Monday, May 6, 2019

Pelvic Floor Pain: How Acupuncture Can Help

When it comes to pain, not everyone thinks about acupuncture as the solution. With intense pelvic floor pain, the idea of needles anywhere near the pelvic floor can have you running in the other direction. You will be pleased to know that although it is possible to needle the muscles in the pelvic floor, it is not necessary to be able to address pelvic floor pain with acupuncture. One of the benefits of using acupuncture for pain is that there are many ways to treat the body, many ways to see the body and a seemingly indirect treatment can be the most powerful.

Case Study

59 year old female came to my office with her Chief Complaint as Pelvic Floor Pain that she had been experiencing 6 times per year for 15 years. The pain was intense, an 8-9 out of 10 and lasted at that intensity for 45-60 minutes. It usually appeared at night, waking her, but recently it had happened while at work or while driving. The pain was in the rectum as well as at the base of her spine and was a throbbing, pounding pain. The pain would start suddenly, then stop just as suddenly. The patient had seen multiple types of specialists, none of whom could do anything but give her pain killers for when she had the pain, and physical therapy hadn't helped; no one was able to help her with prevention, and could help only mildly with pain management. The pain was slightly better with NSAIDs and nitroglycerin but nothing prevented the pain from occuring; she just had to wait it out.

I first saw her in late February and the last episode of the pain had been late December.

Observing her posture, her rib cage was shifted to the left relative to her pelvis and her right Quadratus Lumborum (QL) was tight and contracted. Her left SI joint was jammed causing a medial shift when she lifted her knee. Her left psoas was tighter than her right and her right pubic bone was slightly deep relative to her left. There was no movement in her right ThoracoLumbar Fascia (TLF) or sacrum, which was jammed moving superiorly. The movement of her TLF and sacrum were detected by using a light touch to detect the body's various rhythms subtle movements.

I saw her weekly for 2 weeks, then every other week for 4 more treatments. After the first treatment her SI joints were moving properly and evenly, and her QL tightness had released. Her rib shift was also gone. As the acupuncture treatments progressed, I addressed imbalances in her piriformis and hamstrings and continued to address the sacrum which improved with every treatment. We were able to trace the problem back to her left foot which had had a seismoid bone resection many years before that affected her overall alignment, causing her to overuse her right side.

Typically the pain had occurred every 2 months for 15 years. During the 3 months that I saw this patient, she had no recurrence of the pain. Our last treatment was in May, so she had been pain free for 5 months.

I find that looking at the whole body, rather than just focusing on the one part in pain, it's the best way to get rid of pain more permanently. The body is a master at compensating and over time subtle, often unconscious shifts in posture and gait can lead to bigger problems down the road. By correcting the way a person moves through their life by correcting their imbalances, it can have a profound effect on how someone feels on a daily basis.

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Cupping for Athletes

Cupping is a hot topic among athletes these days, spurred on by the purple spots on competitors like Michael Phelps and Wang Qun at the Olympics and more and more celebrities and professional athletes across numerous sports. The Chinese (as well as Europeans) have been using cupping for thousands of years, for all sorts of muscle and joint pain, as well as for respiratory infections and digestive issues.

You can read about the basics of cupping in my previous post, "Cupping and Gua Sha: What are they and what are their benefits?" by clicking here. This post will focus on how cupping works to benefit athletic performance and recovery, as well as treating sports injuries.

Any athlete, whether a professional, an amateur or a weekend warrior, knows that soreness and injury is par for the course. Soreness is the build up of lactic acid and micro-tearing of tissue that when healed, creates a stronger muscle. With intense use, muscles can get tight or inflamed, and many people use ice to battle that inflammation. Unfortunately this practice is outdated and is actually interfering with the healing process. You can read more about that here. By restricting blood flow, you are actually impairing the body's ability to heal itself. It's like a fever: when you have a fever, the body has raised its temperature to kill off the virus or bacteria that is making you sick. When you reduce a fever, the body can't do its job as well (I am referring to fevers under 102.5 degrees; anything above is more serious and may require other interventions). Icing an acute injury delays the healing process by interrupting blood flow to the area. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) you are infusing cold into the area which leads to a stagnation of energy, or Qi (pronounced Chee) and causes pain. Many times ice will numb the area, but won't actually get rid of the pain, since once the numbness wears off, the pain returns.

Practices like acupuncture and cupping are very helpful for recovery as they move the lactic acid out of the muscles, encouraging Qi and blood flow, helping the body recover. Cupping is great for muscle tightness, acting like a deep massage, to help release what is stuck and return the muscle to better functioning. Acupuncture encourages blood flow to the area so that the body can more efficiently heal the micro-tears and return the muscles to strength and stability. These two practices complement each other, but each can also stand alone when it comes to recovery.

In terms of healing injury, depending on the injury, acupuncture is my first go to, as it encourages blood flow to encourage healing. Moxa is another great modality for treating injury for the same reason. Our blood contains the nutrients that help us heal; encouraging blood flow encourages healing. Moving Qi and Blood can also reduce pain and swelling, often immediately after treatment.  Cupping can be helpful as long as there is no muscle tearing as part of the injury. It is great for muscle spasms or tightness, and can be helpful with scar healing, once the scar is stable and closed. Cupping (or Gua Sha, see the above link to the article "Cupping and Gua Sha: What are they and What are their Benefits"), can help the scar become more supple, prevent adhesions and help the body return to proper function.

Scars can be very problematic, post-surgery or otherwise, if they don't heal well. Puckered or tight scars can impair function not only of the affected area, but can also cause problems in other related areas, like nearby joints. I had a patient who had a lumpectomy and the scar was very deep and tight. She came to me because of a shoulder injury on that same side. Once I released the tension in the scar, her shoulder felt much better. Cupping, Gua Sha and acupuncture are all great ways to treat scars and encourage them to complete the healing process so you can return to the activities that you love.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/rio-2016/2016/08/08/how-cupping-works-and-why-olympic-athletes-use/88410804/

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/rio-2016-cupping-what-is-it-olympics-athletes-suction-cups-skin-marks-a7178731.html

For more information about who I am and what I do, go to www.integrativetherapeutics.com.
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Musings of an Acupuncturist Treating Veterans

Musings of an acupuncturist treating veterans:

I love the vision of people, mostly men but some women, coming into the Veterans Acupuncture Care clinic,
a little nervous, a little unsure. Before they’ve been treated they don’t know what’s going to happen. Does it hurt?
How will I feel after? Does it hurt? What should I expect? Does it hurt?
They walk in, sign in and take a seat in one of of almost a dozen wing chair and couch seats. They sit down,
swab their ears with alcohol and await the needles. Within 5 minutes or so of receiving the needles, I see the peace
and calm wash over their faces. Soon the subtle sounds of gentle snoring mix with the flute music playing in the
background. They sit until they feel complete, for some it is 30 minutes, for some 90 minutes, for many it is
something in between. I take my cues from them. After the treatment, they arise, refreshed and ready to take on
whatever their life may bring. Initially the contentment may last only a few hours or a few days, but over time the
effects last longer and longer. The treatments build up in the system helping them hold on the more good feelings
than bad. Bodies have an amazing ability to heal themselves; I only facilitate that action. That’s why I do what I do.
I am an acupuncturist.

* * * * *

Everyone experiences stress in their lives, but after experiencing war and combat, the stress is a little different.
At first it may be subtle, like feeling irritable and isolated, or yelling at your spouse and children. Then it might be
more invasive, interrupting your sleep, causing nightmares and flashbacks, driving your desire to drink or behave
recklessly. PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not always immediately apparent to the person experiencing it.
If you or someone your love has been affected by a traumatic event in war or combat, know that help is available.
Veterans Acupuncture Care (VAC) Metrowest offers free acupuncture treatments specifically geared toward easing
your experience of your trauma and giving you a deep sense of peace and well-being.
For more information, please visit www.vacmetrowest.com.

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.

Sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/varicose-veins/symptoms-causes/dxc-20178128

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