Friday, June 22, 2018

Questions About Acupuncture Treatments Answered

Are you interested in acupuncture but wonder when to use it and what to expect? Are you afraid of needles? I'd like to share some information that answers the most common questions I receive. 
What happens during the first appointment?
Acupuncturists spend quite a bit of time talking to patients during the first consultation and treatment. There is a thorough past medical history review, and significant attention is paid to current diet, emotional states, sleep and exercise habits. We use information provided by patients, along with diagnostic tools such as tongue examination and pulse reading, to determine each patient's "pattern of disharmony." I like to think of acupuncturists as detectives. We carefully mine information and connect a constellation of signs and symptoms to develop treatments that help reestablish balance.
Acupuncture needles are very thin (the width of a human hair), so the sensation felt upon insertion is minimal. When needles are manipulated, a unique sensation signalling the arrival of energy, or Qi, may be felt. This is often described as dull and achy, and is usually followed by increased relaxation and comfort. Needles are typically retained for approximately 20 minutes. Most people find acupuncture treatments to be pleasant experiences and describe feeling calmer yet more energetic in the days following treatment. 
Other treatments that may be used in conjunction with acupuncture include: Chinese herbs, moxibustion (heat applied gently with a medicinal herb), cupping, gua sha (a traditional scraping technique used to break up stagnation), tuina massage, and acupressure. 
Do I have to be sick to get acupuncture?
Of course, if you are injured or experiencing pain or sickness, it's a good time to make an appointment with an acupuncturist. However, healthy people can benefit from acupuncture too. I recommend scheduling quarterly treatments that coincide with the change of seasons. Our bodies are microcosms of the universal macrocosm and respond to seasonal changes. Acupuncture can help ease the body and mind during these transitional times and promote balance.
How Can I Find a Reputable Acupuncturist?
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a complete body of medicine, and the training required in the US to practice is rigorous. Traditional Chinese Medical school is a four year graduate program that requires over 3,000 hours of theory and clinical practice. Most states require licensing, and most acupuncturists are also nationally certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. I recommend seeking fully licensed and certified acupuncturists. You can search the practitioner database as well as to find a local acupuncturist. Often the best way to find an acupuncturist is through a referral. Medical doctors and chiropractors are legally authorized to practice acupuncture, however the training required specifically for acupuncture is limited to 250 hours. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Popping Pills

If you can purchase medication over the counter (OTC), it must be safe, right? Not exactly. Occasional use of  OTC NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) medications may not cause problems, however it's important to use them sparingly and not habitually, as daily use can have serious side effects. Daily ibuprofen use can result in: stomach and intestinal ulcers, uncontrolled bleeding, and poor kidney function. So think twice before popping a pill, especially for chronic pain, and consider alternatives, like acupuncture and acupressure, that don't carry serious risks.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wu Wei: Action-less Action

Traditional Chinese Medicine is rooted in Taoist philosophy. Central to Taoism is the concept of wu wei, or action-less action. It is used as a way to preserve and build te, or power, by being in a state of pure perception, without prejudice. It is the inactive state of receptiveness when one's will is in harmony with nature. Qualities that represent wu wei include: adaptation, conformity, passivity, simplicity, openness, spontaneity, and naturalness. These qualities are not easy for westerners to embrace. But by working with nature, rather than fighting against it, one can live in balance and harmony. Wu wei is perfectly illustrated in the Tao Te Ching, or The Book of the Way:

"Man is weak and pliant when he is born, 
solid and strong when he dies.
Herbs and trees are soft and lush when they germinate, 
parched and hard when they die.
For that which is solid and powerful is part of death, 
that which is soft and weak is part of life.
Therefore, if the weapons are powerful, victory is impossible;
A strong tree attracts the notice of the wood cutters.
Strength and power lie below; weakness and softness stand above."

"Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking, 
the whole world belongs to you."
 -Lao-Tzu  Tao Te Ching

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Garden and The Machine

What is the fundamental difference between Western and Eastern medical approaches? What is the philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine? The picture below simply demonstrates the basic tenets of each.

On the left side, we see the western model. Its is grounded in Cartesian philosophy, which separates mind and body. In this model, the body is seen as a machine, broken down into distinct parts. Western medicine requires specialists to tend to each part rather than the whole body. If a part is broken, it is fixed or removed, and may be replaced. The focus is on treating the patient after illness has taken hold. Western medicine is particularly helpful in managing acute injuries and emergencies.
The Eastern approach to medicine is pictured on the right. Here we see the human body as a garden, an ecosystem where all parts contain and affect the whole. Traditional Chinese Medicine is rooted in Taoism, and sees the body as a microcosm of the universal macrocosm. Just as a garden is affected by the environment, so to are our bodies. In Chinese Medicine, there is a fundamental principal called "yang sheng," which means "nourishing life." Here, the interior environment is of utmost importance and physicians were historically paid for keeping patients well rather than treating sickness. There's a Chinese adage that is often cited- "Don't dig a well when you're thirsty!" The goal in Eastern medicine is to nourish the body and mind, establishing harmony so that it is resistant to disease. It is only when the body is out of balance that disease can arise. 

Of course, perfect harmony is difficult to attain and maintain, so Chinese medicine also intervenes to address imbalances in the body and mind, with the understanding that each part of the body is connected and effects the whole. Acupuncturists look at the constellation of signs and symptoms that a patient presents with to determine the pattern and root cause of their particular condition. The approach is to treat the fire (root cause) rather than the smoke (symptoms), and bring the body back into balance. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who stopped by our booth at the 2018 Health and Wellness Fair! It was a fantastic event. We raffled off a complimentary acupuncture treatment and a set of HeadEase rings. We will announce the winner soon! Special thanks to Jenny Yang, Will Neumann and the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Health and Wellness Fair

If you live in the Chicago area, please stop by the Community Health and Wellness Fair on Sunday, April 29th 11am-3pm and say hello! I will have HeadEase rings available to demo and will happily answer any questions. There are over 70 health and wellness vendors attending, and many giveaways. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Harvard Health and Acupuncture

While acupuncturists and their patients have long known that acupuncture works, it has taken time for the medical community and general public to trust in its efficacy. Thanks to an analysis of 23 studies, the jury is no longer out. It has concluded, with certainty,  that acupuncture provides signigicant relief for headaches and other conditions.


Saturday, April 7, 2018

Save the Bees!

What some people are calling "bee acupuncture," or apitherapy, has been in the news recently after a woman died following an allergic reaction as a result of the procedure. While both modalities are considered alternative therapies and puncture the skin, apitherapy uses honey bees to sting patients, with the hope of reducing pain and inflammation. Please do not confuse acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine with apitherapy. Acupuncturists do not use apitherapy. While acupuncture is very safe and uses sterile stainless steel needles, apitherapy is dangerous to the patient and kills the bee. You can read more about apitherapy and this recent case here.

Friday, April 6, 2018

You've got a cold. Now what?

This is one formula that I have stocked in the medicine cabinet at all times. Chinese medicine views the common cold (and the flu) as a struggle between the body's "defensive qi" and exogenous "pathogenic qi." If your defensive qi (similar to the immune system) is deficient, you are more susceptible to an attack by pathogenic qi. Virugo Max is used to reduce the virility of what acupuncturists call "pathogenic wind-heat." It has been used in Asia for over 30 years, and is distributed in the U.S. exclusively by Dragon Herbs. It works wonders!

Symptoms of wind-heat include fever and chills, with fever predominating, headache, a sore scratchy throat and yellow nasal discharge. Talk to your acupuncturist, or speak with a TCM practitioner at Dragon Herbs, about its proper use. Virugo Max is most effective when taken early after onset, but helps shorten the duration at any point. Ron Teeguarden, of Dragon Herbs, is a renowned herbalist based in Los Angeles and is dedicated to researching and sourcing the very best in Chinese herbs.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Get Ready For Spring Cleaning

Traditional Chinese Medicine draws much of its wisdom from Taoism, and the understanding that our bodies respond to the natural flow of the seasons.  In Five Element theory, each Element (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water) corresponds with a season, an organ system, emotion, sense organ, etc.   A simple Five Element chart looks like this:

Spring is the season of rebirth and mobilizing energy, and it corresponds with the Liver.  If we haven't conserved our energy adequately during the winter months, our bodies will have a tendency to get stuck during the transition from the still, energetically subdued state of winter, to the dynamic, energetically active state of spring.  Our Liver channel might need some additional support.  Think of Liver energy as a seed that, after laying dormant through winter, is ready with its bud to burst forth through the hard, cold earth.  When there is a struggle with the natural seasonal progression, we see symptoms physically and emotionally, such as frustration, anger, headaches, PMS, shouting, eye irritation and tendonitis.  

It's important to help your Liver channel ease its way into spring so that your body, mind and spirit can harness the season's rejuvenating energy.  Recommendations for putting a little spring in your step:
-Be creative.  Take your cue from nature.  Paint, play music, cook, rearrange your furniture...whatever energizes you.  

-Walk.  Especially in the early morning.  Notice the life that is emerging around you.

-Embrace change.  Let go of old, limiting habitual patterns. 

-Drink lemon water.  Sour tastes invigorate Liver energy.

-Eat your greens.  Green is the color of the Liver.  Think young spring greens and sprouts.

-Stretch.  The liver controls the tendons.  It's important to take time throughout the day to maintain fluidity.  Try a yoga or Tai Chi class.

-Strategize.  It's a good time to set goals and determine how you will achieve them.

-Get a seasonal acupuncture tune-up.  Acupuncture can help ease your body's transition into spring.

-Spring Clean.  Consider a spring liver detox.  Talk to your acupuncturist or another trusted health care practitioner who can help you choose a safe method.