Fatigue and Chinese Medicine

by Nancy Grossman, L.Ac.

Fatigue and Chinese Medicine

Fatigue and Chinese medicine

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be an excellent treatment for fatigue and general malaise. The acupuncturist might first determine the health of the “Spleen,” which, in East Asian medicine, refers more to the process of digestion than to the spleen organ. The Spleen controls how well we take in food and fluids, transform them into substances usable by the body, and transport them throughout the body. A Spleen that is under-functioning can give rise to symptoms of indigestion, bloating, low energy, or sinus congestion, to name a few. Building up the health of the Spleen typically leads to feelings of increased energy along with improved digestion.

The practitioner will also consider lifestyle influences or other concurrent health problems that might contribute to fatigue, such as poor sleep, lack of rest, and diet. A diet high in sugar is depleting to the energy of the Spleen, as is excessive sitting or studying. Clearly, insomnia can lead to fatigue, so, if the fatigue is primarily related to poor sleep, we would also treat the sleep problem. And a lifestyle of being on the go all day long without a break can lead to both poor sleep and fatigue, so we might counsel taking a rest break, even if only for a minute or two, at some point during the work day.

As to general malaise, or “just not feeling quite right,” acupuncture can be very helpful in re-balancing the body’s energy and leading to greater feelings of balance and well-being. As with any health condition, the practitioner will first assess where the body’s energy is imbalanced and then choose a treatment based on restoring the missing balance. Follow-up treatments will reinforce the effect.

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Acupuncture for Low Back Pain

by Nancy Grossman, L.Ac.

Acupuncture and Chronic Low Back Pain

Low back pain and acupuncture

      Whether due to an injury or just the passage of time, chronic low back pain typically responds very, very well to acupuncture treatment. The energy channels, or meridians, of the Bladder and, occasionally, the Gall Bladder, are involved in most back-pain conditions. Treatment consists of fine needles inserted either directly into the low back and legs along the involved meridian(s), or distally into points that correspond to the painful area. We are looking to see a reduction in pain and discomfort starting, preferably, with the first visit, though positive results can take up to five visits to show up.

    Recovery is rarely a straight line, but, in general, once treatment has started to be effective, expect to see a gradual improvement in symptoms over time. During the initial treatment phase, we typically expect the pain to return between visits, perhaps at the same level as before, possibly at a slightly lower level. Your job is to simply notice how long the pain-relief or pain-reduction lasts, whether several hours or several days, and tell your acupuncturist when you next see her. The aim of treatment is to gradually extend the pain-free or pain-reduced days until you get permanent relief.

    We are often asked how many visits are needed for complete pain relief. Predicting the future can always be a bit tricky, but here is a general guideline: think of receiving one month of treatment for every year that you have had a condition, although very severe illnesses or injuries may extend this time frame, and sometimes you will get permanent relief much more quickly. Thus, pain of relatively recent onset can usually be treated in a handful of visits, while that of many decades will probably need a longer course of treatment of at least several months. If your condition is severe or you have had multiple surgeries or injuries, you may be someone who should come in for semi-regular “tune-ups,” possibly once every month or two, once you have successfully concluded your initial course of treatment.

    Supportive therapies and habits are also very helpful to support long-term back health. In addition to acupuncture, yoga, abdominal exercises, circulating the energy in your back through exercise, taking care with posture, adequate rest, and other forms of self-help can help keep your low back strong and pain-free for many years to come.

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Acupuncture and Anxiety

by Alexandra Andrew, MS, L.Ac.

    Anxiety and Acupuncture     

        In our fast-paced culture full of endless demands and to-do lists, it’s no wonder anxiety seems to be a common struggle. In Chinese Medicine, each organ system has an energetic function that contributes to keeping our bodies healthy and strong. The heart is responsible for processing every emotional experience we encounter during the day. When it becomes overwhelmed by stressful life situations and doesn’t have rest time to process them, it can get worn out quickly. This is especially true when a traumatic event takes place, such as the death of a family member or an accident. Often during these situations, daily stressors become too much to handle because the heart hasn’t had time to rest and
process prior events. 

    When the heart becomes exhausted and overwhelmed, anxiety can result. We experience symptoms such as chest tension and pain, heart palpitations or fluttering sensations, shortness of breath, fatigue, insomnia, restlessness, overthinking, and sometimes unusual sweating. It can feel as though we are not grounded in our bodies and everything is out of our control.

    When we understand the root cause of anxiety on an energetic level, it becomes possible to alleviate the symptoms by giving the body what it needs to recover. Acupuncturists are trained to identify the root cause and can choose acupuncture points that help the heart rest and process the emotional backlog. Acupuncture can also help the body process old emotional blocks without the mind re-experiencing the trauma. During a treatment, your heart will be allowed to rest and as a result it will build strength to face new life experiences with joy.

    In addition to adding Acupuncture to your self-care routine, taking time every day to quiet your mind through meditation, drinking warm tea (especially calming teas like chamomile), taking a bath, or journaling can be enormously helpful for treating anxiety. The priority should be to give the heart quiet
time every day to rest and process. Your acupuncturist can also make diet and lifestyle recommendations that are unique to your experience and will support your wellness journey.

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Do you need a spring tune up?

by Elizabeth Girard, MS, L.Ac.

     Acupuncture for pain

Spring is the time of year for new growth and beginnings. In Chinese medicine each season relates to a specific organ within the body. Spring is connected with the liver and gallbladder. It is represented by the color green and is called the wood element. We can see how this makes sense with all the new growth that takes place in springtime. This is also the time of year when we start cleaning out our closets and start moving towards all those goals that we set in the winter month.

   In Chinese medicine the livers function is to promote a smooth flow of energy or Qi throughout the body. So this season is really about movement and activity. So how do you know if you need a “spring tune up” or you have a liver imbalance?

1.       Pain: you are experiencing daily pain, especially if the pain is felt in your neck and shoulders. This area is related to the gallbladder channel. When we have pain in our shoulders or neck it is seen as a stagnation of blood or energy in that channel. You may also get tension headaches or migraines.

2.       Depression, anxiety, irritability and easily stressed or angered. The emotion of the liver is anger but can also be seen as anxiety or depression if repressed.

3.       Digestive issues: bloating, sensitivities to certain foods can all be related to a liver imbalance. This is especially true if you noticed your digestive issues are worse with stress or related to stress.

4.       PMS or menstrual irregularities.

5.       Insomnia or trouble staying asleep. If you’re waking up at 3:00 am every morning this is a very clear sign of a liver imbalance in Chinese medicine.

6.       Allergies/ chronic sinusitis. The best way to treat allergies is before they even occur.  

If you answered yes to any of the above signs and symptoms, then it may be time to come into the office and have some acupuncture. Along with acupuncture there may be Chinese herbal formulas and other dietary recommendations that can help decrease your symptoms. Spring is the perfect time to get back to good health. 

Acupuncture provides relief from migraines and chronic headaches


Acupuncture for headaches and migraines

    Over the past 10 years I have seen hundreds of patients with frequent migraines or headaches. Some are caused by hormonal shifts, or changes in barometric pressure. Others are caused by food triggers like chocolate and red wine. But most everyone can agree that stress and tension are the major contributors to the frequency of their migraines and/or headaches. Over and over again I have seen the same pattern of women and men holding tension in their neck and shoulders with the chief complaint being chronic headaches. In Chinese medicine everyone is looked at as an individual and treated as such. That means no two treatments are exactly the same. Every person that comes into our office gets a consult and an individualized treatment plan and diagnosis based on their symptoms. With that being said a majority of people see an increase in headaches with stress, tension in their neck and shoulder and being physically worn down by lack of sleep or overexertion. This is why acupuncture is so effective at treating headaches, it can address almost all of these factors. Acupuncture has been proven by research to decrease muscle tension and pain, regulate hormone levels and even effect neural activity in the brain to prevent the onset of future migraines. Recently a study was published finding that acupuncture was more effective at treating migraines than “conventional drug therapy”. Acupuncture can be used alone or as an adjunctive therapy with medication. The best part about acupuncture is there are no side effects. Acupuncture is a safe and natural way to get long lasting results for pain relief and prevention of migraines. Most people find acupuncture to be painless and very relaxing. Some even can take a quick power nap during the treatment. A treatment lasts about 60 minutes in length and may or may not include other modalities such as Chinese herbs, massage or cupping. Like many other therapies acupuncture requires a course of treatments often ranging from 6-8 visits over a months’ time. Once the migraines start to decrease in frequency and intensity we can start to taper the treatments to once a month or as needed. Lifestyle changes may need to be made such as change in diet or exercise to support your health. A couple things to remember is the longer you have been dealing with migraines (or any pain), the longer it may take for acupuncture to correct the imbalance. This does not mean that you won’t see relief right away, it just means to maintain long lasting results you will need to come in for tune ups even if you are pain free. 

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Happy New Year!

by Elizabeth Girard, MS, L.Ac.

February 19, 2015 is the first day of the Chinese new year. In China this is a 15 day celebration. Families typically take time off to spend it together and to give thanks to their ancestors. Each year is represented by 1 of 12 animals. This year is the year of the sheep (it can also be called the year of the ram or goat as they all have the same Chinese character.). 

You are a sheep if you were born in the years 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, or 2015.

People born in the year of the sheep are very serene and calm. Therefore they tend to have fewer health problems. They are passive and harmonious but can get discouraged easily.

This year is predicted to be a calm year where we need to pull together and work together. The year of the sheep is a "yin" year which means its more feminine in nature. More peace, less war, more talking things out than acting in rage, working together for the greater good. 

Happy New Year Friends! 

Treating neck pain using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

by Elizabeth Girard, MS, L.Ac.

Treating neck pain with Chinese medicine      Chinese medicine looks at the body as a whole. You can’t separate neck tension from back or even knee pain as everything is connected. We look at pain as an imbalance or stagnation within the body. A stagnation is simply put, a lack of movement in blood and or qi (energy) in the body. Acupuncture needles when used at specific points unlock the stagnation and increase blood and Qi flow.  Correcting the imbalance does not just treat the symptoms of neck pain, but rather corrects the root of the problem by encouraging your body to heal itself. I often hear from patients how not only did their neck pain decrease but how their digestion or sleep got better also. Neck pain is often diagnosed in Chinese medicine as an imbalance or stagnation in the GB channel. The Gallbladder channel starts at the outer part of the eye and wraps around the head, into the neck and shoulders and runs along the side of the body, ending at the little toe. This is why we may needle a point on your ankle to treat your neck pain.

TCM believes that these imbalances or stagnation can come from many different causes, such as trauma like an accident, emotions like anger, frustration or high stress, even external environmental factors like barometric pressure changes or cold damp weather. A good practitioner will determine the underlying cause of your pain and treat both the symptoms and the root cause. By treating the root cause you not only treat the neck pain but prevent it from reoccurring.

Treatment techniques include acupuncture, massage, cupping and Chinese herbal medicine. Overall, the treatment should relax and stretch the muscles, tendons and fascia. This will help release the spastic muscles, allowing the neck to naturally heal.  It can even encourage an out of place disc to go back into place, depending on severity. .

It often takes a course of treatments for you to feel a lasting effect but each session will build on the next. Most people find the treatments relaxing and may even fall asleep. TCM works for acute injuries as well as chronic longstanding pain.

If you have been suffering from neck pain, give TCM a try! Traditional Chinese medicine is safe, effective and treats not just the pain but the whole body.