More and more kids these days, their schedules fill up. Not just with schoolwork but also with some kind of sports. Just about every child will explore some kind of sport or the other in their life. So sports injuries are very common. You've done a fantastic job of integrating acupuncture and Eastern medicine with Western medicine.
What is your experience, when it comes to rehabilitative medicine; particularly with acupuncture and Western medicine?
Sophia Bouwens, L.Ac.: I think, I really appreciate that point that you made there, that we integrate both of them. Because I don't think that it's one or the other, or “Us versus Them.” I think that acupuncture works amazingly as an adjunct with physical therapy or with other kinds of therapies you might be doing as you prepare. If you're in physical therapy and you're having this limitation on your motion this way, or you're not able to break this level of strength for some reason, or, “this always hurts when I do that,” what we can do with acupuncture is tailor to what muscle it might be that's limiting it, what other structures are attached to that muscle and how they might be contributing to that factor, and release those or help them fire more accurately so you can go back to physical therapy to strengthen them in a way that they're relaxed and they're better able to take on that therapy. And you'll see that therapy move forward with a lot different strength and the approach there will be compounded by adding acupuncture in.
What is acupuncture’s role in particular? What does it really do in that instance?
Sophia Bouwens, L.Ac.: It depends on what you're working towards. It can do a lot of things. So we can bring new circulation to a muscle, we can help break up adhesions. So muscle fibers run along each other and they can get twisted and they can get stuck so that they're not able to stretch and fire efficiently. And so what acupuncture can do is, kind of unwind those and help them loosen up. We can break up adhesions of lactic acid that gets stuck in the muscle forming knots, too. And so we bring in new circulation and flush that out. We can help the neurons fire more efficiently, we can help a connection to the brain so that when you think to do something, your muscle will fire more correctly and more accurately and quicker than it would have you just tried to strengthen the muscle. You have to connect both of them together. Neurons that fire together, wire together!And so, we can help that connection neurologically, mentally, physically. These things or these obstructions you have in your way that were limiting you before can start to open up and we can make new ways for you to progress!
One of the most common things that I hear people say when they’ve experienced an injury is the stress that comes with it. Whether you’re an athlete, or even not an athlete, or trying to become a pro athlete, there's a lot of pressure that athletes feel and our students feel, and with that pressure comes a lot of stress.
So, how does acupuncture affect stress in someone?
Sophia Bouwens, L.Ac.: Acupuncture is huge for stress; it can change what's called the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system: It's our fight-or-flight mode or our rest and restore mode. Acupuncture works to help the body and the nervous system, our brain, switch those on or off. So we can get someone who's in that fight-or-flight because they're so stressed, we can switch it off for them so they're in the rest and restore mode, which is when healing and regeneration happens. So when you get an injury, you're stressed about it. That only compounds the nature of the injury because it can't heal as much. When you can turn it off, and maybe your stressed about it but you're not feeling that stress as intensely, we can change the body's ability to restore and start pouring resources into regenerating and helping that heal. And so acupuncture can be really great for the injury itself, but then also for the person. While they're trying to navigate the stress of this injury, they can show up in life a little less wired or a little less tense about things because we can change the way that their nervous system is operating from the fight or flight, really stressful state, to that rest and restore, more enjoyable, peaceful state.
Do you think that when it comes to rehabilitative medicine, having acupuncture be part of the overall treatment can really be synergistic and take that rehab to the next level, or is it kind of a “nice to have?” Where would you categorize it?
Sophia Bouwens, L.Ac.: I absolutely think it will help take it to the next level. That was my personal experience, that's my experience I see clinically, that's the experience I see with athletes when they are performing, they have better performance after acupuncture. I think when you're rehabbing, whether it's from an injury or to perform, you're just trying to get your body to operate at the highest level, and acupuncture can be a great adjunct. It's amazing at helping, kind of, break through those things. I definitely think it should be in the rehab or the performance building as part of the treatment, not just a supplement to it.
If someone is undergoing physical therapy, let’s say after surgery or after injury, would you say acupuncture has more value before they go to their physical therapy session or after their physical therapy session?
Sophia Bouwens, L.Ac.: That's a good question. Generally I like to see someone after their therapy because I like to see, kind of, where the body is at after they've gone and done the hard work out that they're doing to restore. I am able to kind of read that, is this a time when they can have a lot of simulation where we can work the muscle really hard right now or did they just exhaust it and it really just needs to be helped along in a more gentle way? And so I like to see them after. Acupuncture itself is a lot like a workout. It brings a lot new circulation, it breaks up adhesions, people can feel really tired or sore after a treatment, which is very normal, but it's also part of the healing response that we get from the acupuncture treatment. So often times I say, try to plan them on separate days so that you're not going back to back, from work out to work out, or from acupuncture to a physical therapy, or to a stressful or intensive workout. I think that it's great to see them after, though, if they do have to have them on the same day. Seeing them after they've done their physical expounding or physical activity can be more helpful to kind of gauge where the body is in that moment when I'm working them and what I have to work with so they don't feel exhausted or overworked at the end of it.