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How Do I Know if Acupuncture Treatments are Helping Me or Not?

If you have had acupuncture, you may have felt that deep relaxing mediative feeling during the treatment. Your body seems to adjust to just what it needs because sometimes you need a little energy boost, and you leave feeling more alive and vibrant. Other times you are on overdrive, your mind goes a mile a minute, and then you leave feeling relaxed, and calm. The treatment forces you to conserve the energy you need.

When your stomach makes a noise or quiets down when I insert a needle on the stomach channel this is a clue it is working. If you feel an itch on your nose when I insert a needle on the liver channel it is working. If you feel a needle in your shoulder, but is in your hand, it is working. If you yawn, let out a deep breath, breath deeper, let your shoulders drop, fall asleep, feel a deep ache at the points, that feeling dissipates, then a feeling of heaviness comes over you. It is working.

These are signs that the treatment is working. There is a certain sensation with acupuncture a kind of heaviness, like water flowing, or a small tug like a fish biting a hook.

Because you feel good after acupuncture, and it seems to last a few days you are wondering whether the results are permanent or temporary.

They are cumulative. Perhaps you have less pain afterwards, and then it seems to creep back in, or come and go. There might be counteractive forces interfering with the therapeutic effect such as you are doing something that is continuing to irritate the painful area.

Sometimes we are just not sure because we have become so used to the pain that we don’t recognize it when it is changing. Others may notice that you don’t complain as much, and that you can do more before getting tired.

Here are some objective ways you can measure your progress.

The efficacy of acupuncture is measured by the number treatments needed for maximum pain relief, and the duration of pain relief.  It depends on the interaction between a patient’s self-healing potential, the severity and nature of the symptoms, or whether the symptoms or disease is healable. (1).

Track your progress: This is how you will know that you are improving. A few people like to say that it is not helping at all. They feel the same. It is usually not true. When you know what positive results to look for you can stop focusing on the negative, and you will decide to see the positive. It becomes a snowball effect in the right direction from there.

  • Before you begin treatment. Rate your pain on a scale, and problem occurrence frequency (how often you experience it). Rate yourself again after a series of treatments.
  • Rate your ability to recover after an aggravation, set-back, or activity that usually causes problems. Does it usually take you 3-5 days to recover? After a series of treatments are you noticing you bounce back quicker?
  • Note what activities you are not able to do, and which ones cause you pain, before beginning treatment? After a series of treatments, are you able to do things that you weren’t before treatment? Like tie your shoes, take your jacket on and off, walk to the back of the grocery store, get in and out of your chair, get in and out of bed, brush your teeth, your hair? This in and of itself tracks mobility, range of motion, and muscle strength. The things the doctor objectively rates while you are in the office. You might still experience pain, but you are able to do more, longer, and better. The pain will gradually dissipate as you heal, and as you get back into normal daily life.
  • Check other health problems. Are they improving? Things like sleep, mood, bowel movements, appetite, energy levels, strength, breathing, abdominal bloating, gas, pain, discomfort? How’s your skin, complexion? Has it become smoother, better color, temperature? How do you feel within yourself after acupuncture? Are you complaining less?
  • Your basic labs. Have you seen improvement in blood work, cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure after treatment versus before treatments?
  • Are you taking less medication, or less pain relievers?

Rate your pain or problem on a scale of 0 no symptoms to 10 worst possible debilitating pain, or emotional affect.

  1. Severe is subjectively scored at 8, 9, or 10 worst possible pain or symptoms. This is debilitating pain. You can’t take care of yourself. You need help. You can’t drive. If it is a 10, You may be experiencing an emergency or urgent care. You are typically not in an acupuncturist’s office or other doctor’s office. The problem is constant.
  2. Less Severe is scored at 7, 8. You might wear a brace, crutch, not use the body part. Your gait is changing. Perhaps you are limping. You feel the need to take stronger pain relievers. It affects your sleep. It affects some or all your daily activities. The pain or discomfort is frequent or constant.
  3. Moderate is subjectively scored at 4, 5 or 6. It’s on top of your mind. You might need to change position, move, favor the body part, change how you do something, compensate using the other good side too much, take an over the counter or analgesic remedy. The problem is frequent, intermittent, or occasional.
  4. Mild is subjectively scored at 1, 2, or 3. The problem is mildly annoying, but it doesn’t interfere with your life. Usually, mild pain is felt only intermittently, or occasional. You don’t need to take any pain relievers for it. If you do take any pain relievers they work effectively, quickly, and you don’t need to take very often.

*Knowing that your problem is not severe, nor is it less severe should help you feel better about the outlook of your condition, and the heal ability. This often reduces the pain by reducing the emotional component.  If you are hypersensitive to pain, and your subjective pain score of 8, 10, or “My pain is off the charts a 15!”, and it doesn’t match the definition of pain severity scale consider the possibility that your pain is coming from the memory-emotional part of your brain. You might be attached to your disease or pain. You may have some depression or anxiety.

Defining how often you have the symptoms or pain occurrence:

Occurrence of pain, symptoms or emotional affect are determined by how often you experience them.

Constant symptoms occur without relief up to 100% of the time.

Frequent symptoms occur up to 75% of the time.

Intermittent symptoms occur around 50% of the time.

Occasional symptoms occur 25% or less of the time.

How Long Should It Take to Heal Your Condition?

This can depend upon normal body Tissue Healing Timelines, your individual factors mentioned earlier. This is that it depends on the interaction between a patient’s self-healing potential, the severity and nature of the symptoms, or whether the symptoms or disease is healable. Understanding this can help you have reasonable expectations for how many treatments, and for how long it will take to reach your therapeutic goals.

The right expectations will help you stay on track with your treatment plan to heal your pain, and to reach your health goals. Number one rule is don’t be too impatient!

However, this doesn’t mean keep doing therapy, and continue with tons of acupuncture without having any benefit. That is why I posted some ideas on how to track your progress. Also, the treatment plan formula will give you a pretty good idea of how many visits you might need, and when to know that it isn’t working for you at this time for this problem.

Healing is a process. Even if there is instant pain relief your body is still recovering.  I often like to point out that when you are doing good things for your body good things are happening behind the scenes that you may not see yet. Don’t give up if results aren’t immediate. It is just same as when bad things are happening behind the scenes that you don’t know about until you feel or see the disease. The disease may have been building up over time. If you can catch it in time, you may be able to reverse the damage. Reversing the damage is all about cellular renewal. Your body heals by making new healthy cells while dissolving and excreting the old defective cells.

Different body tissues have different healing times. Tissue regeneration can vary. This is very important to understand so that you can have the right expectations, and not become too impatient when you think your body isn’t healing quick enough.

Keep in mind that a red blood corpuscle (RBC) has a life cycle of 120 days that is 4 months. This is also a general timeline that it takes people on average to develop and stick to a new healthy habit. We don’t get rid of the old unhealthy habit. We start a new one instead! This is from, “The Power of Habit”, by Charles Duhigg. So, think about if you started a new exercise routine then naturally you begin to eat healthier foods. After four months these have become good habits that are now part of your regular routine. Your blood has recycled, and it is cleaner, healthier as are you! To change your health will take time at least 4 months. The results will begin to show. It is not overnight. Four months is not that long either. Some people that are in worse shape, it may take one year, some two years to experience significant long-lasting results.

Let’s look at this tissue healing timeline below and here we can see an average of somewhere between 3-4 weeks and 3-6 months to heal.


Tissue Healing Timeline with respect to Musculoskeletal injuries
  0-3 days 4-14 days 3-4 weeks 5-7 weeks 2-3 months 3-6 months 6 mo.-1 year 2 years

Rupture/full tear

    TTTTTT TTTTTT        
Muscle strain Exercise Induced
Grade I

Grade II

Grade III

I I I          
    II II II      
      III III III    
Grade I

Grade II

Grade III

  L-I L-I          
    L-II L-II L-II L-II    


        Graft Graft Graft Graft
Bone       Bone Bone      
Nerve 6-12wks       N N      
Disc    8-12wks     D D D   Full rupture 1-year  
Meniscus       M M      


Have the right expectations to treatment.

Having the right expectations can help you heal. I hate to break it to you, but healing doesn’t always mean 100% pain free. Most people really do hate pain. We don’t like anything that hurts. So, if you go into any kind of therapy, and expect to be 100% pain free within an unreasonable amount of time you will be dissatisfied. You will think it is not working and stop short of reaping any benefits. Then you move on to a different therapy. You might be doing too many things at the same time. You don’t stick to one thing to let it work for you. Eventually you move on to more drastic measures. All without any positive results. Let’s manage those expectations because if you expect too much too soon then you worry and worry and constantly focus on the problem. You think about it all the time. You worry, worry, worry that something is really WRONG! You lose trust in your own body’s healing capabilities. Any attention paid to these brain circuits reinforces them, “Where the mind goes the Qi goes”!

In his book, “Do You Really Need Spine Surgery? Take Control with a Surgeon’s Advice”, David Hanscom, an orthopedic surgeon, writes, “Most pain arises from irritation and inflammation of soft tissue surrounding and supporting your skeletal system. Since there are over a million pain receptors per square foot of soft tissue, the discomfort is often quite severe.” The source of pain usually cannot be found on an imaging test. He explains how pain from structural sources can only be identified for sure 5-15% of the time that match the symptoms. He states, “Your surgeon is guessing 85% of the time.” Even with structural sources of pain that are amenable to surgery, they may be resolvable by non-surgical means. If an anatomical abnormality shows up on an imaging study, it does not mean that it is the source of your pain. Quite often they are not. (4.)

Alas, this knowledge doesn’t often make you feel better. We often hope for a definitive answer where there is a quick fix like a medication, procedure, or surgery. You get discouraged that there is not a real definitive structural abnormality that will respond favorably to surgery. That it will be worth the recovery time, and the rehabilitation time. Change your perspective to see this as good news! Nothing is structurally wrong with you. You are not injuring yourself by following dynamic moving exercises, heat therapy, gentle stretches, meditation, acupuncture, or whatever your condition calls for. You can take control of your healthcare. Perhaps it will help bring awareness of what it is in your life that is the cause of your pain or discomfort.

Types of Pain Relief to Expect from Acupuncture

  1. Immediate Relief. This can be expected in young, healthy individuals with a simple acute problem.
  2. Cumulative Effects and Relief. Most patients feel some relief after each treatment, but the majority see major lasting effects after a series of treatments.
  3. Delayed Relief. No relief for the first few visits. Then, may suddenly experience relief 2-3 weeks after the initial visits, or series of treatments.
  4. No Relief. When this happens a break between treatments can trigger a reaction in the right direction. For healthy individuals if there is no change after 4-6 visits take a break for 1-3 weeks then resume. For elderly people, or those with multiple health problems after 5-8 visits without a change take a break for 1-3 weeks, then resume. The break in between may help the patient to conserve the necessary energy for healing the tiny holed micro-traumas created by the needling.

In a nutshell, to measure your progress start by rating at the beginning of treatment against measurements taken after six visits. The measurements include rating your pain on a pain scale, determining how frequently you feel it, your range of motion, mobility, sleep, mood, digestion, appetite, recovery, and pain medications.

With the treatment plan, and good mindset, I expect you to be feeling better in no time!

To schedule your appointment today give us a call now!

Office call: (858) 613-0792.  I love texts too. Text (858) 613-0793. I won’t receive the text if you text the office number! 


Best in Health, 

Dr. Michele Arnold



  1. Ma, Yun-tao; Cho, Zang Hee. Biomedical Acupuncture for Pain Management – E-Book. 2005. Elsevier Health Sciences. Kindle Edition.
  2. Dharmananda, Subhuti, “Restructuring American Acupuncture Practices”, May 2003.
  3. Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. Random House. 2012. NY.
  4. Hanscom, David. Do You Really Need Spine Surgery? Take Control with a Surgeon’s Advice. 2019. Vertus Press: Oakland, CA.
  5. Bernard, Rick. Orthopedic Electroacupuncture. eBook edition.
  6. Wong, Joseph Y. A Manual of Neuro-Anatomical Acupuncture, Vol I: Musculo-Skeletal Disorders. 1999. The Toronto Pain and Stress Clinic, Inc. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  7. Shu Hongwen, Clinical observation on acupuncture treatment of piriformis syndrome, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2003; 23(1): 38-39.
  8. Zhao Jianping, Acupuncture treatment of facial paralysis caused by craniocerebral trauma in 50 cases, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2003; 23(1): 47-48.
  9. Wang Caiyun, Ma Jinghua, Xiao Li, Treatment of 50 cases of sciatica by needling zanzhu and fengchi, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2003; 23(1): 51-52.
  10. Yang Tao, Liu Zhishun, and Liu Yuanshi, Electroacupuncture at ciliao and huiyang for treating neuropathic incontinence of defecation and urination in 30 cases, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2003; 23(1): 53-54.
  11. Zhang Hong, Zeng Zheng, and Deng Hong, Acupuncture treatment of 157 cases of anxiety neurosis, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2003; 23(1): 55-56.
  12. Cui Rui and Zhou Dean, Treatment of phlegm- and heat-induced insomnia by acupuncture in 120 cases, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2003; 23(1): 57-58.
  13. Wang Hairong, Acupuncture treatment of depressive syndrome after cerebral vascular accidents, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2002; 22(4): 274-275.
  14. Sun Jianhua, Warm needling and bloodletting for treatment of gonitis, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2002; 22(4): 278-279.
  15. Xiang Dongfang, et al., Ear acupuncture therapy for 37 cases of dysmenorrhea due to endometriosis, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2002; 22(4): 282-285.
  16. Wang Hongyu, Observation on the therapeutic effects of acupuncture for 60 cases of simple obesity, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2002; 22(3): 187-189.
  17. Tang Wenzhong, Clinical observation of scalp acupuncture treatment in 50 cases of headache, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2002; 22(3): 190-192.
  18. Lu Zeqiang, Scalp and body acupuncture for treatment of senile insomnia, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2002; 22(3): 193-194.
  19. Li Baomin, Chai Fuming, and Gao Hongming, Cervical spondylopathy involving the vertebral arteries treated by body acupuncture combined with scalp acupuncture in 72 cases, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2002; 22(3): 197-199.
  20. Song Jianqiao, Ischemic apoplexy-induced sequelae treated by penetrating puncture with long needles, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2002; 22(3): 200-202.

References for tissue Healing Timelines

Lifecare Kingsway Physiotherapy. “How Long Will This Take? Timeframes of Tissue Healing”. Dec. 22, 2017.

References from the article, “Tissue Healing Times, and What it Means for You”, Evolve Flagstaff. Brian Kinslow. Feb. 08, 2018.

Muscle Strains:

Ligament Sprains:


How many acupuncture treatments will I need to get rid of my pain or health problems?

close up of copper acupuncture needlesPart 3 of How to Get the Best & Quickest Results out of your acupuncture treatments?


“Acupuncture needling is the most powerful and direct method that releases tense, constricted muscles and fascia, improves blood flow, stops release of inflammatory chemicals, and relaxes the mind at the same time.”, Michele Arnold, D.A.C.M., L.Ac.


Acupuncture should be the first line of care to reduce pain because pain reduction is necessary to improve mobility and strength. It is a therapy that gives a cumulative effect to the body, and the best results are obtained by having a schedule of treatments.

Acupuncture enhances outcomes of other therapies like physical therapy, massage, and chiropractic.

So, how do you know how many acupuncture treatments will it take to get rid of your pain or health problems?

The efficacy of acupuncture is measured by the number treatments needed for maximum pain relief, and the duration of pain relief. 

  • It depends on the interaction between a patient’s self-healing potential,
  • the severity and nature of the symptoms, or
  • whether the symptoms or disease is healable. (1).

The number of treatments will vary from person to person. Some people experience immediate relief; others may take months or even years to achieve results. Chronic conditions usually take longer to resolve than acute ones. Plan on a minimum of a month to see significant changes. 

*Following the right treatment plan along with keeping reasonable expectations of results will push you in the right direction of healing. This is so important that I can’t say enough about it!

Developing A Treatment Plan
Treatment frequency, heal ability of the disease, and self-healing potential depends on a variety of factors:
• Your constitution, strong or weak.
• Current physical health status and emotional stress related issues,

  • Health problems, and emotional stress related issues over the past year.

• Past surgeries, injuries, and illnesses that may alter neuroanatomical structures.
• Medications, in particular aspirin, blood thinners, statins, steroids, opioids, and Gabapentin/Neurontin that block the body’s natural healing abilities.
• Age.
• How long you’ve had the problem and the severity.
• Weather the problem is a mechanical, structural, or chronic systemic nervous system dysfunction.

An acupuncturist may suggest 1-3 treatments per week, daily visits for several days, or monthly visits for health maintenance and seasonal “tune ups”.

  • One course of Acupuncture Therapy per one condition generally can be between 10-15 treatments for chronic conditions that are moderate, or severe in nature.
  • Newer milder cases may need 6-8 treatments. After a 1–3-week break, this could be followed by another course of therapy if necessary.
  • For more comprehensive and lasting effects follow a Corrective Care plan to address underlying organ-meridian imbalances over the course of months or a year. The corrective care plan usually includes dietary, herbal, exercise, and meditation practices as well as the acupuncture therapy.
  • This treatment plan table below works for the average person, not considering nature of specific disease, or the patient’s general health and self-healing potential.
  • This is also assuming that both the practitioner and the patient have availability to meet the timeframe. If not, try and get as close as possible so that the appointments are not spread too far apart. Otherwise, you are prolonging resolution of the problem. This treatment plan table works well.


  1. 1st Month 3-5x per week for chronic/severe
  2. 1st Month 2-3x per week for moderate problem
  3. 1st Month 1-2x per week for mild problem
  4. 2nd Month 2-3x per week for chronic/severe problem
  5. 2nd Month 1-2x per week for moderate problem 
  6. 2nd Month 1x per week for mild problem

Or within a given total quantity needed per condition.

Mild 3-6 Tx; Moderate 6-12; Severe, long-standing 10+


Measuring Progress with reasonable expectations

  • Consider problem resolved if No pain or symptoms return for at least 14 days.
  • Considering whether or not there is something you are doing or not doing that is getting in the way of healing. 
  • Chronic problems, and those with nervous system dysfunction the symptoms may return,
  • Then another course visits will be needed to keep the pain under control for another 4 to 6 months.
  • To understand why healthy management of daily life stressors, mental outlook, belief systems, and lifestyle contribute to health or disease see Part 1-“What is the Real Source of My Pain or Disease?”
  • Healing is a process, and different tissues have different healing timelines. This is very important to understand so that you can have the right expectations, and not become too impatient when you think your body isn’t healing quick enough. This will be explained in an upcoming blog post, “How Do I Know Whether the Acupuncture Treatments are Helping Me or Not?”

Why Frequent Acupuncture?

With a treatment plan at twice weekly for 3-5 weeks versus once per week or every other week, the resolution of the disorder is accomplished in 10-20 days, rather than 10-15 weeks or months.

Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon, writes in his article, “Restructuring American Acupuncture Practices”, “The ideal frequency for acupuncture therapy depends on one’s concept of the function of acupuncture therapy (1).” I have loosely paraphrased his ideas with a few of my own modifications.

This is assuming both patients and practitioners have the availability for scheduling appointments. Both parties need to be available to commit to the benefits of optimal care.

If you were to begin a new exercise regime you would do it at a minimum of three times weekly.

If you were to begin any other therapy like physical therapy, or chiropractic, you would follow a treatment plan very similar to acupuncture.

In all cases, it doesn’t work if you don’t do it just as medicine won’t work if you don’t take it.

Consider a few examples of other therapies. Would it be recommended that a patient:

  • Take nutritional supplements (such as a vitamin/mineral) once per week or once per day?
  • Take a course of antibiotics, one dose per week for ten weeks or one dose per day for ten days?
  • Take a decongestant once per week during allergy season, or every day during allergy season?
  • Exercise, 20-30 minutes once per week, or 20-30 minutes at least three to five days per week?
  • Take an herbal tea or other herb preparation once per week, or every day?
  • Sleep well once per week, or every night?
  • Eat a healthy diet once per week or every day (or most days)?

Once per week doesn’t cut it for any of these things. Diet, exercise, sleep, herbs, vitamins, and common drug therapies are more like acupuncture treatments in their regulatory and recuperative effects, and a person should be doing them daily or almost every day. (1).

Now that you understand some general guidelines around acupuncture care, consider whether your pain is acute or chronic, and its severity.

Together we can come up with a treatment plan to help give you the best possible results in the shortest amount of time.

Give us a call today at (858) 613-0702 or Text preferred (858) 613-0793 to set up your appointments.


Best in Health,

Dr. Michele Arnold



  1. Ma, Yun-tao; Cho, Zang Hee. Biomedical Acupuncture for Pain Management – E-Book. 2005. Elsevier Health Sciences. Kindle Edition.
  2. Dharmananda, Subhuti, “Restructuring American Acupuncture Practices”, May 2003.
  3. Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. Random House. 2012. NY.
  4. Hanscom, David. Do You Really Need Spine Surgery? Take Control with a Surgeon’s Advice. 2019. Vertus Press: Oakland, CA.
  5. Bernard, Rick. Orthopedic Electroacupuncture. eBook edition.
  6. Wong, Joseph Y. A Manual of Neuro-Anatomical Acupuncture, Vol I: Musculo-Skeletal Disorders. 1999. The Toronto Pain and Stress Clinic, Inc. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


What is the Real Source of My Pain or Disease?

Part 1 of the series: How To Get the Best and Quickest Results out of Your Acupuncture Treatments?

Your healing, pain, and general health are deeply affected by your nervous system. When it is on overdrive from emotions like fear, grief, anger, the stress hormones released depress your immune system and slow recovery. A dysfunctional nervous system can be the source of your chronic pain.

Acupuncture is one of the best modalities that can address pain, calm the mind, lift the mood, and stimulate regeneration. It can help normalize a dysfunctional nervous system, which is at the root of chronic pain.

Pain is considered chronic if it has been around for over three months. This is because the pain becomes hard wired into our systems. The source of pain:



  1. Mostly from irritation and inflammation of soft tissue.
  2. The pain can be severe because there are over a million pain receptor sites per square inch of soft tissue.
  3. This affects your nervous system.
  4. The nervous system and your brain memorize the pain impulses.
  5. The brain moves the memory into the part of brain responsible for emotions and memory, the limbic system.
  6. This explains why intense feelings of anger, sadness, or fear can trigger, amplify, or create pain sensation even without a physical cause, or long after the injury has healed.

No Separation between the body and mind.

Think about it. Circumstances in life can create a hyper-vigilant nervous system stuck in fight-or-flight mode. Even without any imminent danger. When the body is constantly bombarded with stress hormones, it will develop physical symptoms. Physical symptoms are indicators that you are being triggered firing up your nervous system, even if you don’t feel emotionally stressed. The brain processes emotions and physical pain the same way. That makes it clear that there is no separation between the body and the mind.

If you don’t recognize the mental-emotional pain or stress, your body will manifest them as physical symptoms. Patterns from the normal stresses of every life can be held in the body as tension. Stress does not always mean unhappy, sad, anxious, depressed, angry, or that you aren’t living your best life you want to live.

We all experience the ups and downs living with our thoughts moment to moment. A person can be perfectly happy with no real-life stressors to worry about and then begin to experience chronic pain. Perhaps this person had an injury of a muscle strain, the pain is intense, and he or she is having difficulties with normal daily activities like putting a shirt or jacket on. If there is too much worry, and disregard for the time needed to heal, the thoughts circle around that there must be something really wrong. This person might start telling themselves that they aren’t getting better, and that they won’t be able to return to their normal selves again. They keep this pain and injury on the top of their mind. They may even start to feel angry and frustrated about it. Perhaps even scared. The feeling of sadness and grief may creep in as they long for their old self to do things they love to do but can’t anymore. The pain is now associated with these emotions. There is the self-pressure, and pressure from others to feel better that isn’t consistent with the time it takes for normal healing of soft tissue.

Pain makes us crazy. I get it. I’m not pointing my finger at you. I’ve been there. Even with everything that I know clinically, I have had pain that made me feel as if I would do anything to make it stop along with the need to find out the cause. When clinically, and logically I knew it was a soft tissue strain or sprain.

Tension is at the root of it.

Repetitive and minor strains are the worst. They occur from doing a common activity that you frequently engage in.  It usually begins while holding tension in your body while doing the activity. Tension held in our body is mostly subconscious tightening of the muscles in tandem with holding our breath. Our breathing is not deep and relaxed. A fleeting stressful thought causes us to tense up. This is not a good thing when our muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones need the blood circulation to deliver oxygen, and nutrients, and to remove waste products. With tension our nerve endings secrete inflammatory chemicals instead of feel-good chemicals, water, and ions. The inflammatory chemicals are sticky like glue. The tension becomes tight bands, knots, nodules, trigger points, and soreness. The shortened constricted muscle limits our range of motion. The knots, and bands further block the free circulation of Qi-energy and blood. Think of Qi-energy as breath, oxygen, water, and electrical conduction.

“When there is free flow of Qi-energy and blood there is no pain. When there is a blockage of Qi-energy and blood there is pain.” Old Chinese Medicine proverb.

Don’t Ignore the Pain. It is a sign of tension and negative thought patterns.

Many of us will just shirk it off when we feel a minor annoying pain. The problem with ignoring the pain is that we don’t remove the irritation causing the pain. This is like continually banging your head against the wall and wondering why it hurts. Eventually the problem worsens, and our body must scream louder for us to hear it. Thus, the irritation is both, the repeated activity irritating the soft tissue, and the unpleasant thought patterns. I would like to point out that inactivity, not enough movement causes just as much a problem, if not more.

Note that tension and thought patterns can come from good things too. For example, you are working on putting together an upcoming happy event like a wedding, or anniversary party. There is a lot to do, and you have a lot on your mind! You might forget to breath when putting your to do list together. You might be very focused and intent on the project and forget to relax your muscles and joints. You have tightness in your neck and upper shoulders. You bend over to pick something up, and bam! Back spasm. You can’t ignore this type of pain.

So, the next time you experience pain don’t ignore it. Reflect on what were you doing, and where has your mind been around the time you started feeling bad. Remove the irritation by letting the painful area rest from the activity causing the problem. Apply moist heat, gentle massage, easy dynamic movements with gentle stretching.  Adding acupuncture can make a big difference as well. Let go of the thoughts that no longer serve you.

You Don’t Know What You Did?

The source of the original problem could have happened within the past two weeks, or emotionally within the past year!

You might be dismissing something like staying in one position too long, standing too long, poor posture like excess lordosis (sway back). Perhaps you were sitting too long, driving too long, you were cold, or felt a cold draft. Perhaps you were picking something up bending over at the waist while rounding the lumbar, or bending at the waist while twisting, or reaching for something in an awkward position. Lifting something too heavy. Twisting the lid off a jar, wringing out a towel, carrying a baby. You were doing activities that can be disastrous like vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing the floor, laundry, dishes, making dinner, making the bed, and caring for others that require you to lift them. Now that you know these activities can be problematic you are dismissed from household chores! I’m joking of course because somebody’s got to do it. Realize that just about anything can be on this list! Do these activities mindfully with proper body mechanics, breath, release the tension, and stay present. 

Sometimes when you start feeling better, and then experience a really bad day, you can’t figure out what caused it to come back. Perhaps during therapy, you may have noticed a significant reduction in pain, but still be in the healing phase. There is a chance you tried to do too much too soon causing you to suffer from a relapse. Therefore, before returning to pre-injury activity levels it is recommended to wait until you can do the activity without pain for 14 days. If it doesn’t return you can consider the problem healed.

If the pain doesn’t go away, or it gets better, but returns, or it varies up and down I will bet there is something you’re doing that you’re not aware of that is hindering the recovery. People will often exclaim, “I didn’t do anything, I don’t know why it hurts”!

Changes in Pain

Changes in pain can be indicative of healing, such as a reduction in intensity level of the pain, frequency becomes less, and the quality of pain may change. Of course, if pain worsens, comes more frequently, and causes more limitations in your life it is a sign that either you have had a flare-up from something you did, or it is getting worse.

Keep in mind that as your problem is healing there might be pain that varies in intensity. It might come and go. It might seem to move where initially it felt very diffuse that you couldn’t pinpoint the exact pain spot. Then it becomes more focused at an exact point. Or, in the beginning there is extreme pain that is felt at a precise location. Over time the intensity reduces, and it becomes very vague.

The quality of how it feels might change from sharp, shooting, throbbing, deep ache to milder occasional sharp pain that leaves quicker. Discomfort of paresthesia or neuropathy can be numbness, tingling, burning, crawling, itchy, loss of sensation and proprioception. When the nerves begin to heal, and the blood circulation improves the sensation can be uncomfortable. It might be hard to decipher good bad from the bad. Pinprick test, light touch, and proprioception improvement might help you realize whether you are feeling the discomfort of improved Qi-energy and blood flow.

We can create stress and tension from:

Common pent-up emotions and maladaptive coping mechanisms. These things cause us to tense our muscles.

  • Pressure self-imposed: the drive to be perfect and good. The drive to get the work done. To focus intently.
  • Self-denial for things you really desire. You let someone else have it. You fall on the sword. Leaves you feeling sense of loss. Guilt. You do it because of the self-imposed Pressure to be good, for approval, to be accepted.
  • Life pressures of work, career, family, social, peers, financial, illness, aging, mortality, children, events, caregiving, etc.
  • Displaced anger, which is a conscious thing.
  • Childhood emotional needs not met creating low self-esteem, always looking to fulfill those. Feeling sad, hurt, angry from neglect, abuse, disapproval.
  • Feeling put out by being the good guy. You expect something in return. It is not really from the goodness of your heart. There is a spark of anger for always being the good guy. This is self-denial again.
  • Deep dependency needs. Take care of me. Tell me what to do.
  • Survival pattern to keep you from directly feeling the distress. To keep you from expressing the emotions like anger or rage, which could be problematic for your job, career, relationship, etc.

How Does the Mind Keep You in Pain?

The muscles are reacting to the emotional-mental stress by becoming tense, rigid, hardened, and as a result, pain and/or dysfunction may occur.

  1. Striated muscle tension leads to tension headaches, fibromyalgia, stiff neck, and shoulders.
  2. Smooth muscle tension leads to irritable bowel (IBS), migraines, abdominal pain, nausea, bladder spasm.
  3. Cognitive-perceptual disruption causing visual blurriness, mental confusion, memory loss, dizziness, pseudo-seizures, tinnitus.
  4. Conversion leads to falling, lack of proprioception, unsteadiness, aphonia, paralysis, or weakness.

The following is quoted from acupuncturist, Rick Bernard in his book, Orthopedic Electroacupuncture, “When a muscle reacts to psychological stress, contraction and shortening of the muscle occurs. This contraction inhibits blood flow to the muscle resulting in oxygen deprivation to the muscle, or “ischemia” of the muscle. The classic symptom of this phenomenon is a burning sensation, though dull ache is possible as well. As these emotional stress patterns become sustained, the severity of the pain increases, and can even cause referred pain if the nerve becomes compressed by the tense muscle. The muscle can become inhibited and weak as well. It is easy to lose count of the patients who develop sciatica during a particularly stressful period of their lives, probably caused by the tensing of the piriformis muscle applying pressure on their sciatic nerve.

*This network of soft tissue including muscle, ligaments, tendons, fascia are all affected by our thoughts and emotions. When we become emotionally tense, our supporting tissue that hold our bones in place, react to this vibration. It is inevitable that the physical body will mirror and reflect the emotional one. Acknowledging this, is the first step in taking the steps necessary in healing and recovery.”

Consider the following list of interference the mind can play against our own healing. If you are experiencing challenging chronic pain, consider the possibility that you might fit with one of these reasons.

  1. Many people don’t want to commit to recovery. They don’t want to give up their pain. The unwillingness to let go and move forward is the greatest obstacle to healing.
  2. Anger contributes to obsessive, repetitive thought patterns, rigid beliefs, being like a piece of wood, unbending, not willing to consider possibilities, and having excuses for why that solution or suggestion won’t work, or why you won’t do it.

Why, what would be the point of holding onto pain?

  1. Pain is powerful. You feel powerful and at the same time powerless.
  2. You are truly a victim.
  3. Others demand less of you.
  4. You demand less of yourself.
  5. You can hide behind it.
  6. You may demand others close to you to take care of you.
  7. Pain or disease becomes a way of life. It becomes your identity, even an occupation.
  8. It’s familiar and comfortable. Change brings fear. Change is met with resistance and produces anxiety.
  9. MRI scans reveal the brains of chronic pain sufferers shrink. They have reduced cognitive function, have more difficulty making decisions, it is difficult to think clearly. Fortunately, when the pain resolves, the brain can return to normal size and function.

Becoming aware is the first step necessary so that you can make the necessary changes to move on.

Stop Talking About Your Pain

Here is something different you might not have heard before. If you are addicted to complaining, and you feel a sense of belonging by being part of a chronic pain group you might not like this at first. You might be resistant to the ideas. This is a sign that you would benefit from this. Don’t tell me that you never complain because you do, even if it’s to yourself.

This is about the neuroplasticity of your brain. The ability to rewire it. If you are stuck in the pain loop it needs rewiring.

  • It seems like a good idea to join a pain group because it makes you feel validated, and that you are not alone. There is a sense of belonging. This is established within the first few sessions. You might feel like you have learned some great tips and advice from others about what has helped them. After you get what you need it is best to move on.

Dr. Hanscom, MD writes (2019),

  • It is normal and understandable to keep sharing your pain and problems with other people, which further reinforces it.
  • Solving chronic pain involves stimulating your brain to form new circuits (neuroplasticity) in the direction you choose. 
  • A critical step is to stop discussing any aspect of your pain.

This is because the repetition of the thoughts become embedded in your brain and become progressively stronger. What I notice, is people expect the pain before they even do anything. Do you grimace, and brace yourself before you sit up, lie down, or move your arm?

Doctor Hanscom states, “The attention paid to these circuits reinforces them. It is understandable that you would want to discuss your misery with anyone who will listen. It has engulfed your life, you are miserable, it does feel better to vent, and you often develop a common bond with other people who are in chronic pain. You spend little time with enjoyable and creative experiences. What is this behavior doing to your pain circuits?

Research shows that belonging to a pain support group lessens your chances of healing.1 There is often a lot of mutual complaining about care, their families not paying enough attention, poor medical care, the doctors not listening and failed procedures. They are all legitimate complaints, and it is completely understandable why you want to share your troubles and get support. But from a neuroplasticity viewpoint, it is a disaster.”

 So not sharing your pain means:

  • No complaining unless you do it directly to the person who can resolve the issue.
  • No giving unasked advice – especially to your partner or children
  • No criticism
  • No gossiping

You will realize how much of your life energy is being consumed by discussing it and since it is often such a deep behavioral pattern, it is difficult to change.

Discussing your troubles and pain doesn’t help you develop a healthy brain and in fact accomplishes the opposite of what you want. You are reinforcing the pain circuits – both mental and physical. That is why the recommendation of this article is simple – stop negativity – all of it.

What I will add is this:

  1. Stop searching the internet regarding information that supports your pain. If you have a diagnosis what more are you looking for? (I’m not talking about a rare disease or cancer where you need to be proactive in finding treatment)
  2. Stop posting on social media your pain or problems.
  3. Stop posting on social media information that supports your pain.
  4. Stop trying to prove your pain is real. It is, so you don’t have to prove it.
  5. Stop looking at the past.
  6. Start looking into the future with a state of optimism. Be grateful, present, and patient.
  7. Start understanding life is up and down, it is not always what we want, we can’t control it. Let things go that no longer serve you. It is not about always being happy.

Here are Dr. Hanscom’s References:

  1. Friedberg F, et al. Do support groups help people with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia? A comparison of active and inactive members. Jrn Rheum (2005); 32:2416-2420.
  2. Ferrari R and Deon Louw. “Effect of a pain diary use on recovery from acute whiplash injury: a cohort study.” Biomed & Biotechnol (2013); 14: 1049-1053.
  3. Eisenberger N, et al. “Does rejection hurt? An fMRI study of social exclusion.” Science (2003); 290
  4. Cole SW, et al. Social regulation of gene expression in human leucocytes. Genome Biology (2007); 8:R189. doi:10.186/gb-2007-8-9-r189

Where Does Acupuncture Fit in with All This?

Acupuncture is the only known therapy that can simultaneously…

  1. Assist one in releasing the emotionally charged energy that is unfavorably influencing them.
  2. Acupuncture can assist in creating the opportunity for awareness of self and mind-shen.
  3. Release constrictions in wound up shortened tense muscles
  4. Stimulate motor points of inhibited muscles.
  5. Neuromodulate the nerves bringing more blood flow, nerve function, and curbing the release of inflammatory chemicals while stimulating release of healthy chemicals, ions, and water.
  6. Reduce pain.

When there is pain and dysfunction the first thing that needs to be done is to reduce the pain. Then, the range of motion can improve, and then flexibility along with strength. It generally goes in that order, but there may be overlap as you reduce pain, you start to move your body, more pain releases, there is more flexibility, then the weakened muscles become stronger and stronger.

Acupuncture should always be the first choice of therapy to reduce the pain and calm the mind.


Acupuncture needling is the most powerful and direct method that releases tense, constricted muscles and fascia, improves blood flow, stops release of inflammatory chemicals, and relaxes the mind at the same time. Michele Arnold, D.A.C.M., L.Ac.

Call our office today to schedule your appointment! 

(858) 613-0792 or Text (858) 613-0793.


  1. Ma, Yun-tao; Cho, Zang Hee. Biomedical Acupuncture for Pain Management – E-Book. 2005. Elsevier Health Sciences. Kindle Edition.
  2. Dharmananda, Subhuti, “Restructuring American Acupuncture Practices”, May 2003.
  3. Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. Random House. 2012. NY.
  4. Hanscom, David. Do You Really Need Spine Surgery? Take Control with a Surgeon’s Advice. 2019. Vertus Press: Oakland, CA.
  5. Bernard, Rick. Orthopedic Electroacupuncture. eBook edition.
  6. Wong, Joseph Y. A Manual of Neuro-Anatomical Acupuncture, Vol I: Musculo-Skeletal Disorders. 1999. The Toronto Pain and Stress Clinic, Inc. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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the map of the gallbladder channel on the body
acupuncture meridian of the gall bladder

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Get Rid of Chronic Pain by Changing What You Think!

Do you suffer from any type of chronic pain, illness, anxiety, or depression?  Have you tried everything without success?  Would you like to get rid of it for once and for all?

In my video, “Getting Rid of Chronic Pain by Changing What You Think”, I explain that the root of the problem in your physical body begins in your mind, and your thoughts.

What are you constantly telling yourself? Most likely you are not even aware of it!

You have the power to heal yourself by facing your inner fears and personal conflicts.

Watch the video to learn how your thoughts affect your physical body.

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Best in Health,

Dr. Michele Arnold

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