In our Western culture we go to the Doctors office after we are already sick to get relief. But recently there has been a shift, people are searching for tools to support their current health and wellbeing. Acupuncture has risen in popularity since this shift has occurred. People are realizing how important maintaining their health is, and how effective Acupuncture is at resolving sickness and pain in a less invasive way.
As more people are turning to alternative medicine and specifically Acupuncture, there are and more scientific research being done. Including the Harvard Medical School (http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/acupuncture-is-worth-a-try-for-chronic-pain-201304016042) who stated that there is a clear benefit to using acupuncture for chronic pain. They provided support as well to the minimal adverse affects of acupuncture in comparison to Western medications.
Having more medical research to prove the benefit of a medical care system that has been in practice for thousands of years is important to many Westerners, but I really believe the true magic of acupuncture can be seen in just one visit. I am constantly amazed the amazing results I see after every treatment, from skeptics and believers alike, the needles don’t know the difference! But acupuncture works better and better the more you do it, the effects start compounding on itself and better results are felt after each treatment!
So how can acupuncture work for prevention?
The best way to look at how acupuncture can work as a preventative medicine is to look at your body like a car. Yes, I said car, but let me explain! You have to change the oil on your car after a certain amount of time or certain miles driven. If you drive your car hard and fast for long distances, like athletes or people who work over forty hours a week, and moms are defiantly included in this bunch because their job never ends, you may end up taking your car in more than someone who just cruises through life and ties their car in after a certain amount of time, knowing they aren’t pushing their car to its limits.
Just like your car you need to get your “oil changed” so that you can function properly and can keep maintaining which ever type of life style you lead. Without maintenance on your car at the proper times, the oil will start to break down and there will be friction which can lead to much more severe issues. In our body energy or “Qi” flows through the body, and when it gets blocked or becomes depleted health issues can arise. The goal of acupuncture is just that, to keep the energy flowing freely. When this occurs the mind, body, and spirit are all balanced.
Getting acupuncture regularly as a preventative treatment can address the issues within the body before they lead to something more severe. When you come in for a treatment for a problem that already exists, my goal and what I always tell my patients is to get you and your body to the point where the issue has resolved and you just see me on a maintenance schedule, to make sure it stays gone!
Coming in once every couple weeks to once a month for routine appointments to basically take out the trash or drain the oil, can leave your mind relaxed and recharged, leave your body free of pain and stress, and leave your spirit in a place where it can lead you to your highest self.
For more information on acupuncture as preventive medicine, you can email me at DenverMindBodyEssence@gmail.com!
Since the last olympics cupping has started to spread in popularity, but often there is still a lot of misunderstands associated with it! To start I have heard over and over that it must hurt, because how else could it leave bruises like that. So lets dive into this first.
The marks left by cupping is not bruises as we think of them. The marks are caused by the vacuum created by the cup. The vacuum causes the skin to rise and become red because the blood vessels are expanding. I like to refer to these marks as octopus kisses! And cupping doesn't hurt it feels more like a deep tissue massage. So pretty delicious!
Why do some people have darker marks than others after cupping? This can have a lot to do with the type of cupping, but I have found it has even more to do with the stagnation that the cupping is treating. Primarily the marks that you saw all over Michael Phelps body was due to retention cupping. This is where you leave the cups in one place, instead of moving them around as in sliding cupping. But, sliding cupping can also cause the red-purple marks and this often has to do with stagnation.
Typically the darker the marks left the higher the level of stagnation. These marks will also stay based on the level of stagnation. The longer the marks stay usually between 3-7 days the deeper the internal stagnation. When there is very little stagnation the marks can disappear within minutes. With my time in practice I have found that the more cupping that is done the less dark the marks are, which proves the point that cupping really is helping with the movement and blood flow of the area, causing the stagnation to decrease each treatment.
So your not an olympian? Is cupping still for you? Yes! It can be used to help with pain and inflammation, blood flow, and relaxation. I often treat patients with back pain and cupping along with acupuncture has proven itself time and time again to so beneficial. But cupping is great for anyone, you don’t have to have pain to receive a cupping treatment. It can also be used as prevention or just for relaxation!
In my practice I use a mix of retention and sliding cupping, and for the most part this part of the treatment is done after the needling section. I leave the needles in for about 30-45 minutes, remove the needles, and then add cupping at the end to finish the treatment.
One specific case is that of a 29 year old firefighter I treat. His main complaint is back pain, generally right near his scapula from carrying heavy loads to and from the truck. Acupuncture on it own helps to specifically target the knots that have built in his muscles. But the addition of cupping helps to reduce the pain and move the stagnation out of the area. He usually leaves my session with more than one octopus kiss! But the more often he comes in the less marks that get left on his back!
Another case is that of a 25 year old female who holds her stress in one spot on her low back, and has had a little knot there for as long as she can remember! Massage can help relieve the pain short term, but the knot remains! On our first treatment for this specific problem I surrounded the knot with needles, which helped to reduce the knot, but only with the help of cupping could we get that little guy to finally let go of the muscle it was so attached to! She left that appointment completely pain and knot free!
So when I cupping not the right choice? If your wedding or family photos are within the next few days after your appointment :) No one wants those circle marks in every photo! You acupunctures will warn you about potential marks before the treatment, but we wont know how long those marks will last, so its better to not get cupped at least a week before any major events that you may want to show off some skin at!
For more information about cupping and if it can specifically benefit you please feel free to contact me! Besides receiving cupping as part of your acupuncture treatment I also offer cupping as a treatment on its own! This is great for quick tune ups in between sessions!
There is a saying in Traditional Chinese medicine that has been drilled into our heads during our schooling, “where there is stagnation, there is pain.” What this means in Chinese medicine is when Qi cannot flow freely through the body because of a physical blockage or a deficiency there will be pain. Pain can be an excess or deficient condition in TCM. The pain from a full or excess condition is usually a sharper more intense pain, where pain from an empty or deficient condition is more dull and less intense.
The above statement though has stuck with me since I first started school, because unlike some of the other sayings we are taught, this one made sense right away! Of course when something is stuck there will be pain I thought, but the further I got into school the more I really understood what this statement meant.
Pain comes in two forms acute and chronic. Acupuncture has been known especially for treating chronic pain when nothing else works. But, as the controversy of opioid pain meds is on the rise, acupuncture has been moved to the top of the list for alternative ways of pain management. It is no longer mainly looked at as a last ditch effort in relief when nothing has worked yet.
I have worked with patients who use acupuncture first for everything, and I have worked with patients who did use acupuncture as their last option and what I have learned from both is the same thing. Acupuncture works! And the ones who use it as their last resort are usually the most shocked and thankful that it does work!
In general for acute injuries pain is decreased within the first session and then continues to decrease through the follow ups, often we do 6-8 treatments total and the spacing of the treatments depends on the severity of the injury. And for chronic pain, I have had a few patients even feel a slight decrease in pain within the first few days of the first treatment, but the relief doesn’t last as long as acute pain cases do. For chronic pain I recommend treatments every week for about 6 weeks, and if possible for the first three weeks two treatments a week. With this schedule there is greater pain relief and longer lasting results.
After the first initial treatments for both acute or chronic where we get the pain to either disappear or be greatly reduced the appointments can become more spaced out, and used more as needed, so we can take control of the pain so it never gets back to where it was when treatments first started.
But what type of pain are we talking about? The first thing that most people think of when you say pain is usually physical pain, and I admit that was the first thing I thought about when I was told, “where there is stagnation, there is pain.” I thought, yes if you break your arm that stops the free flow of energy of the body, and of course there would be pain. Or if you twist your ankle, the swelling will block the flow, causing stagnation and of course there will be pain.
What I didn’t realize at the time though was pain can come in many forms. Emotional pain for example. When we get angry and repress that anger in TCM, we can create Liver Qi Stagnation. But where is the pain in this case? Often it comes in the forms of headaches, the Liver energy cannot flow freely through the body so it rises causing headaches.
Or what about grief? When we feel sad, and we don’t let ourselves cry and grieve that emotion gets stuck. The Lungs are related to the chest, and with repressed grief and sadness, chest oppression is a common symptom.
The common theme with both of these is not that an emotion caused pain, its that when we force ourselves to not freely feel an emotion it causes pain. That is because the energy of the emotion becomes stagnant when it doesn’t get to be expressed, and that is what causes the pain.
Acupuncture works wonders with physical pain and there are many credible studies that have proven it. But what people often fail to realize is how incredible acupuncture can be for pain that feel physical but its root is connected to something more emotional or spiritual. They are all connected, and when one becomes out of balance the other two will follow. Pain, especially chronic pain can effect every aspect of our lives, and a pill may make you feel better for a few hours, but a needle, a needle can work on the root cause of the pain, so you can feel better everyday, and get back to the life you always wanted to live!
For more questions about pain management, or even more information on root cause of pain in Traditional Chinese Medicine feel free to email me at DenverMIndBodyEssence@gmail.com or book an appointment or free consultation.
Why do acupuncturists ask so much about bowels? These questions can be uncomfortable especially for a first time patients, and especially if their reason for coming in isn’t even related to digestive function!
Our digestion issues are not usually something we discuss openly with our friends and family, and in many cases it may feel like taboo to discuss something that feels so personal with someone your close to but even worse with a stranger. I felt the same way before starting acupuncture school. But I have learned how important digestion and the digestive system is in understanding our bodies.
The digestive system gives us a huge insight into the body as a whole. It has been called the second brain because of its complex nervous system. We know how important it is to take care of our actual brain, but we don’t always care for our second brain in the same way! This can lead to digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation, gas, blasting, acid reflux, nausea, vomiting, and more. In Traditional Chinese Medicine all of these occur because of different issues with the Spleen and Stomach organs. It can be due to deficiency, stagnation, or rebellion.
Some people experience just a mild type of any of these symptoms, while others deal with severe digestive issues. The later is what usually sends people to me, but even people with mild digestive symptoms can experience great relief in their everyday life with acupuncture focused on digestion, because the gut plays such a huge role in the functioning of our whole body.
Why is digestion so important in TCM?
In TCM the Stomach and Spleen reside in the Middle Burner which is at the center of all the channel pathways for the other organs, so when there are issues in the Spleen or Stomach other organs will begin to be affected. A good way to think about this is if there is a kink in your hose, water can flow freely without the kink (healthy digestive system), but the bigger the kink gets, the less water and pressure can go through (mild digestive issues) until no water is coming out (severe digestive issues).
The Spleen and Stomach are also the organs that are the root of Post-heaven Qi- which means they are the source of all the Qi produced after birth. This concept makes sense when you think where does our energy come from… the food, vitamins and water that nourish our bodies.
If the Stomach and Spleen perform at their fullest capacity, then our bodies are not going to be able to receive all the nourishment of our food. You can eat all the right things, but if our bodies are not digesting properly we don’t receive the full benefit of that food. This nourishment is not only needed to help our physical body function, but it is also needed to nourish our mental and spirit levels. We already said that our gut is our second brain, so it also plays a role in receiving and processing emotions and information.
Symptoms and their TCM disharmony:
In general the things that can affect the Spleen and Stomach are the nature of the food you eat, the regularity of meals, and the environment they are eaten in, and emotional strain. The main diagnosis involved when looking at digestion are listed below with their symptoms next to them:
-Qi deficiency: dull pain improved by eating, poor appetite, loose stools
-Qi Stagnation: epigastric or abdominal distention, constipation
-Oi rebellion: hiccup, belching, nausea, vomiting, loose stools, diarrhea
Your symptoms and diagnosis may fit into one of these categories or it may be a mix of more than one of these. When receiving a treatment for digestive issues we will take a closer look into these symptoms and more to find the root cause. In your treatment we will also go through what food is best for you and your digestive issues, because obviously diet plays a major role in the function of our digestive systems.
.This image shows a very powerful digestion treatment. Ren 6 the point below the navel tonifies Qi and can be used for diarrhea and constipation. Ren 12 the point above the navel is the Front-Mu of the Stomach and regulates the Stomach Qi, and also tonifies the Spleen and Stomach. It can be used for almost any digestive issue including nausea, vomiting, acid reflux, diarrhea, and indigestion. St 25 the points on both sides of the navel is the Front Mu of the Large Intestine, and thus it regulates the function of the intestines, and can be used for food stagnation, as well as constipationa and diarrhea. Together these points are called the Four Doors. All our important digestion points on their own, but the combination can treat most digestive disorders, strengthen post-heaven Qi, and benefit metabolism. This combination is also a great treatment for emotions, which takes us back to the gut as the second brain!
Many of us with insomnia, myself included would do anything… and I mean anything to get to sleep. In the past I have tried everything from over the counter drugs to meditation tapes, and even just praying to the sleep Gods to let me just get some rest.
I have been told all the tricks… no screen time an hour before bed, no lights in the room, don’t look at any clocks, breathing meditations, warm milk, and the list goes on and on. And some nights they work and others they don’t. The type of insomnia I had and still have at times is the type where I can’t fall asleep. As soon as my head hits the pillow my mind comes to life. I call it monkey brain, because it feels like my mind just swings back and forth through everything that has or could happen in my life, like monkeys swing through a jungle. And this is a very common sleep issue I see with my clients.
If you noticed I said “had and still have at times” when speaking about my insomnia. This is because my sleep issues are nowhere near what they once were in the past, but there are those nights after a stressful week and not receiving treatments or treating myself as regularly that the monkeys wake back up to play all night long. But for the most part I fall into the “had” category thanks to acupuncture. And this is truly the magic of acupuncture that drew me into the field.
So lets look a little closer at acupuncture and insomnia. For centuries acupuncture has been used to provide relief for the many different types of insomnia. These types include:
-sleep onset or difficulty falling asleep (my type)
-middle of the night, or waking and unable to fall back to sleep right away
-terminalinsomnia- waking in the very early morning and unable to fall asleep again
-sleep with vivid and disruptive dreams
-inability to fall asleep at all
In Chinese medicine each type of insomnia indicates a different imbalance within the body. And it is important to note that the treatment of each type of insomnia will be different, but it will also be different for every person, even if they have the same type, because it may manifest or be rooted in a different way. So the way I get treated for my sleep onset insomnia will be different from you even if you have the same type of insomnia. Acupuncture looks at the person as a whole, and not just at the symptom.
During your treatment you will be asked questions to figure out what type(s) of insomnia you have and what organs are in disharmony. The time you fall asleep and wake up have a role in your treatment of your insomnia, for example if you wake up every night between 1-3am the Liver is involved. Also, you will be asked about your emotions, it makes sense to many of us that emotions may be part of what keeps us awake at night but in TCM they are important because each emotion has an organ it is attached to. The Heart is related to anxiety, the Liver to stress or anger, and the Spleen is connected to worry. The goal of the treatments is to create a balance of these organs, which in turn makes it easier to fall and stay asleep.
Insomnia won’t be cured with one treatment. In general for insomnia I like to see my clients once a week for about a month or until we see substantial improvement. And then after you are on a better sleep cycle we can start cutting back to keep maintaining the results we have gotten. That is what I meant when I said still having insomnia at times. I know life gets busy and even I miss a treatment, but my body is sure to tell me when I have gone to long! When you are first starting to treat insomnia with acupuncture consistency is your best friend, it takes 21 days for your body to learn a new habit, which is why the treatments are scheduled the way they are at the start.
The great thing with acupuncture though is even after your first treatment you will receive the benefits of calmness and relaxation that many of us with insomnia haven’t experienced in a long time!
Some ways of how insomnia is looked at in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be shown in the following examples: these are examples and like I said one thing does not fit every person in TCM, you may fall perfectly into one of these categories, or if you are like me fit into as many as three depending on the day. For a more personal diagnosis please make an appointment!
-Heart Meridian: Emotion= anxiety, Insomnia= waking up easy; difficulty falling asleep
-Liver Meridian: Emotion= anger, stress, frustration, Insomnia= difficulty falling asleep; waking between 1-3am
-Lung Meridian: Emotion= grief, Insomnia= waking between 3-5am
-Spleen Meridian: Emotion= worry, obsessiveness, Insomnia= waking at the same time overnight; dream-disturbed sleep
Endometriosis is a disease that has been brought up to me more and more lately, whether the presence is becoming more common, or more women are just receiving the correct diagnosis of it, I have had so many more questions of “what can I do to feel better again?” Endometriosis is defined lesions or endometrial tissue that has formed outside the uterus. An estimated 176 million women of reproductive age are affected worldwide.
Where it gets complicated is that every woman can experience different symptoms and some may not have any symptoms at all. And the severity of the symptoms does not always correlate to the severity of the endometriosis. Typical symptoms that can be seen with endometriosis range from infertility, pelvic pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, chronic fatigue, and dysmenorrhea. Why is the diagnosis so difficult? Because many other diseases can present with the same or similar symptoms. A laparoscopy is seen as one of the best objective and conclusive ways to diagnosis it.
The underlying cause of endometriosis is unknown, but it is though to likely be multifactorial. Some of the possible causes are genetics, epigenetic, or environmental exposures. There are many ways to treat endometriosis and can range from surgery to the use of oral contraceptives and hormones. Chinese medicine can be used with traditional western treatments or on its own depending on the stage of endometriosis. But, the combination of both Eastern and Western medicine is a very effective way of both treating endometriosis symptoms and relieving some of the negative side effects of western treatments.
Speaking just as an acupuncturist, I can only speak for the Chinese medical side, but the goal of the treatments for endometriosis is to help your body learn how to regulate itself and find a hormonal balance. The length of time required for acupuncture treatments will differ depending on each individual women’s response, but typical treatments consists of weekly acupuncture for 4-6 months or until a regular cycle is regained. The aim of the treatments is to resolve the issue at its root, and to understand why the imbalance occurred in the first place. Some of the known benefits of acupuncture
Diet is another extremely powerful and important tool in treating endometriosis. In a treatment for acupuncture I will go through specific dietary recommendations for each person specifically, but in general the goal is to create a diet that reduces inflammation. Cutting out or just back on refined foods, sugars, alcohol, and red meat is a great place to start.
When talking about this endometriosis another important topic to cover is estrogen dominance. The symptoms of estrogen dominance are similar to those of endometriosis and include: great swelling and tenderness, anxiety and mood swings, fuzzy thinking, irritability, fatigue, slow metabolism, water retention and weight gain, loss of libido, insomnia, thickening of endometrial lining, increased risk of fibroids and ovarian cysts. Often estrogen dominance is present in women with endometriosis as well as women after menopause.
Estrogen dominance can occur when progesterone declines like before menopause, and estrogen levels remain the same or increase. So relatively estrogen is higher relatively than progesterone.
From a Chinese medicine point of view these symptoms can be related to Qi/and or Blood Stagnation, Yang deficiency, or damp. A good way to look at this is the weak yang (often Kidney Yang) relates to low progesterone and thus estrogen dominance, which correlates to the stagnation of yin (blood or damp). So Yin and Yang correlate with each other, when one is too high the other becomes too low. A real life example to understand the Yin/Yang relationship is when you are boiling water, when the heat (yang increase) is too high the water doesn’t just heat up it evaporates (yin decrease).
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Kidney, Spleen, and Liver play major roles in hormone balance and all can be seen in the symptoms of estrogen dominance. The Kidney symptoms are water retention, low libido, and insomnia. The Spleen symptoms correlate with swelling, slow metabolism, weight gain, fatigue, and fuzzy thinking. And the Liver is present in the mood swings, anxiety, and irritability.
So acupunctures focus would be to strengthen the Kidney Yang and the Spleen Qi, and then calm the Liver, as well as move the stagnations causing the pain and fibroids/ovarian cysts. But, again the diet can be a major help in treating these symptoms and should be utilized in conjunction with acupuncture.
To start lets focus on the liver, it is the best way to defend against estrogen dominance because it holds the job of eliminating excess estrogen. So what hurts the Liver? Go figure alcohol and fatty foods. Minimizing alcohol and fatty foods and increasing your intake of bitter greens can be very beneficial. Artichokes, beets and apples also support the Liver. Drinking water with lemon juice first thing in the morning can also calm the Liver.
Eating plenty of vegetables (especially cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts- al which improve estrogen metabolism), protein and healthy fats are important in a hormone balancing diet, but fiber is also crucial so the excess estrogen can be excreted through your bowels.
As far as supplements go Vitamin B6 and magnesium are essential in the metabolism of estrogen