I was out of town this past weekend for a wedding and while at the ceremony I met a lot of great people but also helped to answer their questions about acupuncture and Chinese medicine. The most common question that came up: how often and how long will I need to get acupuncture before seeing results?. Unfortunately, this is my most difficult question to answer and there isn't always exact timeline.
But after hearing this question so many times, I realized that the time commitment aspect involved with acupuncture is really important, but also unclear, to a majority of people. This week I sat down to try and organize an answer this question the best way I could. I broke it down into two different ways of viewing it: by levels and different types of common treatment plans.
3 Common Acupuncture Treatment Levels
Level 1: Pain Relief - Treating the Symptoms
Level 3.1: When Seasons Change
I'm sneaking this one in here. Have you ever felt slightly off and then suddenly realized its during a seasonal transition like from winter to spring? Just like the environment around us, our bodies react to the changing seasons. Seasonal acupuncture tune ups help the body to cope with shifting energy and emotions, changing temperatures, allergens, and increasing daylight or night time.
Different Types of Treatment Plans
Acupuncture treatments work cumulatively. Number of visits depends on the intensity and origin of the imbalance.
As a condition improves, the recommended frequency of treatment decreases. Acupuncture helps the human body function more efficiently so you can better manage stress, prevent and fight illness, and heal from injury. Together we will fine tune and customize your treatment to help you become happy, healthy, and balanced.
Any questions? Don't hesitate to email or call me!
While I love history, I am no historian. Furthermore, where acupuncture is concerned I am definitely not an impartial observer. Once began to settle and open my private practice Oakland I realized I didn't have the faintest clue regarding the historical roots of acupuncture, not only California but the United States. In my everyday life I've thrown around phrases like “2000 years old” and “ancient medicine with modern practicalities” which are all true but these statements are so obtuse that at times I even have a hard time connecting to them to a historical context.
For most of us in America, we can date acupuncture to landing on our shores in 1972 when then President Nixon traveled to China while accompanied by a journalist from the New York Times. While in China the journalist, James Reston, fell ill and required an emergency appendectomy that was performed in Chinese hospital. To relieve his pain before and after surgery doctors administered acupuncture. Reston was so impressed with the pain relief that acupuncture provided, he wrote about his experience upon returning to the United States.
What James Reston, and even I, didn’t realize was that acupuncture and Chinese medicine mostly likely were introduced to Europe and the United States sometime during the 17th century. While still limited, by the 19th century European physicians, especially in France, began publishing detailed accounts of their experiences practicing acupuncture not only on themselves but on their patients as well. Although largely unnoticed, published papers from Europe began to arrive on eastern sea board of the United States in the early 1800’s. In 1829, the American edition of Tavernier’s Elements of Operative Surgery, includes a three page article on how and when to perform acupuncture and an operation similar to electro-acupuncture.
The first documented acupuncturists and herbalists in the U.S. were Ing Hay and Lung On. In 1887, Ing Hay arrived in the mining town John Day, in Eastern Oregon. He soon began practicing Chinese medicine with fellow practitioner Lung On, serving both the Chinese and Caucasian community there. Doctor Hay and On were both arrested several times for practicing medicine without a license but due to their popularity in the community, each case brought against them was dismissed.
Fast forwarding, there are a couple pioneers from the twentieth century that helped to advance and legalize the practice of Chinese medicine in America. I’m proud to say that not only did major developments take place in California but they were also accomplished by women.
Efforts to legalize acupuncture began with the American born Barbara Bernie. Suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome Barbara traveled all the way from Silicon Valley, California to Canada in 1971 to receive acupuncture treatments for her condition. The treatment worked so well that she accepted a referral to an acupuncturist practicing illegally in San Francisco. From 1971, she tirelessly pursued legislation culminating, in 1975, in the legalization of acupuncture in the State of California. Barbara Bernie later traveled to the United Kingdom to attend a school of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture becoming one of the first licensed Caucasian acupuncturists in the United States.
In 1966 Miriam Lee immigrated to the United States and quietly started a revolution that would help to lead to the legalization of acupuncture in California, and set a precedent for the rest of the United States. When arrested in 1975 for practicing medicine without a license, her patients lined the courtroom to testify on her behalf and days later California Governor Ronald Reagan legalized acupuncture as an experimental procedure. In 1976, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation legalizing acupuncture as an accepted medical practice in California, and Lee became one of the state's first licensed acupuncturists. Miriam Lee ran the Acupuncture Association of America from its inception in 1980 until 1998.
In the past 40 years:
· Over 46 states have legalized and regulated acupuncture and Chinese medicine
· Since the mid-1980s acupuncture schools have accepted national accreditation standards
· In the mid-1980s a national examination in acupuncture began, which most states accept for licensing
· There are approximately 50 accredited schools of acupuncture / Chinese medicine in America
· Thanks to the hard work of acupuncturists like Bob Flaws and other Chinese medicine pioneers, hundreds of new books have been published in English, including many translations of classic and modern Chinese works
· The World Health Organization published Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials, listing over 30 symptoms, diseases, and conditions that have been shown through controlled trials to be treated effectively by acupuncture.
· As of 2004, nearly 50% of Americans who were enrolled in employer health insurance plans were covered for acupuncture treatments and with Obama Care that number is increasing.
· There are currently over 20,000 licensed acupuncturists practicing in America
For me it’s easy to envision the future of acupuncture and Chinese medicine here on my home turf. I can see it becoming a part of everyday life, no longer boxed in as an alternative form of health care. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine is cost-effective, provides a safe, virtually side effect-free method of recovery from pain after surgery, lessens postoperative nausea, constipation, and urinary difficulties, and can manage existing conditions like hypertension, anxiety and insomnia.
 Cassedy, J.H. Early uses of acupuncture in the Uniter States, with an Addendum (1826) by Franklin Bache, M.D. Bull N Y Acad Med. 1974 Sep;50(8):892-906
A common complaint I hear from patients is "I'm not getting enough sleep" or "I don't get quality sleep". Statements like this are music to my acupuncture ears. If you are experiencing insomnia or poor quality of sleep, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine thrive at getting the body back into a healthy sleep rhythm.
In my opinion, other than water, sleep is one of the most important aspects in our lives, its the ultimate “down time.” Many critical physiological functions occur when we sleep and its when our body has time to repair itself. Unfortunately for many people out there, sleep, or going to sleep, is not the daily ritual it should be.
Lack of sleep can lead to a number of problems like increased chronic pain, poor memory, decreased sex drive, lead to accidents (like car crashes or at work), depression, anxiety, increased look of aging, increased weight gain, impaired judgement, and serious illness like heart problems, diabetes, and risk of stroke.
Traditional Chinese medicine recognizes the importance of adequate sleep for physical, psychological and spiritual well being. Factors like physical injury, stress, illness, and poor diet all contribute to an imbalance that can lead to insomnia or poor quality of sleep. Since in Chinese medical terms there is no one prescription for insomnia, your acupuncturist will often ask many questions about your overall health to try and pinpoint the factors leading that are leading to your poor sleep. Everyone's treatment plan and suggestions will vary depending on your unique symptoms but most patients begin seeing some relief with in the first 4-5 sessions.
Tips for Treating your Sleep Problems with Acupuncture
Tips for Better Sleep
If you try some of these ideas, let me know how they work for you. Or, send me your sleep tips (or comment below) and I will share them – people reading the blog post in the middle of the night might be grateful
1. Keep A Regular Sleep Schedule
Getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle—your circadian rhythm—is one of the most important strategies for achieving good sleep. Doing things like keep a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, and be smart about taking naps are great strategies for getting better sleep.
2. Naturally Regulate Your Sleep Cycle
Melatonin hormone occurs naturally and is controlled by light exposure. Melatonin main job is to help regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Your brain should secrete more in the evening, when it’s dark, to make you sleepy, and less during the day when it’s light and you want to stay awake and alert. However, many aspects of our daily modern life can disrupt your body’s natural production of melatonin and with it your sleep-wake cycle.
3. Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Chance are that if you make a consistent effort to relax and unwind before bed, you will sleep easier and more deeply. A relaxing bedtime routine sends a powerful signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and let go of the day’s stresses
4. Eat Right and Get Regular Exercise
What you eat during the daytime and how much you exercise play a role in how well you sleep. It’s particularly important to watch what you put in your body in the hours leading up to your bedtime.
5. Work on Cutting Down on Stress and Anxiety
Stress, worry, and anger leftover from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well. When you wake up or can’t get to sleep, take note of what seems to be the recurring theme. That will help you figure out what you need to do to get your stress and anger under control during the day.
6. Ways to Get Back to Sleep
7. Know When to Seek Help
If you've tried it all and are still having trouble sleeping or not feeling rested upon waking, it might be time to consider seeking outside help. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
In a gentle way, you can shake the world - Gandhi
While tradition feels like too strong of a word - every weekend after New Year's Eve I like to hunker down in my home, a cafe, or library and reflect on the past year. Step one: reflect on all the changes, experiences, life lessons, goals met and forgotten. Step two: start thinking about the year ahead - new wants, goals, travel plans, etc. While some people loath the New Year's resolution, I love them - the bigger, the longer, the more outlandish, the better. I enjoy envisioning the endless possibilities that life has to offer. And while I rarely cross anything off my list by the end of the year, I find it interesting to review past year's lists. I get a glimpse into how the past year has changed my expectations, needs, and values.
I'll share a resolution that I was able to keep in 2013 - getting regular acupuncture treatments for my self. Sounds pretty funny but it was only in my youth that I received regular acupuncture treatments. As an acupuncture student and acupuncturist, I very rarely received treatments and if I did, I was either very sick or it was as a class demonstration. When 2013 came along, so did a long and frustrating bout of insomnia. This was a message - it was finally time to practice what I preach.
I found an amazing acupuncturist here in Wellington, Simon Edward, and wouldn't trade my sessions for anything. My insomnia has disappeared, I feel energized, grounded, stronger, and (with out sounding too much like a hippie) more connected to my body. Even if I didn't scientifically understand how acupuncture worked, I knew it did in fact work. I had seen the positive changes in my patients, friends, and family. What I lacked before was the actually first hand experience that I now have.
A Few of My New Year's Resolutions for 2014
10 Reasons to Get Acupuncture in 2014