Post by Johnathan
Somatic trauma treatment with acupuncture
The size of the experience doesn’t determine its traumatic impact, rather the personal effect of the experience is what determines its impact. Our bodies are adapted to process harm and disruption of all kinds. Our ancestors engaged threats that looked like big wooly mammoths, and we engage threats that look like 2020 shelter-in-place orders. While those threats seem dissimilar, their effects on our bodies have remained unchanged for millennia.
The stress response kicks in when we are faced with something that threatens our safety in some way. Safety here may include physical, emotional, or social safety. Our nervous system interprets threat as
The nervous system kicks into one of these gears until the threat is evaded- the wooly mammoth is defeated or you successfully escape. Only after we are past the threat can our bodies return to a calm state, or “rest and digest”. However, in a context like modern urban life in the Pacific Northwest, the stress response is often triggered but less often resolved. Due to myriad factors like our sedentary lifestyle habits, isolating social structures, and lack of cultural knowledge into how our bodies work, too often our nervous systems are persistently stressed at a dull roar.
Any unresolved traumatic experience, great or small, can create an eddy of thought patterns and nervous system dysregulation. Your stress response affects your body and mind! These pathologies create a litany of interconnected symptoms, which can be difficult to treat individually. When our bodies are in a state of fight, flight, or freeze, crucial functions are deprioritized, like thorough digestion.
Other symptoms that can be caused by being in a state of trauma response:
Thankfully, acupuncture and Chinese medicine conceive of the body and mind as an integrated system. Rather than chasing disparate symptoms (branch), acupuncture treats the cause (root). The shock, the freeze, or the flight of a traumatic response impacts us wholly, so its remedy must also be holistic.
Top-down and bottom-up
Whether as a primary treatment choice or as complementary to other therapies, acupuncture and Chinese medicine offer a somatic (body-centered) perspective to emotional conditions and their embodied symptoms. While a mental health practitioner may work understanding your thoughts and how they impact your body (top-down), we focus on your body’s influence on your thoughts (bottom-up).
We will assess how your emotional health affects your symptoms. Acupuncture on the body and especially on the ear will help your nervous system move from “fight/flight” into “rest/digest”. An acupuncture treatment helps clear your head and calm you down. After treatment, specially-formulated herbs can sustain the treatment throughout the week, addressing the root of the condition. An herbal formula can help mitigate symptoms, but ultimately treats the underlying condition so that your symptoms stay at bay.
In the end, it is the inherent intelligence of our bodies that brings healing. It can be difficult to notice and interrupt cycles of stress when navigating the demands of daily life. This holistic medicine has been a tool to regulate peoples’ nervous systems for generations, and it may help you.
Posted by: Johnathan
Trigger Point Dry Needling Acupuncture (TrPDNA) is a technique of resolving pain and compromised function by needling specific bands of tissue in muscle which are in a state of hyper-engagement. These are the “knots” in your muscles that ache when you press on them.
These taut bands contain what are called "trigger points" which are areas in the muscle with restricted blood flow, lower oxygen saturation, and a lower (i.e., more acidic) pH. These circumstances lead to neurological responses leading to discomfort and altered function of the muscle.
How is TrPDNA different from other traditional acupuncture styles?
More traditional channel-based acupuncture treats based on channel theory. The practical effect of this is that needles are placed in channel points along one or more of the 14 channels running through the torso, arms, and legs.
We at Foster Wellness often incorporate both styles of acupuncture within the same treatment. Channel-based acupuncture is used initially to open the channels such that when we perform the local trigger point needling the energy (qi) from the muscle has somewhere to go and the overall effect can be better achieved than local dry needling alone.
Does TrPDNA hurt?
TrPDNA is definitely “sensationful.” Whereas the Foster Wellness style of channel-based acupuncture is often sensation-free, dry needling results in strong sensation, usually at the site of the muscle being treated, but the sensation can sometimes refer to other areas of the body. For example, needling the back of the shoulder can often refer to the front. TrPDNA is similar to deep tissue massage, where the pressure is strong but feels safe and effective. We practice dry needling in the tradition of leaders such as Janet Travell and Jan Dommerholt.
How can TrPDNA help you?
We can treat almost any pain caused by muscle tension, including postsurgical tension (such as in the leg after knee replacement surgery), adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder), back, neck, or foot pain due to muscle tension. Even if your muscle pain is secondary to another condition, this style of acupuncture could help reduce your discomfort.