Tuesday, December 26, 2017

What is Tui Na Massage?

Tui na (pronounced TWEE-nah) is a type of bodywork that falls under the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) umbrella. TCM includes Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Chinese dietary Therapy, Moxibustion and Tuina.

Literally translated, Tui na means "pinch and pull" which doesn't sound particularly appealing, but it is a simultaneously relaxing and invigorating style of massage. It uses techniques like "rolling," "grasping," "kneading," "shaking" and "pressing" in order to encourage the Qi (pronounced "CHEE") to flow through the meridians, or energy channels. It has been around for thousands of years and follows TCM theory: "when there is pain, there is no free flow; when there is free flow, there is no pain." By encouraging the circulation of Qi and blood, the pain dissipates and the client feels better.

If you are looking for a Swedish style "mush your skin around" type of massage, this is not it. Tui na is, however, a highly therapeutic style of massage that is great for sports or other soft tissue injuries, general muscle tightness and relieving stress that is held in the body, causing symptoms such as headaches, TMJ, back pain, neck pain, etc. It is also helpful for preventing injuries with athletes or exercisers by releasing tight muscles that restrict movement and impair range of motion. By releasing this tension, athletes can perform better in their sport or activity of choice.

Tui na is done fully clothed in loose, comfortable clothing. It is often performed as an adjuctive technique to acupuncture or moxibustion, but also can be a stand-alone treatment. Like acupuncture and other TCM modalities, Tui na focuses on the whole body, in addition to the symptoms, so that the client feels a greater sense of well-being afterwards. The goal is to bring the body back into balance using manual techniques done by the practitioner's fingers, hands or elbows. Tui na is often referred to as "acupressure" where pressure is used instead of needles, but Tui na is not just an alternative or replacement for needles, it is its own form of Chinese medicine. Typical Tui na sessions last about 30 minutes.

Tui na is safe and can be used by people of all ages, from infants to seniors, and some techniques can be taught for use at home as self-care.

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Acupuncture and Working Out: How Acupuncture can Support your Fitness Goals

Fall is the most popular time of year for people to get back into the gym. Kids are back at school, the days are getting shorter and colder and many people are raring to get back into shape. Unfortunately, this is also the most popular time of year for people to hurt themselves by doing too much too fast. Going to the gym 7 days a week after sitting on the beach all summer is a recipe for injury.

Acupuncture is a great complement to your fitness routine by increasing your energy, improving your sleep and helping you recover and heal, both after workouts and after injury.

The first 2 items are very related-- when you don't sleep well, or enough, you won't have enough energy to work out properly. Coffee and other stimulants can work short term, but shouldn't be part of a long term health routine. Coffee and stimulants encourage the body to release adrenaline so that you have "more energy," but long term this strategy actually leaves you more tired and depleted than when you started. One true solution to having more energy is getting more, good quality sleep. For 7 tips for better sleep, click here.

Not only will good sleep give you more energy, but it will also help you recover more quickly after exercise. Sleep is when the body repairs itself, from injury, from illness and even from daily wear and tear. Exercise creates microtears in the muscles. When you are asleep, the body heals the microtears and you become stronger. Prolonged soreness after exercise (more than 2 or so days) is a sign that you either REALLY overdid it and you might be injured, or you are not getting sufficient sleep to heal your body.

When microtears become macrotears, that's when you know you've hurt yourself. Acupuncture, Cupping/Gua Sha and Moxibustion are all ways to encourage the body to heal itself. The healing nutrients in the body are in the blood stream, so by encouraging blood flow to the injured area, the healing process can begin and the pain subsides. There is a saying in Traditional Chinese Medicine: When there is pain, there is no free flow; when there is free flow, there is no pain. Acupuncture encourages the free flow of Qi, blood and fluids so that the body can heal itself. DO NOT ICE! Ice and NSAIDS (non-steriodal anti-inflammatories) actually slow the healing process by slowing blood flow and reducing inflammation. Inflammation is actually okay for an acute injury (chronic inflammation is something else) because it signals the brain that there is an injury that needs tending. Inflammation is similar to a fever in that way. A fever is your body's attempt at killing the virus or bacteria that is making you sick. When you reduce a fever (unless it is over 103.5 degrees F--always reduce high fevers), you are impairing the body's ability to fight off whatever illness is causing the fever. For more on Sports Injuries, click here.

Finally, good food is important to support your gym efforts. You can't exercise away a bad diet. Food should nourish your body and give you proper fuel to get through your day. Drinking enough water and eating sufficient protein is also important for repairing the body after exercise. "Dieting" is not a good way to lose weight; it typically restricts calories which slows metabolism and is temporary, creating temporary weight loss. Eating a balanced, whole food diet is the best way to feel good and get to a healthy weight for you. "Ripped" and "healthy" are not always the same. Setting goals that bring you toward health is the best way to help you feel better, for the long term, in your body and mind.

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Acupuncture for Veterans: Treating the Internal Wounds of War

Studies say that 1 in 5 soldiers comes back from combat suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Many times they are not initially aware that there is anything wrong, it is their family members who notice first. Maybe they are depressed or anxious. Maybe they are having nightmares or trouble sleeping. Maybe they are self medicating with alcohol, drugs or even getting frequent speeding tickets. Maybe they are struggling to "fit back in" to their pre-combat lives. PTSD doesn't always show up in overtly recognizable ways, sometimes it is more subtle, something only a husband or wife would notice; their military spouse just seems "off" and "not themselves." Acupuncture is a treatment that helps reset the nervous system, getting you out of "fight or flight" and back to feeling calm and centered again.

At Veterans Acupuncture Care (VAC) Metrowest, we see veterans who have fought in every war or conflict ranging from WWII to the present and have varying degrees of emotional pain and scarring. We also treat family members because PTSD doesn't only affect the person in trauma, but everyone they interact with as well. Stress and anxiety are human emotions and can affect everyone, no matter how strong they are.

The men and women who come to our clinic often enter a bit agitated and chatty, then within minutes all the talk settles down and there is just quiet. Their eyes close, they lean back into the wing chairs and many fall asleep. You can see the release of all of the worries, turmoil and internal unrest as ease takes over their bodies. You can feel the deep relaxation in the room and see the peaceful expressions take over their faces. I am grateful that I possess the ability to give this gift to those who have given so much to our country in the name of freedom.

When we opened in 2008, our idea was to help the soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan get back to their regular lives. The VA hospitals at the time (and now) were inundated with people looking for help but finding they would have to wait weeks, sometimes months, to see a mental health professional. As acupuncturists we had an effective treatment to offer right now. In 2010 we decided to open our doors to First Responders too (Police, Fire, EMT), both active and retired, because they are our local soldiers, fighting daily battles, not knowing what they are walking into each time they get a call.

Auricular Acupuncture is a simple way to treat internal wounds without the client needing to talk about or relive their experience. The acupuncturist places 5 needles in each ear for the purpose of balancing the nervous system and creating a deep sense of well being. All the client needs to do is receive the treatment. Initially the effects are short lived, maybe a few hours up to a few days, but with continued treatment the effects last longer and longer. Many people report an improvement in mood and an increased ability to cope better with daily life. Clients experience improved sleep, less teeth grinding, and much less anxiety through the week.

Our clinic is located at 3 Maple Street in Framingham, MA and is open every Saturday (excluding holidays) from 10am-12pm. All treatments are free, no appointments are necessary, just walk in. For more information about this clinic, go to www.vacmetrowest.com. To find other clinics around the country, go to www.acuwithoutborders.org.

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Natural and Non-Invasive Treatment for Varicose Veins

Varicose Veins can present in different ways for different reasons. According to the Mayo Clinic, varicose veins can be caused by age, where the veins lose elasticity and enlarge, or by pregnancy, where your overall blood volume increases, but not the flow of blood from your legs to your pelvis. Other factors include obesity, sex (females are more prone), family history, and standing for long periods of time. Unfortunately, most standard Western treatments involve some sort of surgery or "stripping the veins." Luckily there are other, less invasive options available from Eastern Medicine.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Varicose Veins (which differ from Spider Veins) are due to an insufficiency of Spleen Qi, or Spleen energy, in the body. Each of our internal organs has particular jobs in our body; TCM theory sees the Spleen as much more important than it is typically considered in Western Medicine. With TCM, one of the Spleen's jobs is to hold things in their place. When the Spleen is too weak, you often see "Sinking Qi" symptoms, like organ prolapse, urinary or fecal incontinence/stress incontinence, a sinking sensation of the uterus, flooding uterine bleeding (usually during menstruation) and varicose veins. With all of these symptoms, the Spleen is too weak to hold things where they belong and they fall. With varicose veins, the Spleen is unable to hold the Blood in its vessels and they sag and expand. When there is also pain or dark blood associated with varicosities there is additional Stagnation, where the Qi and/or Blood isn't moving the way that it should. Here the Stagnation is also due to the insufficiency of Qi, where it doesn't have the "oomph" to keep flowing properly and it gets sluggish and stuck. 

This condition can be treated quite effectively with Acupuncture and Moxibustion.  The acupuncture, and sometimes Chinese herbal medicine, focuses on:
  • Building and supplementing the Spleen Qi so that it can hold the blood in the veins
  • Raising the Yang so that whatever has fallen (in this case the veins) can be lifted back up
  • Moving the Qi and Blood to relieve the pain often associated with varicose veins.
Moxibustion is a warming treatment (see link above) that helps move the Qi and Blood and helps reduce the swelling and discomfort associated with varicosities. It is safe and non-invasive. Many times varicosities shrink, lighten and become less painful after a moxa treatment. While the varicose veins won't disappear after just one treatment, each treatment builds upon the one before, so over time you will see continuous shrinkage and lightening of the veins until they are no longer problematic. Because everyone is different, there is no way to predict how many treatments are needed; the more chronic the condition, the longer it takes to treat. For a relatively recent occurrance, it may take 4-6 treatments, for varicosities that have been around for years, it may take 3-4 months or more.

In the end, in addition to feeling less pain, you should have better energy and feel better in your daily life.



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Friday, February 24, 2017

Natural Remedies to Ease a Sore Throat

Sore throats abound this time of year. Some are severe and require antibiotics, like with Strep (you don't want to mess around with Strep). Most sore throats, however, are relatively benign and are really just a symptom that you are fighting some sort of bug.

When Chinese medicine was developed thousands of years ago, the concept of pathogens like viruses, bacteria and fungi had yet to be discovered; all doctors saw were the symptoms that these pathogens caused. Chinese doctors identified the different pathogens as invasions of the elements: Wind, Heat, Cold, Damp and Dry, and would treat each patient according to these "External Pathogenic Factors." Our immune system is called Wei Qi, a superficial layer of Qi that acts like a force field around us, protecting us from pathogenic invasions. When we get sick, it is a sign that our Wei Qi is battling some sort of pathogen and we see sypmtoms (headaches, runny nose, cough, sneeze, fever, chills, etc.) The symptoms of sore throat typically caused either by invasion of Wind or Heat, although Cold and Dry are also possible; dry, scratchy throats are often due to Wind and red, painful sore throats are due to Heat. You can also have sore throats that are due to physical irritation, like with a cough caused by post-nasal drip, but you would still categorize it according to quality, scratchy or raw. This type of illness would have a Damp (Phlegm) element to it, but the sore throat itself would be categorized according to Wind or Heat.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine treat all sorts of illnesses, including sinusitis, rhinitis, sinus infections, coughs, post-nasal drip, bronchitis and others, and sore throat is definitely on that list as well. Acupuncture treats the body, so whether you are fighting a virus or bacterial infection, it doesn't matter, what matters is how the symptoms present. By boosting the immune system and helping the body fight off Heat, Wind, Damp, Cold and/or Dry, the body is able to recover more quickly from the illness and you feel better sooner.

When you can't get in for an acupuncture treatment, doing acupressure on LU 10 can be a temporary help. LU 10 is located on the hand, just above the heel along the inside of the first bone below the thumb joint (see the dot in the photo). The point is halfway between the heel of the hand and the base of the thumb. Massaging this point (which might be sore if you really need it) releases heat from the throat and can help ease the pain, making you feel more comfortable. It can also be helpful with a scratchy throat, but is most effective against heat.

My favorite home remedy for sore throat, or even hoarseness/loss of voice, is Hot water, 1/4 of a Lemon and a Tsp-Tbsp of Raw Honey. You can drink this beverage all day long and it helps soothe the throat. Plus the lemon has Vitamin C which will help you combat illness as well. Honey is a great benefit to sore throat due to cough as it can also help ease a cough. While I usually encourage coughing, since it is your body attempting to get rid of illness, at night when you are trying to sleep, coughing can interfere; in terms of healing, sleep is much more important. A Tbsp of raw honey before bed can help calm your cough and help you sleep better.

Watermelon Frost Spray can also be helpful, not only for sore throat but for canker sores as well. It has a cooling quality and also aids in healing of sore throat and mouth sores. Look for brands that are GMP certified to ensure higher quality.

Sleep is essential for preventing or fighting any type of illness, major or minor. Sleep is when your body heals itself and repairs any damage. If you chronically have trouble sleeping, click here for some tips on how to get better sleep.

Proper hydration is also important for healing, especially if there is a fever and sweating. Dehydration is a common cause of sore throat, and sometimes just drinking enough water can be the solution.

If your sore throat persists more than 3 or 4 days, see your doctor to check for Strep; as I said, you don't want to mess with Strep.

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Acupuncture for Migraine Relief and Prevention

Migraines can be debilitating. Excrutiating pain, visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, light and sound sensitivity are only some of the symptoms that can be associated with migraines. There are many pharmaceutical options, but unfortunately they often have side effects, including headaches, and can be toxic to the liver long term.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are two effective ways to manage migraine pain when it comes on, as well as prevent the occurance in the first place. According to Chinese medical theory, "when there is pain, there is no free flow; when there is free flow, there is no pain." Acupuncture  encourages the Qi, or energy, to flow properly through the body, so that the symptoms go away. The reason acupuncture can be so effective, is because there is no "one size fits all" approach to migraine management; each person is treated according to their specific constellation of symptoms. Just like each person's experience of a migraine can be different (although there are often many common factors), each person's treatment will be tailored to them. This is the reason that certain medications work for some people and not others, and that people experience different side effects from the different medications.

There can be many different causes of migraines, such as hormonal fluxuations, dietary intolerances, muscular imbalances, barometric pressure changes or sinus problems. Knowing what causes your migraines can helpful, especially in terms of prevention, but not necessary to receive relief from acupuncture. If you know the cause then it can help build a picture of what is happening in your overall health that could be contributing to the migraines, but even without, the treatment is based on your symptoms, both related to your migraines as well as other aspects of your health. Balancing certain internal sensitivities can help your body cope better with the "insult" that is causing your migraines. For example, with sensitivity to barometric pressure changes, there is often an internal Dampness (with possible symptoms such as  heavy fatigue, sinus issues, loose bowel movments, achy joints) along with stagnation (stagnation = pain, discomfort, tightness both physical and/or emotional) that leaves the sufferer susceptible. With hormonal fluxuations, the patient usually has migraines before their menstrual cycle, during peri-menopause or even after menopause; by balancing the hormones, the migraines lessen in severity and frequency and eventually go away.

The biggest benefit of using acupuncture to treat migraines is that it works with your body to correct the imbalance that is causing the migraines in the first place. Once the imbalance is corrected, the body operates as it should and there are no migraines.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Food as Medicine: Top 5 Anti-Inflammatory Foods

"Inflammation" has become a big buzz word in the health community in the last few years. Inflammation can occur in the body in many ways and for many reasons, but not all of them are problematic. For example, inflammation after an injury is your body's way of trying to protect, then heal itself. Just like a fever raises your internal body temperature to kill off viruses and bacteria, localized inflammation, like with a  sprained ankle, is the way your body helps contain the injury and any pathogens that might be present, and prepare the body for tissue repair. When inflammation becomes chronic, that is when it stops being helpful and starts being harmful.

Chronic inflammation has been tied to many diseases, such as depression, heart disease, diabetes (Type 2), arthritis and allergies. Chronic inflammation is often tied to a poor diet (lacking fruits and vegetables, high in sugar, chemicals, processed foods, trans fats), chronic stress (which impairs the body's ability to regulate inflammation), poor sleep (raises stress) and incorrect exercise (too much or too little causes stress, therefore inflammation in the body).

Traditional Chinese Medicine doesn't recognize inflammation as a condition per se, TCM focuses instead on pain and the different types of pain that the body can feel. Pain is due to stagnation of energy (Qi), Blood and/or Body Fluids. When these substances get stuck and don't move, it is like pressure building up behind a clog in a pipe. The more the water tries to flow, the more pressure builds up (increasing sensation of pain). Once the clog is removed and the water can flow through the pipe again, the pressure returns to normal (no pain). Sometimes when Qi, Blood or Fluids stay stagnant for long periods, the constant attempt of Qi to move while impeded can create heat; this is similar to friction in an engine when you press the gas while the emergency brake is on. This type of heat is often seen with chronic inflammation in the musculo-skeletal system. Both inflammation and heat can also occur in other aspects of the body as well. Lung Heat might be related to bronchitis (inflammation of the bronchii), Heart Fire could be the cause of cardiac disease associated with high blood pressure, Liver Yang Rising might also relate to high blood pressure as well as headaches and dizziness with chronic lower back and/or knee pain. Each of these conditions could be attributed to inflammation and can be treated side-effect free with acupuncture, Chinese Herbal medicine and/or Dietary therapy.

Often times people think about NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories) for inflammation. Unfortunately long term, these can have some very negative side-effects including stomach upset, pain and damage, toxicity to the the heart, liver and kidneys and slowed healing of musculo-skeletal injuries.

Luckily, nature has provided many foods and spices that have excellent anti-inflammatory properties that can help ease your pain and heal your body from the inside, out.

1. Turmeric. By far, my favorite anti-inflammatory food, and many studies have shown it to be as effective as ibuprofen. It is best consumed with black pepper, as it makes the turmeric more bioavailable. There are many ways to consume turmeric, but just eating the occasional curry dish will not give you the medicinal doses needed for generalized inflammation. Golden Milk is a great way to consume it; it not only provides you with the anti-inflammatory qualities you are looking for, it is a soothing warm beverage that in and of itself offers some stress relief. There are many recipes for Golden Milk on the internet, but here is one of my favorites (I add a dash of black pepper and often leave out the ghee). For those of you who would rather take a supplement, there are many out there. Look for one that is either liquid, powder or a capsule as it will absorb better than a tablet. Take up to 2000mg daily, with food, for acute conditions, 1000-1500mg for chronic. Caution with pregnancy, nursing and for people on blood thinners. Talk to your doctor first if these apply to you.

2. Ginger. Often added to Golden Milk, ginger is a great anti-inflammatory. In Chinese medicine it is often used to heal the stomach, especially when nausea is present. It is a warming herb, so can be helpful with pain that is better with heat. You can also drink it as a tea; raw ginger is slightly less warming than dried ginger which is hotter in nature.

3. Tart Cherries/Tart Cherry Juice. This is a great alternative to Turmeric, especially for people on blood thinners. Drink about 8 oz. daily, either "straight" or diluted in water. It can have a very intense flavor, so spreading it out through the day is my recommendation, or you can add it to your favorite green smoothie recipe.

4. Pineapple. Like tart cherries, this is a great alternative to Turmeric, but diabetics should use it with caution since it does have a higher glycemic index rating.

5. Foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids. Foods like Salmon, anchovies, sardines, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts all contain high levels of anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids. They are good for the joints and the brain as well.

If you tend toward inflammation, especially with the conditions listed above, these foods should be part of your daily diet. You don't need to eat everything on the list, but foods that you like should be consumed daily. Foods that cause inflammation (like sugar, artificial sweeteners, coffee, trans fats, factory farmed meats, nightshade vegetables) should be used sparingly if at all.

Health begins with prevention and diet is the key. Food is medicine.

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