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When I was first taught about electro-acupuncture other wise know as E-Stim, I have to admit I was nervous. I was afraid it would hurt. And in acupuncture school before we do anything on anyone else we do it on ourselves first! So the time came when I had to face my fears and hook it up. The way E-Stim works is by hooking up what looks like mini jumper cables to acupuncture needles on the body, so in my mind I thought I would receive a shock when the electrical current was passed through, but to my surprise it was NOTHING like that!
The current used in E-Stim ranges from about 40-80 volts, but there is NO current that is actually transmitted through the body like I had imagined. There is actually only enough stimulation for a slight pulsating, thumping or tapping sensation to be felt. There is NO pain! Typically in a session I leave the E-Stim on for 10-20 minutes gradually turning the machine up if the pulsating sensation is lost.
So what is this crazy machine used for? Mainly pain relief, which is the reason it was more formally developed in 1958. The way it works is by using the stimulation from the electrical current to activate the needle and thus the area even more than traditional needling does. It is effective in cases of neurological disorders, spasms, paralysis and chronic pain. It is commonly used in sports medicine for injuries. It promotes the movement of qi and blood in the body to relieve pain, warm the muscles, and remove blood stasis which can cause poor circulation.
If you have read any of my past blogs you may know this saying, “where there is stagnation there is pain” and that is what makes this extra tool so incredible in the treatment of pain and injuries. It is a stronger stimulus to move stagnation quicker. But pain isn't the only thing E-Stim can be used for, I also use it when working with patients for menstural and fertility issues, as well as for help with weight loss!
Electro-Acupuncture is not for everyone, because of its stronger stimulus it should not be used when pregnant, or if you have a history of seizures, heart disease, strokes, or epilepsy. People with pacemakers should also not receive this type of treatment.
Find out if E-Stim is right for you! Book a free consultation or ask about it at your next appointment!
The Powers of Moxibustion
Moxa other wise known as moxibustion is a Traditional Chinese Medical technique that I ofter combine with my acupuncture treatments, especially during winter and in-between seasons when its easy to get sick. Moxa is formed from a dried herb called mugwort. The smell is generally a distinct one especially in Colorado, because it often resembles marijuana. In my practice because of poor ventilation I use a smokeless stick that smells more like incense!
TYPES OF MOXIBUSTION
Typically in my office I use a moxa stick (that generally I describe as a cigar due to how it looks) after needles are inserted, the stick is lit with a flame and then I move the stick around the skin and needles about an inch off. This type of mona is called indirect moxa because the heat never touches the skin. Even though the stick never touches the skin the heat that is produced is very unique and deeply penetrating.
There are many other types of moxibustion, such as stick on moxa, needle moxa, and direct moxa (which is not typically done in the United States). No matter the form they are all still mugwort they may just be different qualities of it. For example the needle top moxa generally requires a higher grade of mugwort because it is loose and not tightly packed like sticks on and stick moxa.
WHAT IS IT USED FOR?
Some common acupuncture points I use moxa on are St36: to boost immunity and I often combine St36 with Sp6 to boost energy as well. KD1 is at the bottom of the foot and I generally use moxa in this location instead of needles because it can be sensitive, it is a deeply grounding and rejuvenating point!
Moxa can also be really effective for:
-Cold pain: this is pain that feels better with the application of heat: examples of this are arthritis or an injury
-Digestive Issues: especially diarrhea, and cramps
-Gynecological issues: cramps, painful, late, or irregular menses
-Obstetrical conditions such as late or breech baby in last term pregnancy
-Immunity boost: protections against cold and flus
WHAT WILL I FEEL?
When using moxa we are looking for the patient to feel warmth, not so hot it feels like a burn, but defiantly a noticeable warmth. Redness around the site is also very common and expected. Moxa, specially stick moxa should be a very pleasant sensation of warmth as it penetrates deep into the body!
IS MOXA RIGHT FOR ME?
Although moxa is very non invasive there are people and conditions it is not right for. If people or conditions are presenting with excess heat, moxa should be avoided as to not aggravate the condition!
What I love about moxibustion is that it can easily be done at home to help continue our treatments! All you need is a lighter and a window, and of course the moxa! I am able to train my patients the correct way to use the stick and the areas to focus on which make the results they see from acupuncture even stronger!
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.