Han Dian TCM Chinatown: Acupuncture for Muscle Knots with Dr Chung
Recently, there are more and more people coming up to me, asking me about my training and fitness regime that enable me to perform the stunts (shown in the Action reel below). Having practised martial arts from young, and parkour for about 8 years, the life-long (almost) drills allowed my body to adapt and learn new skills or stunts faster than most people. However, just like the callouses that form upon the fingertips of a well-honed guitarist, these skills comes at a price, and as with the guitar, the price is pain.
Muscle aches are a daily reality for me, a combination of the physicality of the work that I do, and a training regime where I incessantly raise the bar. And as a result, long term muscle knots plagues me.
There are a couple of things that I do to reconcile this. Firstly, I make it a habit to stretch daily. Secondly, by practicing frequent foam rolling. And finally, when knots gather to a point where those 2 things are no longer sufficient, I turn to getting a deep tissue/sports massage, generally once every 2-3 months.
Why am I doing Acupuncture at Han Dian TCM Chinatown?
TCM had always been one of the options that had hung in the back of my head, but never had an avenue to try it until my introduction to Dr Chung from Han Dian TCM Chinatown by Tiffany (Check out her acne-acupuncture journey with Han Dian TCM here). A handful of my peers had often suggested acupuncture to me, and I’d always been wondering if it would be effective for me, and so join me as we discover the reaction of an athlete’s body towards acupuncture!
‘Muscle Knots’ what are those?
Muscle knots are what happens when muscle fibers start to stick to each other and become adhered. It causes a hard and lumpy feeling, instead of the usual pliable and elastic texture that healthy muscles are supposed to be.
The textbook term is, “Myofascial Trigger Points”.
“Myo” = Muscles
“Fascial” = Connective Tissues
Pretty much everyone has some, it’s very common, but it doesn’t mean your should leave it unattended either. How do you find out which part of your body is knotted up? There are generally 2 kinds of knots:
- Active Knots: Specific points that produces chronic dull pain/ache/discomfort. You may constantly feel the urge to stretch at it or apply pressure against it via self-massage to ease the feeling.
- Passive Knots: It doesn’t cause any discomforts by itself, but when force is applied to it, it is hypersensitive/irritable, and hurts/aches from very little pressure. Basically it feels tender to the touch.
What are some of the causes?
- Too much, or too little exercise. E.g. Too little rest between exertions, not enough stretching, sedentary lifestyle.
- Poor posture. E.g. Long sitting hours, constantly carrying heavy baggage.
- Dehydration, unhealthy diet. E.g. alcohol, sugary caffeinated drinks, processed and fast foods are dehydrating.
- Mental or emotional stress. E.g. sometimes the tense muscles may be psychosomatic.
Hence, it isn’t an ailment that only affects sports people, but endured by every one of us.
Acupuncture to Release Muscle Knots at Han Dian TCM Chinatown
Consultation with Dr Chung
In our first meeting at Han Dian TCM Chinatown, Dr Chung inquired about what was ailing me. And I talked about all the part of my body that commonly knots up, and described the ones that had been there for years, never really going away. The ambiance of the clinic is bright, immaculate and puts me at ease.
Scroll to the bottom for a discount code for a free first consultation with Dr Chung at Han Dian TCM Chinatown!
Where are my Recurring Knots?
- Above and between the shoulders! First off the bat, are the ones that I am pointing to in the photo above. There are a pair of long term knots positioned right above my shoulder blades. Right on the upper edge of the scapula that meet the trapezius muscle group. Two cluster of tight knots that while passive, gets inflamed occasionally and becomes active knots that causes chronic discomfort and gets in the way of my neck mobility. A combination of overuse and aggravated by long hours of slouching while sitting on a chair during my video editing work.
- Lower back! Stand too much, it hurts, sit too long it hurts. The lower back seems to be a constant reminder of the pains of existence. Stop slouching!
- Gluteus Medius. Those are the muscles on the side of your hips that keeps your balanced when you stand and when you walk. You can get a feel of the exact muscle by doing this:
Stand with all your weight on one foot, and gradually, pick your other feet off the ground, and extend into a yoga Tree Pose. Hold that position for a minute, and the muscles that starts to burn on the side of your hips apart from your ass and thighs are this particular muscle set.Definitely and overuse injury from acrobatics. Taking off and landing requires a ton of exertions in order to absorb the collective impact.
- Calves. And the knots extends upwards to the fleshy part right behind your knee. I used to foam roll daily to get my calves to be marginally relaxed. I walk a lot. All the running and jumping also does number on them. And apart from that, it has something to do with the way I position my hips in my neutral stance. People who have their hips roll towards the front generally has stiffer calves. While those who roll their hips more towards the back usually has tighter hamstrings.
Frequently Asked Questions
The default treatment for knots if you were to look it up in the internet are usually to do a thing they call a “myofascial release”. Several proposed methods are typically; sports massage, ischemic compression and foam rolling/trigger point ball. Other more radical methods would be contrast therapy (alternately soaking in hot and cold baths), dry needling, electro-stimulation.
Personally I’ve been using massage and foam rolling the most, and generally also the 2 methods that are most easily accessible. And hence I will constantly be using those 2 as comparisons for acupuncture with Dr Chung from Han Dian TCM Chinatown as a method of managing and maintaining fascial health.
(During) How does Acupuncture for Muscle Knots feel?
I must say that I was initially expecting it to hurt more. But Dr Chung works really swiftly, I’d have just barely begun to feel a prick, and she’d be done already. Not just that, she’d draw my attention away and when I move my attention back to the spot that is to be treated, the needle would already be in place without my noticing.
*Note that my review is about my experience with Dr Chung at Han Dian TCM and not any other doctors. Hence, individual acupuncture experiences may vary if you are visiting other TCM clinic.
Save for a couple of specific zones that the body would be more sensitive e.g. the back of the knee. The needle entry work actually trigger and involuntary twitch of the muscle, it’s a curious sensation.
After which Dr Chung would position a heating lamp above me that conducts heat to the needles, and I’d lay there for a nap with the needles in me for 20 – 30 minutes before she comes back and removes the needles. The warmth of the lamp feels like laying on a beach under mild sunlight, it’s really quite comfy. Plus, my body gradually gets used to the needles and I would stop feeling their presence in me by the first 5 minutes.
The removal is even faster than the placing of them.
Sports massage – Comparison
Sport massages hurt. Like a lot. Deep tissue massages hurts even more. That’s just how it is. And it hurts for the entire session, be it a half hour or a full hour. After several years of it you may begin to learn to like the pain perhaps.
Foam roller – Comparison
Foam rolling is like a workout in itself. I practice it in 2 different capacities. The first is a relaxed version of it, where I would place it on several different positions along of my spine, and rock gently. I would do this to get my back relaxed before I sleep. It can be pleasantly achy. Effectiveness is minimal for severe aches, mainly for maintenance and pain relief but not for releasing the knots.
The second is the more tedious version, where the aim is instead to release the knots. That one hurts. And I’ll end it all sweaty. Effectiveness depends on how thorough you persist in the rolling, and how much pain you can take. In my first year of foam rolling, I remember rolling myself so thoroughly i had tears rolling out involuntarily from the severity of the pain.
(After) How does it feel?
Immediately after the needles are removed, it feels similar to the post ache of a deep tissue massage. Part of it is a certain tenderness of the targeted muscle groups. And if I were to flex it intentionally, it’ll ache dully. This sensation fades after a couple of hours.
For the rest of the day the knot would seem to generally relaxed compared to before the treatment, but I’d only felt the complete relaxation only after a night’s sleep.
Upon working out the day after, the dull ache were no longer there.
The knots relaxed for several hours, but came back in full force after.
My second session’s effect lasted much longer. The discomforts in the knots were noticeably relieved for 2 weeks, and took a week of tough training for the knots to build back to an uncomfortable point.
The third session with Dr Chung lasted the longest by far. It had actually managed to hold the knots at bay for an entire month. And took half of that time on top of that for it to get uncomfortable again.
My fourth session with Han Dian TCM Chinatown was exactly 2 months after the third session. It was right after a day of performance, and my lower back and hip was rather tightly knotted up. The session helped to relax my posterior chain considerably.
On top of that my left knee had been gradually getting tightened up over the duration of the past month of overuse. It’s range of movement gets reduced momentarily whenever i would bend it for several minutes. After the session, it’s discomfort was reduced by at least 50%.
Sports massage – Comparison
After sports massages, the body would feel really tender. And it’ll take 1 or even 2 whole days before the aching when I activate the muscle groups to fade completely. There would be slight bruising in a couple of places.
The released muscle knots can stay relaxed up to 2 weeks to a month after treatment.
Foam roller – Comparison
Similar effects to sport massage, but much much more reduced. This depends on how intense your session was. And the effects lasts in direct proportion to this. I generally have to foam roll once ever 2-3 days to maintain a certain amount of muscle pliability.
How long is the entire process at Han Dian TCM?
(From changing to laying down to standing back up) After entering and changing into the shorts, it takes about a minute to get all the needles in me. Duration many vary, depending on how many you’ve got. I’d lay there for 20 – 30 minutes with the heat lamp above me. Takes about half a minute for the needle removal.
Change back into your clothes, and after a glass of warm water, you’re done!
Total 35-45 minutes.
When did the needle holes heal?
For the averagely healthy body, the holes doesn’t leave a hole in you, the skin is bouncy, and it closes itself. For most of the needle holes can be seen as little pink dots, and on a couple of the points there may be light bruising visible.
Note: Avoid water contact in the immediate 1 -2 hours after the the session.
The marks fades after a day. 2 days tops for the couple of bruised marks.
What are my thoughts on Acupuncture now?
I feel that it is definitely a great addition to all the treatments available. With it supplementing what I’ve already been doing, my body is able to maintain fascia health more longer duration and feels better. I could even get a little lazier with my routine foam rolling sometimes thanks to it.
But one should definitely be practical and not expect magical results. You shouldn’t begin to abuse your body by suddenly increasing your physical training regime with expectation that the acupuncture would solve it, it isn’t a super soldier serum. It also isn’t an elixir of life, thus one should still maintain a good lifestyle, eg. remaining well hydrated, sleeping sufficiently, stretching regularly.
Would I recommend it?
Yes, I think it’s worth a shot, give it a try with Dr Chung and see how your body responses to it.
Would I continue with the treatment at Han Dian TCM Chinatown?
Yes, each session seems to have an accumulative result to the last.
Where is 漢典中医（Han Dian TCM Chinatown)？
Address: 2 Havelock Road, #03-16, Havelock2, Singapore 059763
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday: 10.30am – 8pm | Sunday: 10.30am – 2pm | Closed on Saturday & Public Holidays
Telephone No.: 6554 2048
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S. Dr Chung is located only at Havelock2 – Chinatown clinic!