Many of you know I came to acupuncture out of desperation to heal an 18-month long coccyx injury. About three weeks ago, I fell down a flight of steps backwards on my butt. (Stupidly, I decided to sit at the landing at the top of the steps to wrap a gift and I forgot where I was. When I scooched back to make a cut, I slid down backwards on my butt and then fell backwards headfirst…DUMB.) It took me several minutes to get up. I was in a lot of pain and total shock. I am so grateful I didn’t break my neck – or any other bones for that matter – but was afraid I had just reinjured a part of my body that took years to heal. Worse yet, I had a conference in Florida in less than 36 hours and was concerned there was no way I’d be able to travel.
My entire sacrum hurt, and my left arm and elbow were scraped and starting to swell and bruise. Like many of you, my first response was to put ice on my injuries. And then I stopped. I know that ice, while seeming to relieve pain, prevents the body from pursuing its natural healing response. I asked my son to get my moxa stick, only to realize I had given it to my brother and didn’t have any in the house. I crawled to my bedroom and immediately gave myself an acupuncture treatment consisting of some distal points and yes, I even stuck needles anywhere I could reach in my hind quarters. About five minutes into my treatment, as Murphy’s law would have it, the landscapers I was waiting on for an estimate had just arrived. I removed the needles and very slowly walked outside to chat with them. When we were done, I went back into my bedroom and gave myself a full acupuncture treatment using distal points. My husband stopped by my office on the way home and brought me a moxa stick, so after my treatment, I went to the garage and treated myself with moxa.
Moxa is short for moxibustion, a Chinese method of healing that involves the burning of an herb called mugwart. Moxa comes in many forms: It can be loose and applied to the end of a needle and burned to provide deep warmth to the tissue where the needle is placed, it can be molded into little cones that rest on cardboard with holes that prevent burning but allow the heat to reach the skin, and it can be molded into what looks like a cigar and burned near the injured area to bring blood and lymph to the area. It prevents bruising and facilitates fast healing in a way I’ve not seen with other modalities. Time and again, I will have patients who tear tendons, suffer bruises from falls or who come post-surgery and experience rapid healing with a few moxa treatments. I often hear, “My doctor commented on how fast I healed. He/she couldn’t believe it.”
The next day, I went to a local acupuncturist for a full treatment that included needle moxa and e-stimulation (e-stim). E-stim is another modality where wires are attached to acupuncture needle and a small electrical current is added to facilitate healing. The treatment was amazing and allowed me to travel with little pain. Fortunately, I was at a conference with other acupuncturists, so one was kind enough to do a distal treatment (on my head, no less!) Four treatments in three days and I was fixed.
Today, I came upon this article in Men’s Health that talks about the lack of proof for the efficacy of using ice. At 84 yrs. old, Dr. Gabe Mirkin, who coined the term “the RICE protocol” (which stands for “rest, ice, compression and elevation”) now says, “My RICE guidelines have been used for decades, but new research shows rest and ice actually delay healing and recovery.”
The article details the three required stages of soft-tissue healing: inflammation, repair and remodeling. When you apply ice to an area, it constricts the blood vessels and doesn’t allow the white blood cells or the body’s lymph system to clear out the damaged cells. Moxa, on the other hand, brings blood and warmth to the point of injury and helps facilitate the body’s natural inflammatory response which actually reduces swelling more quickly. Movement and e-stim further support the body’s ability to heal.
So next time you’re injured, you might want to try acupuncture, moxibustion and/or e-stim instead of ice. Besides, RICE is best served with shrimp and veggies, in my opinion.