. There is an energetic network underlying our physical bodies. When this flow of energy is blocked or constricted for any reason, the body/mind senses this as pain. This applies to emotional suffering as well as physical pain.   (A classic statement of this concept for emotional pain is that attachment leads to suffering, but that is a topic for another day.)

On a physical level, pain causes our muscles to tighten, which in turn compresses the nerves and decreases blood flow.  The nerve compression can increase the feeling of pain, while the reduction in blood flow prevents tissue healing.  Pain caused by trauma is a little different since there is also an inflammatory component; in that case the swollen tissues can also reduce blood flow and compress the nerve endings.

Whatever the cause, reducing or eliminating the energy blockages reduces pain and speeds healing by increasing blood flow.  Emotional pain is more complicated, but restoring energy flow results in much the same results and reduces emotional suffering as well.

We use many techniques to remove blockages and restore energy flow in our practice: body acupuncture, herbs, homeopathy, electrical stimulation, yogic breathing, ear acupuncture,  and more.  We try to select the specific modalities that will result in the most rapid improvement for each individual.  For physical pain, I like Battlefield Acupuncture because of the often immediate and dramatic pain reduction it brings….please see our previous blog post about Battlefield Acupuncture for more specific information about this wonderful technique.

While no medical treatment works on everyone all the time, it seems clear to me that people are enduring far more pain and suffering than they need to.  Simple acupuncture techniques that restore energy flow can often dramatically reduce pain and speed recovery times.  Our own clinical results and twenty-five centuries of acupuncture history have demonstrated this over and over.

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