acupunctureRecovering from c-section (like any surgery involving an abdominal incision) is a process by which we need to have our bodies, minds and spirit along for the course to help us achieve optimal healing.  Maybe you felt somewhere along the road your body has “failed” you.  I heard a postpartum woman who had had a c-section say this once and it was disheartening because birth can be such a complicated situation and forgiveness is a first step in true recovery as it releases a lot of anger and other emotions we all hang on to.  Forgiving our body’s imperfections and cradling it by sending it positive messages goes a long way in strengthening  the body-mind connection.  There is also a point where we must forgive our choices in childbirth.  Whether you had a vaginal birth, a c-section or a natural (drug free) birth it is an intense experience and our choices were the best we could make at that given moment.  A great deal of motherhood is making choices and if we constantly second guess and judge them, we will simply be in a stuck place in our mind and not able to enjoy the present moment with our newborns.  How can we truly feel connected in body-mind and spirit without love and acknowledgment of all three?  Acupuncture is a holistic practice that is  effective in  clearing our negative emotions and connecting us so that we feel more connected-literally.  This connectedness through acupuncture helps immensely on our road to recovery.

For a long time after my c-section (almost a year) I had a numbing and often itchy sensation around my scar.  It was a daily discomfort and my doctor said it was “normal” but had no suggestions for relief.  I tried several creams for scar tissue healing but to no avail.  Finally, I began seeing an acupuncturist, Dr.Hyun Lee L Ac. of Woodside acupuncture and after about six weeks of weekly visits, I was feeling much more comfortable and all the previously mentioned symptoms had dissolved.  Dr. Lee explained to me that any surgery that involves an incision can and often interferes with the energetic pathways of the acupuncture meridians.  Since Acupuncture is based upon the principal that our Qi (life force) flows throughout the body along pathways that correspond to major organs and emotions throughout the body.  If there is a major obstruction of the pathway it can cause stagnation and a stuck feeling and this is probably what contributed to my symptoms.  Through the use of fine needles, magnetic therapy, moxabustion and certain gentle “shock” impulses she helped to re-connect the meridians.  My healing expedited and I was recovering better. The subtle energetic pathways of the body have always been with us and are only recently being scientifically “proven.”  Chinese Medicine and most notably the existence of the meridians has been around for thousands of years.  I doubt it would have stuck around this long if it didn’t work.  Always be sure to go to a licensed professional that you have a good report with.

ArnicaLike so many flowers and herbs that grow around us, this amazing plant has a powerful healing ability.  Arnica (Arnica Montana) is used and recommended widely by many professionals including Massage, Physical and Occupational Therapists.  Nurse Practitioners and Medical Doctors have also touted its benefits.  It is used for general muscle and joint pain to prevent and treat bruising and soreness.  So what is the “magical” healing power this plant possesses and how and when should it be utilized?

Arnica Montana is a small yellow daisy-like flower that grows primarily in North America and parts of Europe and Asia.  Arnica Montana has been used since the 1500’s.  This article will focus on the topical use of Arnica Montana  in the form of ointments, creams and oils.  Arnica Montana, on the other hand, can be poisonous if taken internally and should one choose to use homeopathic pills it is recommended to consult a reputable homeopath.  Never use Arnica Montana on broken skin because it can cause irritation.  Also, the overly-prolonged use can cause skin irritation so only use for the period of time  needed to relieve acute pain.

Bruising: When you have a bump or an injury the blood capillaries can break and  cause blood cells to leak out and die-eventually turning black and blue.  This is how bruising is caused.  The body then sends white blood cells to the area to “clean it up.”   The white blood cells help to absorb the dead tissue and eventually heal the injured area.  Arnica Montana speeds up the process in that it helps stimulate the area to make this whole process swifter and more effective.  In a sense it also “injures” the area but in a benign way.  Arnica Montana has an effect on the capillaries as a vasodialator.  A vasodialator literally means to vascularize or to open the blood vessels’ walls.  This action brings circulation to the area.  The premise in homeopathy is that “like cures like”. In this sense, Arnica  Montana affects the tissue in the same way a bump or bruise can effect tissue.  Arnica Montana and injuries can both effect the walls of the capillaries.  They both can brings an increased amount of white blood cells to the area.  The white blood cells bring antigens to help heal it by aiding in the dispersing of trapped fluids that can be the result of an injury.  The use of Arnica Montana increases the number of white blood cells to the area.

I called it the “magic” joint and muscle pain solution because it often feels that way when you use it.  When produced by a natural company in a gel or cream form, it will not have any (or very little) smell when it comes out of the tube.  It really seems like nothing at first.  Just like many profound solutions in life the answer is often very simple.  We just need to hear it, see it, or feel it!  Remembering to slow down and listen for the solution is the key.  Then taking action to put it on after a bump or bruise is the other key!  I have found it to be very helpful with repetitive motion injuries such as Carpal Tunnel issues.  Along with the R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)  it speeds up the road to recovery on many simple injuries.   Remember, however, that Arnica is meant as a simple health solution on minor injuries.  It is effective as an adjunct in physical therapy for sprains and strains as well as bruising. Consult your doctor for any serious or ongoing issues.

Overall, Arnica Montana is an essential tool to have in any medicine cabinet or first aid kit!  Remember it is not meant for use on broken skin and there are some who may have an allergic reaction to the toxin helenalin, the active ingredient in Arnica Montana.  Discontinue use if a rash appears.  Arnica Montana gels and ointments can be found in health food stores and some pharmacies.  Try to buy it from a natural company such as Boiron.  This way it will not have added chemicals or artificial scents.

Being pro-active in your own healing can keep you strong and better able to meet challenges.  In Chinese Medicine it is believed that our Chi (life force) is weakened by even the smallest injury.

10 tips for post-natal recoveryRecovering from the birth experience and learning to take care of a newborn can be a very difficult time in a couple’s life.  Most doctors will recommend not to exercise, take baths or have sex in the first six weeks after birth-take any one of those activities away for too long and you will feel stressed!   Feeling dehydrated can also be an issue for women who are breastfeeding.  Whether you had a vaginal or a c-section delivery it is a very significant healing time.  It is important to take care of yourself even in a small way.   Most women feel very fragile and raw after giving birth.  The constant feedings and caring for your newborn which can lead to a lack of sleep can really get you feeling off-center.  You need to help yourself and guide others to help in your recovery.   Here are some ways you can treat yourself when you don’t have a lot of time or energy to make it to the spa.

1.  Your shower-time is a great moment for some “me-time”.  Face massage in the shower can be very clearing and comforting.  Massage around the cheekbones and gently use your finger pads to place pressure on the sinuses. This provides great relief on several levels even for just a few moments.    The heat and steam of course will feel great on your muscles which are very often still tight from labor.

2.  Give yourself a mini facial.  It is recommended to use unscented and even hypo-allergenic products around a newborn.  You should do this while they are napping and wipe off any excess of the product before touching them.  A  gentle exfoliant can be great for replenishing your skin.  Simple baking soda powder is a natural one which can be used once a week.  If you are very sensitive or have any skin issues do not try this.

3.  Moisturize!  Do not forget to use lotion/oil on your feet and body.  Hospital air can really dry you out and so does breastfeeding.  This is also good to help your skin recover from stretch marks.  Most importantly, it feels good and helps your body relax.  Many women suffer from dry heels during and after pregnancy.  In reflexology the heels correspond to our uterus and ovaries.  Again, use unscented and hypo-allergenic products around a newborn.

4.  In case you just don’t have time to moisturize after the shower try Aveeno moisture body wash for dry itchy skin.  It is very effective and is a great time-saver.

5.  Always drink plenty of water.  This seems obvious but it is vitally important to remember to stay hydrated at this time.

6.  Be sure to maintain a healthy and balanced diet that includes plenty of greens to nourish and to replenish your body.

7.  Put the baby in a carrier and slowly and mindfully DANCE around!  This is good for your spirit and the baby will love it.  If they don’t of course stop immediately.  Rhythms and beats are so good for us all as it gets us out of our linear mind and into a more sub-conscious awareness where we can connect with our babies.

8.  Taking a walk with your baby (in a baby carrier) can be very relaxing.  Find a special place you can enjoy with them.  This can become a beautiful ritual to continue together as they grow.  It is a great way to get stimulation for them and exercise for you.  If you are suffering from edema this is a great way to get some much needed circulation to your legs and feet .  It also helps to support attachment parenting practices such as baby-wearing and bonding.

9.  Gentle and safe care of your muscles is very important.  The changes in your body have been quite dramatic and can lead to a lot of tension in the body.  Breastfeeding can be a trying time on our bodies.  Read “Why are my neck and shoulders so tense”  for some helpful tips on how to relieve muscle aches and pains.

10.  Set up a fabulous “nursing station”  Complete with a fan, snacks, water, t.v. remote and an excellent novel.  Yes, you may have time to read during those long late night nursing sessions.  Embrace this time of long feedings and late nights with just you and your baby.  It can be quite magical if you allow it to be and have a “go with the flow” kind of attitude. Read the “Bolsters and pillows for joint support” article for more tips on how to make yourself more comfortable.

Hopefully this will help you feel better and ease the transition into motherhood.  Being a mother is a special job and one that needs a well cared for and nurtured nurturer!