Corydalis Relief Salve is a traditional Chinese medicinal treatment for topical pain relief. It works to manage all types of pain, including chronic conditions, neuropathic symptoms, inflammation, and circulation.
What is Corydalis?
Corydalis (traditional name: Yan Hu Suo) is a natural remedy for pain relief. It is a member of the Poppy (Papaveraceae) family of plants. Corydalis interacts with opiate and dopamine receptor sites to reduce pain. Unlike prescription pain medication, Corydalis is non-addictive, has no adverse side effects for topical use, and users will not test positive for opiate use.
We have cultivated a premium formulation of Corydalis to support pain relief, tissue recovery, and inflammation reduction. Corydalis Salve Relief has a soft floral scent that is not overwhelming like other topical ointments. Complementary herbs have been combined and added to provide a synergistic formula that may support your pain management needs.
How Does Corydalis Work?
Corydalis interacts with pain receptors to safely and naturally provide relief. It directly affects the central nervous system to treat chronic pain, inflammation, and poor circulation. Corydalis calms overactive and painful nerves. As a result, Corydalis Salve Relief is ideal for managing neuropathic pain.
Benefits of Using Corydalis
Our salve provides all of Corydalis’ benefits, including the following:
2-8 hours of soothing pain relief
Pain management treatment of chronic pain conditions, including arthritis and neuropathy
Non-addictive, safe, and all-natural formula
A calming floral scent that isn’t overwhelming
It targets the same pain receptors as prescription pain pills without the risks and harmful side effects
Formulas do not contain THC or CBD
Safe for use by people who need pain relief at work and are required to pass drug tests
Who Should Use Corydalis Pain Relief?
Corydalis in topical form is effective for all types of pain relief. The combined botanical compounds may provide a pain relief solution for those struggling with addiction, chronic pain, or acute discomfort. Unlike prescription medications or other supplements that include THC in their formulations, Corydalis contains no addictive ingredients. The gentle formula composition and soothing scent are agreeable to most adults and children. Corydalis supplements work for all types of pain relief. It calms nerves, reduces inflammation, and improves circulation, making Corydalis perfect for pain management. However, the unique formulation relieves pain commonly experienced by cancer patients, diabetics, and the elderly. In addition, the gentle formula composition and soothing scent are agreeable to most people.
As a non-addictive sustenance, Corydalis is a great pain relief solution for those struggling with addiction. Unlike prescription medications or other supplements that include THC in their formulations, Corydalis contains no addictive ingredients.
The Pain Relief Power Couple: Corydalis Salve and Evil Bone Water
Take advantage of the synergistic effect of our two bestselling topical ointments for ultimate pain relief. Corydalis Relief Salve and Evil Bone Water are like the Yin and Yang of pain relief. Each topical works in separate yet complementary ways in managing pain. First, apply Evil Bone Water for fast and powerful pain relief. It will immediately soothe symptoms. Then, apply Corydalis Relief Salve for a longer-lasting, soothing effect.
Choose Corydalis Relief Salve and Evil Bone Water to eradicate any physical discomforts.
Gentle stimulation with Corydalis, lavender, frankincense, and myrrh
Natural pain-relieving compounds activate dopamine and opiate receptors to decrease pain.
Coconut oil, Shea Butter and Beeswax base
I work with many patients in my clinic who need topical pain relief but can’t tolerate regular over-the-counter treatments like Icy Hot. The chilly feeling of typical ointments is uncomfortable for people with poor circulation. In addition, most have a potent smell that can be overpowering.
One of my dear friends underwent cancer treatment and struggled with pain in her hands and feet from chemotherapy. Her circulation was poor, causing coldness in her extremities. Like many patients, she couldn’t tolerate traditional pain relief ointments. The smell sickened her, and the icy feeling was too much for her cold feet.
This woman was kind and gentle. But unfortunately, she had already suffered so much from exhaustive cancer treatments, and I wanted to find a solution that eased her pain. And so I began my search for the perfect topical: gentle enough for sensitive users but powerful enough to treat neuropathy and arthritis.
I discovered Corydalis Relief Salve. It has a soft floral scent with no cooling effect. Most importantly, it provides soothing relief for all types of pain. Corydalis Relief Salve worked wonders for my dear friend. As a result, I brought this powerful formula to my practice to share with the rest of my patients.
The History of Corydalis in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Corydalis is a perennial herb native to most Asian countries. The first reported uses of a Corydalis painkiller date back to 618 AD and has been used for over 1,100 years as an analgesic agent in traditional Chinese medicine. Corydalis was initially prescribed to treat various forms of stasis, poor blood circulation, and pain relief.
Now, combinations of Corydalis herbs are given to patients struggling with chest, abdominal, and menstrual pain. It is also recommended to treat inflammation, depression, bacterial infections, and more. Corydalis Relief Salve is a staple ointment in traditional Chinese medicine and continues to provide pain relief to millions worldwide.
Doctors Recommend Corydalis for Topical Pain Relief
I sat down with Eliz Britton, DTCM, the CEO of Botanical EZ, LLC, to learn about her experience with Corydalis Relief Salve and why she considers it an essential traditional Chinese medicinal treatment.
Why did you start making Corydalis Relief Salve?
I started making Corydalis to help manage my pain and discomfort more naturally. When I was 16, I experienced a sports injury requiring back surgery two years later. At that time, I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and early-onset arthritis. I was on a long list of narcotics and pain medications to help me get through the day, and I didn’t like how I functioned on them. My body can no longer tolerate ibuprofen due to the large dosages I was prescribed as a teenager, so I was left with seeking some sort of medical intervention every time I had an issue with my injury. Decades later, I still found this massive gap in my pain management regimen. I began playing with Corydalis in 2018 to see if I could create an intermediate relief option to add to my self-care routine.
Why weren’t other topical pain relief products working for you?
The side effects. Not just the obvious ones like disorientation, nausea, and drowsiness, but the limitations of how often I could use them and how they smelled. Many prescribed and OTC drugs used to manage inflammation and pain also wreak havoc on your physical organs over time. I am unwilling to accept that my physical body needs to be jeopardized to manage my pain and discomfort successfully. The majority of topical products that are available for anti-inflammatory actions or pain relief smell terrible! I smelled like a cheap camphor factory trying to run errands. People knew I was in some kind of pain because they could just smell me, and that affected my social life negatively.
What specific results have you seen since using Corydalis Relief Salve?
The biggest results I have personally experienced are a reduction in nerve and joint pain, inflammation reduction, faster recovery from exercise and physical therapy sessions, the ability to perform everyday errands with less discomfort, and easing menstrual pain. In addition, I can do more activities with less pain and recover faster from musculoskeletal issues. Experiencing these results has increased the way I enjoy my life. Other Clinicians have reported using this product for various manifestations and injuries that involve the nervous system, joint issues, and acute or chronic musculoskeletal concerns.
How does a Cordydalis supplement work?
Corydalis (aka Yan Hu Sou) contains high concentrations of alkaloids (mainly Dehydrocorydaline) and berberine. Dehydrochorydaline attaches to Dopamine and Opiate receptors to inhibit pain and relieve pain without creating an addiction. It does this by avoiding Dopamine receptors 2 and 4 (responsible for cravings) and instead stimulates and attaches to Dopamine receptors 1,3, and 5. Receptors 1,3, and 5 allow you to experience relief but are also the shutoff buttons for craving and wanting more Corydalis. The high concentrations of berberine support reducing inflammation in various tissues. The other plants and oils in the Relief Salve also contain compounds that help support the two main functions of Corydalis. The most notable helper in the formula is Copaiba which stimulates Cannabinoid (CBD) receptors in the same way as hemp.
Can you name 2-3 things that make your products stand out?
Contains no CBD, THC camphor or menthol. It has a pleasing light floral
How has it affected your life?
For starters, I have shifted my career from practicing in a clinic to brewing plants and procuring high-quality ingredients! As a result, I can function better as a mom, a wife, and a human because I can manage my pain easily. Saving money on Doctor’s office copays and prescriptions have also been a huge bonus. I am grateful to be able to make an impact in this area of health and wellness, and I see myself continuing to make this product for the rest of my life.
What type of person or patient would you recommend Corydalis Relief Salve to, and why?
I recommend this product to anyone old or young because pain management looks different for everyone. If you are looking for a natural option for relief, this product provides a first line of support or can easily be integrated into an existing healthcare plan.
If you have a history of addiction or are concerned about becoming addicted to prescription medications, this product would be a good fit and worth trying.
Individuals who need pain relief on the job or get subjected to drug screenings could also safely use this product. Four years ago, I ingested Corydalis and covered myself in salve; then had a urinalysis and labs drawn to see if I tested positive for opiates or any other drugs. All tests came back clear. If you can not afford to continue investing in CBD products or find that they do not work for you, the plant combinations in our salve may give you a different experience for relief.
If you don’t like strong medicinal smells or menthol and camphor cooling sensations, then this is the product for you. I have found this product to work exceptionally well for diabetics or cancer-induced peripheral neuropathy.
Combine the synergistic effect of our two best-selling topicals. They work together in separate but complementary ways to quickly eliminate your pain. These two products are the Yin and Yang of pain relief!
While much of sports acupuncture today focuses on the treatment of injury (pain relief and restoration of strength), there is a much larger field that acupuncturists are uniquely qualified to treat, yet often skip over: post-exercise recovery.
Recovery is a vital component of an overall exercise or training program. It’s essential for high-level performance and continued athletic improvement. With the appropriate recovery treatments–including acupuncture–athletes can achieve higher training volumes and intensities while avoiding many of the detrimental side-effects of overtraining.
This essay aims to present and analyze the research and perspectives on the complex topic of post-exercise recovery and the role of sports acupuncture therein.
Primarily, it will look at the parasympathetic system, how it affects recovery, and how it is stimulated by acupuncture practices.
It will also address the physiology of the time period immediately after exercise as an important biological phenomenon that acupuncturists can use to the advantage of their clients.
Finally, this essay aims to show that sports acupuncture professionals can and should play a larger role in helping athletes recover after exercise.
What is Recovery?
Defining exercise recovery is a challenging task: there are many varied definitions of “recovery”. In the sports acupuncture world, the two most common definitions or views of recovery are as follows:
As a distinct period of time. Recovery can refer to a specific time frame. This period of time can range from minutes, as in the case of the heart rate returning to near-resting levels, to weeks, as in the return of strength after muscle-damaging exercise.
These time frames also vary from person to person. For example, a trained athlete will display a different recovery timeline from that of a healthy individual. Both of these individuals will display vastly different recovery timelines than that of a person who is chronically ill.
As a physiological state or process. “Recovery” can also refer to a certain set of physiological processes or states which are distinct from resting physiological states and from the physiological state of exercise.
This view of exercise recovery is usually localized: it assesses whether the muscles are ready to perform on the day of an event, or if they are weakened or injured.
Within these two definitions of recovery, treatment strategies tend to focus on symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage and mainly work to blunt the inflammatory responses associated with muscle injury.
Treatments that are based on these perspectives of recovery typically aim to hasten regenerative processes of the muscles with limited consideration for other mechanisms (Minett and Duffield, 2014). This may be through lifestyle (active recovery, sleep), physiological treatment (post-exercise cooling, massage, compression), or nutritional and pharmacological interventions (supplements, anti-inflammatory medications).
These perspectives of recovery are too narrow, and they exclude factors such as illness, sleep, and psychology. These each have a significant impact on recovery and must be managed, in conjunction with the methods described above, in order to allow better performance and reduce the risk of injury.
Evidence for Expanding the Definition of Recovery
Various studies have found that single session of intense exercise and prolonged heavy training negatively influences the immune system function (Pedersen, 1998). This was done primarily by measuring SIgA levels, with SIgA being the predominant immunoglobulin found in the saliva other mucosal fluids. It neutralizes toxins and viruses and inhibits the attachment and replication of pathogens (Gleeson et al., 1999).
These studies have demonstrated that (Mackinnon et al., 1993):
Frequent upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) in elite athletes result in suppression of salivary secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA) levels.
The exercise-induced decrease of salivary SIgA was inhibited in the acupuncture treatment group during a competition period.
The data suggests that acupuncture treatment enhances SIgA secretion in the saliva during the period of continuous physical exercise.
Therefore, it is possible that the increased risk of URTI in athletes during the competition period is due to a decrease in SIgA levels.
Acupuncture treatments could reduce the likelihood of infection in athletes and maintain their physical wellbeing by improving levels of SIgA and immunogenic actions.
Sympathetic vs. Parasympathetic Involvement in Exercise Recovery
The human body is intelligently balanced with a complex, built-in network for adapting to stress. This network is known as the autonomic nervous system, and it is comprised of two unique subsystems: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
The parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems both deal with metabolism, which is a biochemical process within the body that allows healing, growth and adaptation. Metabolism is the pattern of building up and breaking down resources within the body, and can be divided into catabolic and anabolic processes.
The SNS is catabolic, meaning it breaks down resources, usually creating energy that is easily accessible. It mobilizes the these vital resources to help the body defend itself when it’s in danger. The sympathetic nervous system is what sends you into “fight or flight” mode in threatening situations. This system is upregulated during workouts, but ideally, the body only uses the SNS to its full capacity in life-threatening emergencies.
The PNS is anabolic, meaning it builds up resources within the body, usually requiring energy to perform. The parasympathetic nervous system allows the body the resources it needs to adapt and recover. It helps the body to rest, digest, and recover after workouts and strenuous activity. A well-balanced nervous system spends most of its time on parasympathetic activities. An active PNS helps muscle soreness and swelling subside more quickly.
Athletes are vulnerable to becoming SNS-dominant because they experience increased physical stress on a routine basis. By spending more time on sympathetic activities–and, therefore, less time on parasympathetic activities–an athlete’s nervous system will have a harder time helping the body recover.
In addition to the physical stress athletes experience regularly, emotional/mental stress can also play a role in an athlete becoming SNS-dominant. The following stressors can put an additional burden on an athlete’s nervous system:
Stress at home or at work;
An upcoming event or season that requires increased training intensity and/or frequency;
Nervousness or anxiety about an upcoming event or season;
Acute or chronic psychological disturbances including depression or anxiety;
Physical illness, either transient or chronic; and/or
Restricted caloric intake due to an upcoming weigh-in or their sport having another weight component (i.e. wrestling or ballet).
Most athletes will fall into at least one of the above categories. In addition to the regular physical stress their bodies undergo, stressors like these can tip the balance towards the sympathetic nervous system and strain the body’s natural process of maintaining homeostasis.
This is especially true if pertinent treatment methods are not used to minimize sympathetic dominance and boost parasympathetic activity.
Evidence of Sympathetic Dominance by Heart Rate Variability
Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measure that indicates how much variation there is in your heartbeat intervals. The more consistent your heartbeat intervals within a given time frame (i.e. 60 seconds), the lower your HRV. The more varied the lengths of the intervals between your heartbeats, the higher your HRV.
Heart rate variability has been found to be a valid indicator of decreased parasympathetic response and/or increased sympathetic activity.
Researchers have found that parasympathetic activity or increased sympathetic activity will result in reduced HRV (Billman, 2013). Though previously thought to reflect only SNS activity, it is now widely accepted that changes in heart rate variability express variations in both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems (Haker et al., 2002)
In a study by James, Munson, Maldonado-Martin & Croix (2012), subjects participated in an intense exercise session (defined as running 800 meters six times at 95% VO2 max with a three-minute recovery period between each run). The subjects experienced an increased sympathetic influence on the heart and heart rate variability and a decreased parasympathetic response (James et al, 2012).
While the subjects in this example returned to baseline numbers after 24 hours, the study demonstrates that repeated, intense exercise stressed the subjects’ ability to engage parasympathetic responses and maintain homeostasis.
Acupuncture & the Parasympathetic System
When an athletes is under stress, such as during intense physical training, his or her autonomic nervous system can deviate, leading to the athlete’s becoming sympathetic-dominant. In this state, the athlete’s parasympathetic nervous system is impaired, causing the athlete to experience more difficult recovery. A full restoration of the natural balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic is the ideal solution.
In western medicine, there aren’t many safe maneuvers to enhance parasympathetic performance while suppressing sympathetic functions. Acupuncture, however, is one of the most effective tools for doing just this.
Various experiments have shown that acupuncture treatment does in fact modulate the autonomic nervous system, in addition to alleviating muscle tension, improving local blood flow, and increasing pain threshold (Barlas et al., 2000).
One example is a study of hypertensive rats, wherein direct stimulation of the sciatic nerve produced decreased sensitivity to pain and a profound decrease in arterial pressure and activity in the splanchnic sympathetic nerve. The change lasted for several hours following treatment (Yao et al. 1982).
Another study showed that magnitopuncture–a combination of acupuncture point pressing and magnetic treatment at Dazhui (DU14) and Neiguan (PC6) points–resulted in reduced sympathetic nerve activity and increased parasympathetic nerve activity at the end of a three-hour simulated driving task (Li et al.2003).
It was also reported that needle insertions in the vagal innervated area of the ear could reduce narcotic and alcohol withdrawal symptoms and the underlying physiological mechanisms–a result of increased parasympathetic nerve activity (Mendelson et al., 1978)
More data pointing to the fact that acupuncture can upregulate the parasympathetic nervous system found that acupuncture can induce release of endogenous (natural) opioids (Basbaum et al., 1984; Holaday et al.,1983; Terman et al.,1986; Watkins et al.,1986).
Downregulation of the sympathetic nervous system has also been implicated by research. For example, it was found that acupuncture can trigger a somato-autonomic reflex (Budgell et al.1996), which can in turn induce vasodilation–a parasympathetic response (Kaada et al.,1982). This can result in increased relaxation and calmness and reduced distress (Knardahl et al., 1998).
Acupuncture has been shown capable of significantly reducing heart rate, oxygen consumption (Lin et al.2009). This is thought to be a result of a reciprocal process: an increase in parasympathetic activity and a decrease in sympathetic activity (Nishijo et al. 1997).
There is still much to be learned about the relationship between acupuncture and the autonomic nervous system. However, there is significant enough evidence to show that acupuncture is a noteworthy treatment or adjunct treatment for the reversal of sympathetic dominance.
A Window of Opportunity
While stressors like physical exertion can create an an unhealthy state of sympathetic dominance, exercise recovery (handled correctly) grants a unique window of opportunity for the body to maximize the positive outcomes of its altered state.
Many of the processes that are responsible for the beneficial effects of exercise remain highly active during exercise recovery period. This window of time can be put to good use, with the correct acupuncture interventions, to improve the body’s adaptation to exercise training.
Research shows that a period of intense exercise increases insulin sensitivity, decreases blood lipid levels and reduces blood pressure after exercise, making the recovery period after exercise an ideal time for therapeutic acupuncture intervention (Halliwill et al., 2013).
These responses occur anywhere from two to three hours immediately following exercise (e.g., post-exercise hypotension), and they may last up to 48 hours or more (e.g., altered blood lipids).
Athletes have long taken advantage of this recovery period to improve training and athletic performance by strategically consuming macronutrients during recovery. This is because the metabolic changes associated with both endurance and resistance exercise and recovery may be enhanced with appropriate nutrient timing strategies.
Optimizing the intake of macronutrients using exercise recovery is a large area of research related to human performance that may translate to clinical populations and older adults (Esmarck et al., 2001). In the context of general populations, recovery from exercise may be used to mitigate the negative effects of some chronic diseases (Luttrell et al., 2015).
Evidence of Acupuncture and the Window of Opportunity
In the general population, this window of opportunity could be used to apply acupuncture interventions during a state of enhanced insulin sensitivity and blunted blood lipid levels. Ideally, these interventions could slow, or even reverse, the progression of chronic diseases, reducing the need for pharmacological interventions and improving quality of life.
Research presented in Effects of acupuncture on heart rate variability in normal subjects under fatigue and non-fatigue state by Zengyong Li, Chengtao Wang, Arthur F. T., Mak Daniel and H. K. Chow sheds more light on how acupuncture can work in tandem with this window of opportunity.
The goal of this study was to analyze the effects of acupuncture applied at Hegu (LI 4) points and Neiguan (PC6) points on heart rate variability in normal subjects under fatigue and non-fatigue states. Stimulations of the LI 4 points and PC 6 points created inverse effects to the stress and fatigue response.
In a fatigue state, stimulation of the LI 4 points and PC 6 points indicated a shift of sympathetic balance. In a non-fatigue state, the acupuncture adopted in this study apparently induced a significant increase in activity of both the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nerve system during the post-stimulation period in normal subjects, which was similar to the study by Haker et al. (2000), suggesting no modification in sympathetic balance in non-fatigue state.
This study concluded that acupuncture on the Neiguan (PC 6) and Hegu (LI 4) points seemed to enhance vagal (parasympathetic) activity and to suppress sympathetic activity. These effects on the autonomic nervous system were opposite to the stress and fatigue response, indicating that the acupuncture treatment was capable of reducing the effects of fatigue in a fatigue state.
These different effects of acupuncture on heart rate variability suggests that the modulating effect of acupuncture on HRV not only depends on the acupuncture points used, but that it was also connected to the functional state of the body (such as fatigue or non-fatigue) in normal subjects.
Since the temporary change in autonomic nervous system activity is associated with the functional state of human body, such as mental stress or fatigue (Pagani et al. 1989, 1994), it is reasonable to hypothesize that the effects of acupuncture on autonomic nervous system activity are associated with the functional state of the human body.
The research presented and analyzed in this essay shows that sports acupuncture can and should play a larger role in the field of recovery. While the treatment of injury is still a cornerstone of acupuncture for athletes, more attention must be paid to the recovery period and the window of opportunity. By focusing more on recovery, acupuncturists can help their clients to not only recover faster and more effectively, but also to improve their sports performance by utilizing key recovery states.
To help athletes properly recover and avoid overtraining it is important to:
Monitor the intensity of athletes’ prescribed workouts; and
Ensure that rest or active recovery days are part of the training program.
Utilize acupuncture to help athletes switch out of workout induced sympathetic dominance and into parasympathetic state.
What are the three levels of sports acupuncture? How do they build upon and work with one another?
Sports Acupuncture Has Three Levels
In sports acupuncture, our time falls into three main categories: injury, recovery and performance. These three categories work together and can be thought of as a pyramid with injury on the bottom, recovery in the middle, and performance at the top. Each level of sports acupuncture has a unique purpose and set of treatment goals. Each level also has its own sublevels — or phases — which build upon each other in the same way.
About: The Injury Phase
The Injury phase of the pyramid has three unique stages: pain, weakness and strength. Each process is equally important, but as acupuncturists, we tend to spend most of our time focusing on pain.
While pain may the driving factor behind many of our athletes seeking our help, relieving pain is only a small part of what we aim to do in sports acupuncture.
In the treatment of pain we often focus on musculoskeletal conditions and orthopedic acupuncture. This is only a small part of sports and performance acupuncture. Sports acupuncture is a greater field which includes orthopedic acupuncture, not vice-versa.
Orthopedic acupuncture is important in the pain stage. This is where trigger points, motor points, manual muscle evaluations and palpation examinations are amazing tools to have.
We can quickly get an athlete out of pain using orthopedic acupuncture methods, but what we do next–in the weakness stage–is just as important. The pain may be gone, but that doesn’t mean their muscles are working at 100%. At this point, we can say the muscles are “turned off”. We need to choose treatment methods that will turn them back on.
This “turned off” state connects to what’s known as “competitive plasticity” (use it or lose it). If you don’t use a particular skill or set of neuronal connections, your brain will re-purpose them to be used for something you are using more regularly.
If you hurt yourself (for example, if you sprain your ankle), the brain will try to stop using that muscle to allow it to heal. In doing so, the brain “turns off” the neuronal pathways that tell your ankle’s muscles to work.
A muscle might also be considered weak if there is damage to the proprioceptive system. (Proprioception is the sense of knowing where your body part is in space.) Your proprioception capabilities can be impaired when a joint tendon or ligament is injured. This is where the proprioceptors are located. An injury like an ankle sprain can damage the ligaments neurotendinous spindle that lie at the origins and insertion of skeletal muscle fibers and into the tendons of skeletal muscle. When you lose proprioception of your joint after an ankle sprain, you may experience an unstable sensation of the joint. Your joint may even give out. When treating weakness, you can use orthopedic techniques, but you’ll often find distal methods or press tacks to be more effective.
After you get rid of pain and restore muscle strength, you are able to move to the “Recovery” phase.
About: The Recovery Phase
During the Recovery phase, an athlete is not in pain but still dealing with stresses. This is where we need to focus on training stresses that affect the following:
Range of motion;
Most of this is controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
When an athlete is training hard, they’re taxing their sympathetic nervous system (SNS); afterwards, they need to switch over to the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) to rebuild and regenerate. The body’s sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system balance each other out.
The SNS is catabolic and mobilizes the body’s resources to help the body “fight or flight” threatening situations. This system is upregulated during workouts. The PNS is anabolic and helps the body rest, digest, and recover after workouts.
Many athletes are especially vulnerable to being in a sympathetic-dominant state due to increased stress load. The chronic physical and mental stress that they experience may overtax their body’s ability to adapt and maintain homeostasis. Therefore, this type of athlete is more likely to experience challenges with recovery.
The above is especially true if restorative techniques are not utilized to minimize sympathetic dominance and strengthen the parasympathetic response.
During the Recovery phase, we are focusing on managing the PNS. We are watching and treating issues with sleep, digestion, and the immune system. We are also watching and treating issues in range of motion and muscle imbalances that are often the results of sport-specific movements.
About: The Performance Phase
The top level of the Sports Acupuncture Pyramid is the Performance phase. The Performance phase culminates on the day of an event or athletic performance, but it can also include up to two weeks leading up to the event.
Most athletes will begin to taper or decrease training intensity during this time period, so focusing on recovery becomes less important. Instead, now is the time to treat the spirit; shift your focus to the mental game.
Specifically, the three general areas of emphasis are as follows:
Stress vs. Relaxation;
Confidence & Optimism; and
Focus & Awareness
Stress: Does the athlete perform better under stress, or does stress decrease their performance? Where do they feel gameday stress the most: physically or mentally?
Russian sport psychologist Yuri Hanin suggested that different athletes had different levels of pressure at which optimum performance occurs. He called these “zones of optimal functioning”. Some respond well to high tension and pressure; others do not. An athlete needs to learn what zone is best for him or herself.
Confidence: Check in about internal motivations, positive vs negative attitudes, and feelings of self-confidence.
Burnout is most common in athletes who feel like they’re playing for external motives, such as college scholarships or verbal commitments. Athletes who have a personal attachment to the sport or other internal motivations are much less likely to feel burned out.
Focus: The ability to maintain a state of full concentration is vital to top athletic performance, particularly during a key game or tense moment.
Visualization, for example, is a well-known technique in which the athlete imagines specific, important game-day situations as vividly as possible. When that specific situation occurs, the athlete feels better prepared, having already worked through the situation mentally.
The day of an athletic event is not the time to do any major treatments. Treatments are kept to less invasive procedures, such as ROM evaluation and soft tissue work with Gha Sha, or cupping to help warm up tight areas.
Press tacks or kinesio taping to clean up proprioceptive imbalances that are still present at that time can also be useful day-of.
The Injury level is the base or foundation of the sports and performance acupuncture pyramid. This is where we tend to spend most of our time.
A patient comes in with an injury. We treat the injury directly to relieve pain, overcome weakness and restore strength.
Pain. At the very bottom of the pyramid is the Pain phase of the Injury level. Before we can do anything else, we need to relieve the patient’s immediate pain. Treatment goal: Relieve pain.
Weakness. Treatment of an injury doesn’t end with pain relief. Once pain is resolved, the patient still has weakness in the injured area, where the muscles are essentially “turned off”. Treatment goal: Evaluate and overcome weakness.
Strength. Finally, once you’ve overcome weakness due to the injury, the patient can work to regain full strength. Treatment goal: Regain strength.
The middle level of the pyramid is Recovery. This level comes after Injury and before Performance. It is where we spend most of our time second to the three phases of the Injury level.
Treatment doesn’t stop once an injury has healed. After an injury is resolved, the patient enters the Recovery level, which is where you can help them reintegrate into normal training and activity healthily and safely. Recovery focuses mainly on range of motion, sleep and digestion.
Range of Motion (ROM). As the patient heals, they begin to tax their sympathetic nervous system with training, which can cause imbalances. To continue to increase strength in the affected area and make sure it heals properly, we focus on range of motion.
Sleep. As the patient recovers, they need to switch their focus to the parasympathetic nervous system in order to heal from the taxes they’re putting on their sympathetic nervous system. This means focusing on improving sleep quality.
Digestion.Another crucial part of the parasympathetic nervous system is digestion. As the sympathetic nervous system gets put to work with increased training, more focus on improving digestion is needed to recover.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Diagnosis. Focus on Sleep, Digestion and Mood to evaluate Autonomic Nervous System
The top of the pyramid — Performance — is where we tend to spend the least of our time, but where we should try not to neglect important aspects of patient care.
Finally, the patient isn’t in pain, they’ve worked hard to train healthily and to avoid further injury, and now it’s the day of. Now, our job is to address and treat the spirit: fears, motivation and focus.
Stress. When treating the spirit, it’s important to identify and address any fears or Levels of mental, emotional physical stress that might hinder—or improve—performance.
Motivation. Identify and create a focus around what makes the patient want to succeed and perform well.
Focus. Identify and address any distractions that can detract focus and energy away from peak performance the day of.
Acute, or Inflammatory Phase (48 hours to 72 hours)
The inflammatory phase begins immediately following your injury and is characterized by swelling, redness, and pain. Your body is dissolving blood elements and tissue debris. Often time pain leads to muscle spasms creating a pain spasm loop.
Reparative Stage-Post Acute (48hrs to 6 weeks)
At this stage your body is laying down fibrin collagen and fibroblasts to begin repairing the area. There is some redness, tenderness and a decrease in circulation and flexibility. It is during this time that your body is doing all it can to protect the affected area. This sense of guarding can echo into your mental state as well – many people tend to hole up in their homes to heal in private.
At Valley Health we encourage you to get out and move as soon as you are able – and what better incentive to do so than coming in for a healing, calming, therapeutic appointment? Our clients say how helpful and positive it is to have a reason to leave the house for compassionate, focused care. It’s easy to forget how powerful human touch can be, and welcoming into your recovery. It changes your journey from a solo expedition into a team effort.
Remodeling and Rehabilitation Phase (3 week to 12 months)
Your body transitions into this second phase of repair. The body has fibrous deposition (scar tissue) and possible chronic inflammatiory reaction. To remodel is to grow by rapid production, and that is exactly what your body is going through during this stage. The visible signs of inflammation will subside, and new tissue forms. This new tissue is fragile, and susceptible to injury.
It is during this phase that people feel like their mind is ready for them to be better, but their body is lagging behind. Oftentimes, remaining bruising and limited range of motion can bring about a sense of depression.
“Can I get back to work? What about exercise?”
“Is this my final result?”
“I thought I’d be better by now.”
The fear that tends to arise during this phase of healing can cause you to guard the area even further. You may be scared to move too much, and this anxiety can cause you to lock down and stay still in order to protect yourself. This fragile new tissue, however, is susceptible to more than just injury – it is also susceptible to stagnancy, and restricting movement can form adhesions. These adhesions can limit range of motion when movement is eventually reintroduced, so appropriate mobilization of the tissue during this stage is important.
The benefit of working with your acupuncturist lies in their knowledge of what will and won’t be best for you. Some people close down, and we remind them to get out and move. Some people push themselves too far too fast, and we remind them to slow down and allow themselves to heal. Your greatest benefit lies in getting answers to your questions, and support to get through your fears and anxieties.
Chronic, or Restorative Phase (Months to Years)
This phase can continue for a period from several months to several years. It is during this stage that there is no pain but the tissues do not function normally. Often time there is stiffness, muscle tightness some aching and weakness.
Your mind may continue to receive confusing messages from your body based on the memory of the trauma. Even when the body has fully healed, the alarm in your brain may still be turned on, and your body can continue working to heal the area of trauma. It is during this stage that these tissues may become stuck – your pain goes away, but you can be left with persisting symptoms that limit your range of motion and aggravate your mental well-being. This is when many people question when, or even if, they will ever be “back to normal.”
The answer to that question has a caveat – your body is different now. Your skin, muscles, and sometimes even your bones are all in new places, in positions they have never been before. Because of this, “back to normal” really translates to “discovering your new normal.”
Helping you discover your new normal is your acupuncturist primary goal. Remodeling can be difficult to push through, but much like the final few miles of a marathon, the support of your acupuncturist combined with your own awareness and strength will get you past the finish line.
Once you have passed through these four phases of healing, you once again have the freedom that comes with good health and well-being. You also gain the opportunity of choice when it comes to maintaining this health and well-being.
Oftentimes, our clients choose to transition into receiving health maintenance treatments – regular tune-ups to keep their bodies in a place of wellness. Other clients come in and out of receiving further treatments by returning to valley Health when new injuries arise. Some simply continue moving forward, content with their newfound independence and imbued, freshly healed spirit. Whatever your choice the door is always open, and allies in healing will always be here for you, through all the seasons of your life.
Valley Health Clinic in Albany, Oregon specializes in providing effective, evidence-based, and affordable care to restore your health and make your best health better. For athletes and active clients, Valley Health Clinic’s comprehensive Sports Acupuncture Program focuses on quicker recovery and helping you perform at your peak.