The Body Does NOT Want to Heal

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So in my last blog I hinted a bit about homeostasis and the body. Does the body really “want” to heal? My answer:  sort of.

So what even IS this homeostasis? Let’s keep this simple. Homeostasis is the body keeping itself in balance chemically. So in the smallest of ways – keeping your electrolytes in balance, your blood levels, your pH and all those liquid-y, chemical little things that we need to survive, all in proper balance. The body is only interested in staying in balance in THIS moment. So if what it does now actually causes trouble down the line it doesn’t matter to it.

 This is why I say the body doesn’t want to “heal.” It wants to stay in homeostasis. Huh?  Lets take an example:

Say you are a HUGE soda drinker – diet, regular, Coke, Pepsi, doesn’t matter. So the carbonation in the soda causes your pH to become more acidic. Your body then says EEEK, we are too acidic we need to become more alkaline. Well calcium is an excellent neutralizer to acid and thus you will start to leech calcium out of your bones to neutralize the acid from the sodas you are drinking.

And so this happening every once in a while you are probably okay. But if done too much or if you are a person who doesn’t have huge amounts of calcium in your system anyway then what happens? Osteoporosis. But the body isn’t thinking “geez, if I keep doing this I’m going to start breaking bones really easy so I’d best find another way to neutralize this acid.” Nope. It thinks like this: “Too acidic! Add calcium to neutralize. Find calcium in the bones. Leech it out. Back to a state of homeostasis. The End.”

Here is an example of an animal:

Henry the horse has an extra good time in the field and comes in with a big gash on his right front leg, disturbing his state of homeostasis. The horse’s cells say “EEEEK!!!! Trouble! Trouble at the RF cannon bone!” The body starts to concentrate on the area. The immune system takes over. The injured area starts to heat up and swell. The white blood cells come in and fight any present infections. Okay, so the body is starting to heal right? Nope. The body is bringing itself back to stability. Now, if that means also healing back to a normal state, great. But if not it doesn’t much matter to the body. Why? Because the body is in this moment. This moment only is what counts. An action occurs, the body re-acts to the situation. It doesn’t think about how it may be affected later.

So for those of you who know horses, what would happen if this big gash was left untreated? Even if the horse didn’t get a systemic infection,** is the wound going to heal itself and leave a perfectly normal leg without human intervention? Unlikely. Instead it will start to fill in with a lot of fleshy tissue called “proud flesh” that easily bleeds, but will create a huge barrier between the gash and the outside world. Often it will grow way outside of the injured leg. The area will be very hot and sore. It will likely heal but it will NOT look like the leg it once was. This is one example of homeostasis at work. The body wants and NEEDS to stay in homeostasis. So the body immediately gets to work fighting the infection and building tissue so that the gash is covered as soon as possible. Being left open allows more bacteria and other infectious stuff to get in which again causes more loss of homeostasis. So then the body DOES want to heal but not in the way that is best for the horse (and the horse being ridden) in the long run.

So what do we do to help the horse? Our vet comes out, cleans, and stitches the leg. We wrap the leg. We give the horse antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. We put all kinds of “stuff” on the leg to keep proud flesh from growing and infection from coming in. We give the body every chance to go back to homeostasis WHILE healing. Get it?

So what does this have to do with healing (or not healing)?  Well, so long as the body is happily in homeostasis it will heal. But sometimes, like in our examples above, staying in homeostasis “balance” causes trouble in the long run. So instead of healing – sometimes for something that seems really simple – like a sprain – things just get worse and worse. So now let’s talk about George.

Let’s say George, a perfectly healthy 41 year-old man, slips and falls on some ice. He lands on his tailbone. Boy is he lucky it isn’t broken – just a bruise. In a couple weeks he is all healed up (thanks to Aleve and some ice packs) and goes back to his normal schedule.

About a month later (could be any time really but let’s just say a month) George starts to have back pain. Not where he fell on his tailbone but around the waistline where the “lumbar” area of the back is. He figures he just got out of bed “wrong” and it will go away. But it persists. It gets worse. He doesn’t even relate the two incidents together – in his mind his body wanted to heal and did just that with the tailbone, right? This is just a freak thing…Two months later he can hardly get out of bed in the morning. Now it loosens up as he gets going but it still hurts throughout the day.

So George goes to the doc. He gets an MRI which shows an inflamed disk. He tells him to stop lifting things and take this prescription pain med to help. George follows the doctor’s orders. It gets better, kind of, it still hurts, but he can manage the level of pain now with the meds.

Six months down the line. George has some really weird digestive issues. He gets diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. George starts to think, well this is what happens when you get older, right? I must just be getting old here at 42. (He had a birthday). 

 He says, “I just must be getting old. I am 42 now so this is just what middle age is like.” Or is it?

 

So how acupuncture really works…

 What the acupuncturist really does is help your body to shift its homeostasis from a place of not healing to a place where it can heal.

So in the example above, the acupuncturist (like me) would likely start with a detox session. From there we would work on relaxing the tendons, bringing more chi to the back and digestion, (or less if needed) and generally getting the body to go back into a place of homeostasis where it can heal itself.

So how do you prevent all this? By using tools that help your body continue to come back to a state of homeostasis that allows it to heal and not have any “snow ball affects.”

Proper nutrition, proper micronutrients (like vitamins and minerals) are very important. Eating organically as much as possible. Exercising and actually sweating to help the body clear out impurities. Sleeping well. And having periodic acupuncture sessions are all ways to get back into “the right kind of balance” and staying as healthy as possible.

I really hope this article was helpful.  I don’t know what I will be writing about next time. If you have a question about yourself, one of your animal friends, or acupuncture in general please send them to me and I will answer them!

 

 ** An infection that runs throughout the entire body.

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“My horse is just being bad.”

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From February 15th, 2014

The very first time I got on a horse was June 30th, 1979.  I was ten.  It was summer camp.  The horse was “Miss Tea.”  She was an appaloosa.  And I was told, “you have to MAKE her do it!”  Actually I was yelled that a lot.  Make her, make her.  She’s just being lazy.  Make her!

That’s how it was back then.  We were dominant over horses, they were insubordinate, and it was our jobs as riders to MAKE them do what we wanted them to do.  Okay, so there is maybe some truth to this when you are on a very lazy school horse AND just learning to ride.  (That’s for another blog.)

But then you get your first horse.  Or maybe your second or third.  And you start to wonder how much of this is really true?  Is it really that my horse just doesn’t “feel” like working today and that is why he ___________ Fill in the blank: won’t go forward, bucks when I put my leg on, tries to bite me when I tighten the girth, etc. etc.?

The more I work with horses doing bodywork and acupuncture the more I say “no.”  Most of the time there is something keeping the horse from doing his (or her) work properly.  I am often amazed at how in pain a horse must have and yet still be doing so much for their riders.  These horses have HEART!

Sometimes the vet can’t figure out what is wrong either but you know your horse just isn’t “right.”

So here is personal example:

The other day I got on my mare and she started scooting after I mounted her.  I put my leg on and she threw her head up and refused to go forward.  Now, back in 1979 I would have been like, “You are just being bad!  You just don’t want to work today!  I must MAKE you do it!”  But now in 2014 I say, “okay, something is up.”  And after my years of working on horses I was pretty sure I knew what it was — I immediately checked her ribs to see if they were in alignment.  Nope, one was out on the right.  When ribs go “out” they actually twist.  I did my thing, my release work, and as the rib slid back into place again on it’s own accord my horse let out a huge sigh.  I put my leg on and immediately she dropped her head, reached for the bit, and went on a nice forward walk.

Have you ever had a rib out of alignment?  Ever bruised a rib?  Cracked one (God forbid!)  If you have you know how really painful it can be.  Even breathing becomes very difficult because the ribs must move to allow air in and out.  Now imagine a nutcracker around your ribs and squeezing?  How would you react?

It amazes me that a horse who has this kind of pain would even let us mount let alone put our leg around and squeeze.

Now hold on.  I don’t want you to feel guilty.  And certainly I don’t want you to start to “baby” your horse from here on out thinking that every little thing is some huge physical problem.  Instead I suggest you KNOW your horse.  Listen to what your horse is telling you.  If she pins her ears and is hesitant to go forward there is probably something physically going on – either painful or structurally out of place, or both.  Give them a break that day.  See how they are the next ride.  And if they are still unhappy have them checked out.  Before it becomes chronic.

And maybe now you are thinking about how your horse is always biting at you when you tighten the girth?  Or pins his ears into the canter.  Or has so much difficulty picking up her right lead.  “But my horse has been doing this for years.  It’s normal.”  No, it’s not.  These are signs of pain and or structural issues, too.  Have your horse checked out.

Yes, I do think that the body, whether human or equine wants to heal itself.  But even more so the body wants to stay at homeostasis.  I’ll talk about what this means and what the long-term effects are next blog.  Also what can be done about it.  In the meantime….

Ride in Stride,

LydiaImage