I fell and injured my back last week but I am doing much better already. I’m going to be sharing a series of articles on post what I’m doing to ease the pain and heal – acupuncture and cupping being two of the approaches. As well as heat (with a hot water bottle), I’m also using a long list of nutrients such as:
- high-dose fish oil and curcumin (as anti-inflammatories)
- relaxing magnesium
- arnica for bruising
- GABA for relaxing my muscles and helping with the acute pain, and for easing the fear and anxiety (initially I was very fearful I had a serious back injury) and
- DPA (d-phenylalanine) for the endorphin-boosting pain-relief
Today I’m going to share some research on GABA and how it helps with pain reduction and muscle tension, and how the acupuncture actually boosts GABA (as well as endorphins) to reduce pain.
Based on the examination I have soft tissue bruising around the lumbar area (L3 to L5). Sitting had been impossible until 2 days ago and even now I have to alternate between sitting and standing. I also twisted my ankle in the fall so initially standing was even challenging!
I had one acupuncture and cupping session last Saturday and will be having another one this coming Saturday. I felt some immediate relief after this session and my back has been getting better and better each day.
Oral sublingual GABA for the acute pain and muscle relaxation
In the interim, between acupuncture/cupping sessions I felt I needed relaxing support for my stiff and spasming back muscles so I immediately started using high doses of GABA for the acute pain. And it’s been working amazingly well.
Right after the fall I was taking 1g of GABA powder every few hours (held in my mouth for 1-2 minutes) and now I only need to take it 2 or 3 times a day as needed. This is the dose I started with only because I know this dose works for me for the rectal spasms I sometimes experience. I always have clients do a trial and start low and increase slowly based on need and response. The starting dose is typically 125mg as found in GABA Calm but I suspect this is likely too low if you are someone needing pain relief.
With the oral sublingual GABA I feel relief from the pain within 5 minutes and it lasts a few hours.
My pain level was 10/10 and is now down to 2/10 most of the time with a few times during the day when it is 4/10. I’m walking, standing, able to turn over in bed and sleep through the night, and able to get off the bed without assistance. I can now also put on my yoga pants, socks and shoes myself – these were impossible tasks in the first 5 days after my fall!
Acupuncture boosts GABA and downregulates substance P and CGRP
I have not been able to find research on oral GABA for easing pain but do have some research to share. In this first paper, Effect of electroacupuncture on thermal pain threshold and expression of calcitonin-gene related peptide, substance P and γ-aminobutyric acid in the cervical dorsal root ganglion of rats with incisional neck pain the authors state that it is known that acupuncture therapy effectively reduces post-surgical pain, but its mechanism of action remains unclear. The aim of the study was to investigate:
whether expression of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and the neuropeptides substance P (SP) and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) in the primary sensory neurons of cervical dorsal root ganglia (DRG) are involved in electroacupuncture (EA)-induced analgesia [pain reduction]in a rat model of incisional neck pain.
The conclusion is as follows: acupuncture increases the pain threshold i.e. it reduces pain and the mechanism is likely related to
downregulation of pronociceptive mediators SP/CGRP and upregulation of the inhibitory transmitter GABA in the primary sensory neurons of cervical DRGs
In case you’re not familiar with the terms substance P (SP) and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) I’m going to explain what they are, how they are connected to pain and why downregulation helps with pain reduction.
What is substance P (SP)?
Founders and Directors of Neuroplastix, Marla Golden, DO and Michael Moskowitz, MD share this about substance-P (SP), the main pain neurotransmitter:
It has five basic functions in the body. They are pain, inflammation, anxiety, depression and nausea. Even though these seem like negative experiences, they are important for survival. Problems arise with excessive production and release of Substance-P.
They share a very descriptive video that:
depicts a nerve injury causing a massive release of Substance-P, up to 5 times greater than in acute pain. This diffuses out to three to five times more local area. This is a major way that the pain map expands in persistent pain and keeps the pain going.
Be sure to watch the video on this page.
What is calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)?
Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) is relatively new marker for pain as this recent review paper discusses – Calcitonin gene-related peptide and pain: a systematic review
The present review revealed the association between measured CGRP levels and somatic, visceral, neuropathic and inflammatory pain. These data suggest that CGRP may act as a neuromodulator in non-headache pain conditions. However, more studies are needed to fully understand the role of CGRP in nociceptive processing and therapy of chronic pain.
Oral GABA lowers substance P and CGRP in asthmatic children
As I mentioned there is no research on the effects of oral GABA on pain reduction so I’m going to extrapolate from this study on asthma – Effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid treatment on plasma substance P and calcitonin gene-related peptide levels in children with asthma.
In this study of 75 children with asthma, 36 children were in the GABA treatment group and received oral GABA (25-30 mg/kg per day) in addition to standard asthma medications. For a 100 lb /45 kg child this would equate to 1125-1350mg of GABA per day.
The conclusion of the study is that oral GABA
can significantly decrease plasma levels of SP and CGRP in children suffering from acute asthma.
The authors propose that airway inflammation may be a factor in asthma and since GABA reduces SP and CGRP, eases neurogenic inflammation and tracheal spasms, it may offer a new approach for the prevention and treatment of asthma (this is my best translation from the Chinese paper).
In summary, oral GABA, used sublingually has helped me tremendously with the acute pain of my muscle injury, and it helped ease the anxiety and fear I felt right after the incident.
As you read above, I am using more than just the GABA, but because it works so quickly I saw benefits right away and had hope while all the other approaches are starting to slowly help too. I just love that I get to experience this first-hand and share it with you – although I would have preferred not falling and that initial severe pain!
I also have a good history of GABA helping me so this was a clue for me to try it now. It was my life-saver when I first experienced my terrible anxiety and panic attacks and helped me tremendously within a few days. I also did very well with GABA when I used it for throat spasms during my vagus nerve issue after that scary plane ride, and another incidence when I was getting terrible ice-pick type headaches that turned out to be a jammed neck issue. I really am a GABA girl aren’t I!?
I have used high doses of GABA like this with one client who had a back and neck injury after a construction accident. It also helped him tremendously.
Have you used high doses of GABA for muscle injuries and seen improvements like this? Or do you use this approach with your clients/patients?