Publisher: Ropati Hebenstreit
Writers: Meg Blaser, Cheance Adair, Harvie Allison, Gaylord Wilcox, Cheryl Skribe, Liko Wallace, Cara Mazzei
Photos: Peter Caldwell, Brian Vestyck, Harvie Allison, www.photo-ducos.nc, Jon Brunk Photography: Ropati Hebenstreit
Proof reader: Amy Hebenstreit
Mission Statement: to bring the excitement of outrigger paddling to a larger audience. We feel that Pacific Paddler’s hui of supporters, contributors, subscribers and advertisers is helping the sport grow, not only here in Hawaii, but around the world. Thanks for your contribution to the sport.
Improve performance with Chinese medicine
by Meg Blaser, LAc, D.OM, LMT complementarycareclinic.com
More and more, paddlers are turning to Chinese Medicine to speed the healing process of injuries, and to improve their performance. With the use of acupuncture and Chinese healing herbs, Chinese Medicine can not only treat the symptoms of pain and discomfort, but can actually strengthen underlying imbalances and prevent reocurrences.
The following are the most common sites of musculoskeletal injury, according to a 2009 survey conducted by the John A. Burns School of Medicine on O’ahu: shoulder (40%), back (26%), wrist/hand (10%), elbow (9%), & neck (9%). Other common illnesses that are related to paddling are: heat illness (33%), exposure to coral or sea creatures (32%), and skin infections (24%). The use of acupuncture and herbs is being used to successfully treat pain, inflammation, and infection in a way that boosts the body’s own healing mechanisms.
Acupuncture and healing herbs will relieve pain, reduce inflammation, release pressure, improve blood circulation, boost the immune system to promote healing, increase endorphin levels to create calm and focus, and increase energy. In addition, herbal formulas can be administered to effectively treat bacterial, viral and fungal infections.
Acupuncture has been used for over 4,000 years to treat health problems and associated pain, and for good reason. How does it work? The following lists several ways that acupuncture promotes healing, and reduces pain and discomfort:
• Acupuncture promotes blood flow. This is significant because everything the body needs to heal is in the blood, including oxygen, nutrients we absorb from food, immune substances, hormones, analgesics (painkillers) and anti-inflammatories. Restoring proper blood flow is vital to promoting and maintaining health. Blood flow decreases as we age and can be impacted by trauma, injuries and certain diseases. Acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow and vasodilation in several regions of the body.
• Acupuncture stimulates the body’s built-in healing mechanisms. Acupuncture creates “micro traumas” that stimulate the body’s ability to spontaneously heal injuries to the tissue through nervous, immune and endocrine system activation. As the body heals the micro traumas induced by acupuncture, it also heals any surrounding tissue damage left over from old injuries.
• Acupuncture releases natural painkillers. Inserting a needle sends a signal through the nervous system to the brain, where chemicals such as endorphins, norepinephrine and enkephalin are released. Some of these substances are 10-200 times more potent than morphine!
• Acupuncture reduces both the intensity and perception of chronic pain. It does this through a process called “descending control normalization”, which involves the serotonergic nervous system.
• Acupuncture relaxes shortened muscles. This in turn releases pressure on joint structures and nerves, and promotes blood flow.
• Acupuncture reduces stress. This is perhaps the most important systemic effect of acupuncture. Recent research suggests that acupuncture stimulates the release of oxytocin, a hormone and signaling substance that regulates the parasympathetic nervous system. You’ve probably heard of the “fight-or-flight” response that is governed by the sympathetic nervous system.
The parasympathetic nervous system has been called the “rest-and-digest” or “calm-and-connect” system, and in many ways is the opposite of the sympathetic system. Recent research has implicated impaired parasympathetic function in a wide range of autoimmune diseases, including arthritis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. The use of Chinese herbal formulas is another powerful healing method. Unlike prescription drugs, herbs not only treat the symptoms, but strengthen the body, thus promoting increased health and resistance to environmental influences. Formulas contain a blend of herbs that have specific properties that promote the healing of injuries. Individual herbs have different effects in the body. Some increase blood flow, others strengthen tendons and ligaments, or help generate the growth of new tissue. There are herbal analgesics for pain, and herbs that are anti-viral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal. A special herbal formulation can be prescribed that will contain the right herbs for the condition being treated.
Typically, a Chinese medicine practitioner will examine the overall health of the athlete. A diagnosis is based on past injuries, along with other health issues including stress, sleep patterns, nutrition, and the condition of the body as a whole. Treatment is then used to bring the patient’s mind, body, and spirit into balance, promote and speed the healing of the injury or illness, and at the same time optimizing the overall health of the athlete.
Mark Inouye, a member of Lokahi Canoe Club, paddles, runs and weight trains every week. His ability to perform was affected by sciatic pain that had gradually worsened over the past three years. ‘‘Acupuncture worked wonders to reduce the pain from sciatica that was affecting my ability to sprint. After only two treatments, I was able to return to my previous running form.” The road to improved health and well-being begins with relief from pain and suffering, but it doesn’t end there. Chinese medicine is a form of true health care because it addresses the body as a whole. Through balancing and harmonizing the systems of the body, it supports the natural processes that maintain health.
Meg Blaser is a licensed acupuncturist at the Complementary Care Clinic in Kailua on O’ahu. She uses many healing methods, including massage therapy, herbal medicine, acupressure, and other therapeutic techniques. She draws upon her skills to create individual treatment sessions that respond to the needs of each patient as they seek relief from pain and discomfort.