Heat or Ice? An Acupuncturist's Perspective on How to Heal

By Elizabeth Williams /

Heat or Ice? An Acupuncturist's Perspective on How to Heal

I was out hiking recently, and unfortunately fell and twisted my ankle. My doctor (and Google) recommended “RICE” – or rest, ice, compression and elevation.  The resting, or staying off it, helped me from re-injuring it, the ice brought down the swelling and numbed the pain, compression kept the swelling down, and helped me to hobble around while keeping the ankle stable, and elevating it again helped with swelling. Thankfully, between that that a few acupuncture needles, I was back on my feet in no time.

But what happens when the pain doesn’t go away in a few days, or weeks, or months, or even years?

Your doctor, chiropractor or physical therapist might continue to suggest ice to dull the pain. And you’ve probably found that it helps...for a while. But as soon as that numbness wears off, the pain is back, sometimes even worse than before.

A Better Way Through Traditional Chinese Medicine: Breaking Up Stagnation

In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, we say that pain is caused by "stagnation". When Qi, blood, and body fluids can’t move freely through the body, they get stuck and cause pain and discomfort. Everything that I do in my clinic, and all the suggestions I make to patients, revolve around breaking up that stagnation and encouraging free flow.

Acupuncture and massage break up stagnation and increase circulation. And while ice and cold cause muscles to contract and blood flow to stop, heat allows fresh, oxygenated blood to course through the area, which prompts the body to heal itself.

Try On Yourself: Move Your Qi Through Heat

Stop icing those aches and pains and try only heat for a few weeks. If it’s cold and windy outside, keep your body, especially anywhere that tends towards pain, covered and warm. I love to slather on a heating ointment like Tiger Balm, and cover it with a damp towel and a heating pad (or a hot water bottle – anything to create a moist heat). This drives the heat deep into the tissue, and feels amazing. 

This article was originally published here and has been re-published with the express permission of the author.

Care Consideration: Just a reminder that the above information is not a substitute for medical care and is not a substitute for medical advice or recommendations  from a healthcare provider.  This information is not intended to treat, mitigate or cure any disease.  That said, we encourage you to connect with an Acupuncturist in your community to learn more about this and other Traditional Chinese Medicine options.  If you’ve got questions about Chinese herbal medicine or getting started with an Acupuncturist, feel free to connect with us on hello@mydaolabs.com

Elizabeth Williams, LAc is an acupuncturist in Greenville, South Carolina, specializing in pain management, women’s health, and psycho-emotional issues. She’s passionate about helping people feel their best and sharing her wealth of knowledge with the community. Elizabeth is the owner of Dragonfly Acupuncture & Massage, on Wade Hampton Boulevard. Appointments can be made by calling 864-451-4313, or scheduled online.

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