Back in March, I strained my calf—either from running or rocking some too-tall heels. I iced it, stretched it, rested it, and saw my PT. But instead of receding, the pain persisted, even creeping down into my Achilles and arches.
I was still hobbling around months later when I went to see Noah Rubinstein, the New York acupuncturist who, along with his wife, Jill Blakeway, runs the YinOva Center.
Rubinstein has developed recovery programs for those who simply can’t take a few days off and need to get back to being active—stat. Half of his appointment book is filled with performers and professional dancers to athletes and weekend warriors with a race looming.
And as former teacher of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) whom the Times once named (along with Blakeway) the city’s best acupuncturist, I figured he could handle an injured runner (and heels-wearer) like me.
My initial visit to Rubinstein began with questions about my diet (clean), skin (sensitive), hair (healthy), and even my sleep (restless). These painted a picture of my “unique pattern of symptoms” and helped Rubinstein design his plan of attack on my calf. Though, interestingly he trained his teeny needles on some old back issues.
I left his office (still hobbling), but an hour later I felt my arches uncramp for the first time in weeks, “a result of addressing the root of the problem, not the symptom,” says Rubinstein. After a session of gua sha (a skin scraping treatment that stimulates circulation) on my back a week later, the burning sensation in my Achilles disappeared. What gives?
Certainly addressing my back, instead of my feet, helped. But all that icing I was doing didn’t.
Icing an injury can help with inflammation, but it interferes with circulation and movement, explains Rubinstein.
You would never ice your legs before a dance performance or a run. “We use TCM to promote circulation without inhibiting function. This allows people to get back in the game quicker,” he explains.
And that’s a big factor for dancers, athletes, and marathoners who can’t let injuries slow them down.
Sometimes rest is called for, says Rubinstein, who’s sensitive to the-show-must-go-on philosophy of his patients. “But using TCM, we can help quicken the healing time of injuries, help prevent them, and unravel chronic conditions that get in the way of peak performance.”
What we’re trying to do, he says, “is not have an injury stop you from your work or your training any more than it has to.” Agreed. —Nina Pearlman