Categorically speaking, if you experience pain that lasts over 6-12 months its considered chronic pain. The nature of chronic pain can vary widely; ranging anywhere from fibro-myalgia to chronic headaches and mysterious nerve pain or injuries that never quite heal right. Even though classic therapies such as physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication regiments have done much to improve the lives of chronic pain suffers, there are still those out there who at not getting the emotional and physically relief they need.
In recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers found that acupuncture outperformed sham treatments and standard care when used by people suffering from osteoarthritis, migraines, and chronic neck, back, and shoulder pain.
There are two main advantages in my book for using acupuncture for pain management:
While acupuncture is often effective at reducing chronic and acute pain, sometimes it isn't. Even though some patients might not notice a change in their pain levels, they begin to notice an improved a quality of life. Client's levels of stress are reduced, they begin sleeping better, moods become stabilized, and energy is improved. All of these aspects are important when trying to break through the barriers of chronic pain.
Self Care and Other Techniques for Chronic Pain
If you suffer from chronic pain, know that there isn't just one answer out there. Whether it’s an acupuncturist, Western medical doctor, hypnotherapist, psychologist, naturopath or a combination of health care professionals, its important to find people who are open minded and willing to work as a team. It may be just the change you've been looking for.
I get a lot of great questions about acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), but these are probably the four most common questions I receive from patients and physicians. Even though acupuncture is but one treatment modality within the system of TCM, it’s the one that peaks people’s curiosity the most. During an acupuncture session, needles are inserted into the body at specific locations to produce specific results like reducing pain, regulating menstrual periods or hormones, or resolving digestive upset.
1. Does it work?
Heck Yea! Acupuncture works! But the question is how, right?
Chinese Medicine Perspective:
Western Medicine Perspective:
2. Does it hurt?
This is the winner for the most commonly asked question and for the needle-phobic client, it is always the first question they ask. Acupuncture does not hurt when performed by an experienced and skillful acupuncturist. For those who dislike getting their blood drawn or any type of injection, have no fear; acupuncture is not a medical injection or a “shot”. A medical injection or “shot” uses larger, hollow needles that inject liquid into the body. In acupuncture, very fine, sterile, solid needles about the thickness of a hair (0.16mm-0.25mm) are used. Acupuncture is generally painless but painless doesn't mean no sensation will be felt. There can sometimes be minor discomfort or pinching on sensitive areas like the hands or feet. That being said, there are many techniques your acupuncturist can use to minimize any negative sensations. The sensations you should feel are warm, tingly, heavy or slightly achy. You’re acupuncture never wants you to feel sharp or electric sensations that last for more than a second or two. If this happens, (or if you ever feel any discomfort) don’t hesitate to tell your acupuncturist. Not only can they make adjustments to fix the problem but there are other treatment methods that can be applied that do not involve needles.
3. Is it safe?
Acupuncture is safe and has very minimal side effects when practiced by a trained professional. No need to worry about cross contamination or infection because all needles are sterile and only used once. Two surveys conducted independently of each other and published in the British Medical Journal in 2001 concluded that the risk of a serious adverse reaction to acupuncture is less than 1 in 10,000. This is far less than many orthodox medical treatments. A total of 66,000 treatments were reviewed altogether, with only a handful of minor and transient side effects recorded. A 2003 survey of 6,000 patients of acupuncture produced almost identical figures. Any minor side effects that did occur, such as dizziness or bruising around needle points, are mild and self-correcting.
4. What are your qualifications?
Part of me wishes that I could say I traveled to China and after hiking up a tall mountain for many days, I met and trained with an acupuncture master in for a few years but alas, in truth I took a more studious path. I received my undergrad degree in psychology with a minor in biology from California State University, Northridge. I completed my Master of Science degree at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in 2012, and I am licensed by the California State Board and a certified Diplomate of Oriental Medicine by NCCAOM. I am currently registered with New Zealand Acupuncture Standards Authority and a ACC practitioner. I have approximately 4,000 hours of formalized education and over 2000 clinical hours in Traditional Chinese Medicine that has included courses in Western sciences, Eastern and Western nutrition, Chinese herbology, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory and disease diagnosis, and Acupuncture meridian and point theory. I am continually expanding my knowledge through continuing education courses in Japanese acupuncture and kampo, and Master Tung and Master Tan meridian therapies.
I have also been very fortunate to be a part of some amazing programs in the fields I specialize in, mental health and immunology, though Owen HIV/AIDS Clinic and Hospice Center in San Diego, Mental Health Community Action Network and Homeless Project Connect in Santa Cruz.
Soap Box Time: My current endeavor is to bring and promote community acupuncture in New Zealand. In the US and UK community clinics have quite a strong following which is why I was surprised to find that there are almost no community support clinics or community acupuncture clinics in Wellington. I hope to change that. It’s my aim is to make acupuncture accessible to everyone. Even when acupuncture is low cost and low frills it is still just as effective. I’ve begun working with Mansfield House, a Maori support home for sufferers of mental illnesses in Newtown, by providing weekly community-style acupuncture for mental health and sobriety support for the clients that live there.
Check out the community acupuncture section of my website for more information or don’t hesitate to email me with any questions.
Although this knotted, beige colored root is one of the most frequently used herbs in the kitchen, it is much more than a culinary spice. In current research, ginger has show to inhibit the absorption of cholesterol and increase the flow of bile. It also stimulates the circulatory system, acts as an anti-inflammatory and blood thinner. Ginger is also a strong anti-oxidant substance and may either mitigate or prevent generation of free radicals. For the past 4000 years in traditional Chinese medicine, this plant has been used extensively for medicinal purposes as well. Depending on how it’s prepared, ginger can go by a few different names.
Fresh ginger (my favorite) is called “Sheng Jiang” and is what you typically see in the produce section of your super market.
Gan Jiang is a dried ginger is great for warming the body.
Pao Jiang, a toasted form of ginger.
How Much Ginger Should I Take?
Intake of ginger depends on the condition. In general, no more than 2-4 grams of fresh ginger should be taken daily. However, other doses are recommended for the following conditions:
How Much is too Much Ginger?
The American Herbal Products Association has given fresh ginger root a class I safety rating, meaning it is a safe herb with a wide dosage range. However Gan Jiang, dried ginger root, has a class II B rating, which means it should be used with caution during pregnancy.
Some evidence suggests that large doses of ginger may interfere with heart medications, diabetes medications and anticoagulants. Since ginger also increases the flow of bile, it should not be taken with caution for patients with gallstones. Excessive amounts of ginger may cause mild heartburn
Facts and Folklore about Ginger
Being from the California, the concept that it’s actually springtime in Wellington (even when the days still feel pretty cold) came upon me gradually then suddenly. As I look back over the past couple weeks, I realized that I had been feeling slightly more tense, the days were getting longer, and I’m favoring mint over green as my daily tea.
For me personally, spring can be an exciting but difficult time. It’s a time of new beginnings, new growth, purification, and for clearing out the old. All this new growth is electrifying and wonderful but it can come with difficulties too. On these cold mornings, I sometimes feel like seed that is still deciding if it wants to stay safe in the ground or take the leap and emerge from under the soil – or in my case, the covers of my warm bed.
Depending on where you live, you may not have yet seen evidence of new life bursting forth; it might be a little more subtle. You many have noticed a shift in your body’s energy and changes in how you feel physically and emotionally as the hours of daylight increase.
What gives me that extra push forward is that I fully believe that by following the rhythms and cycles of nature, we can also create balance within our own lives. In Chinese Medicine spring is associated with the Wood element, which governs the liver and gall bladder organs and maintains the smooth of Qi in our bodies. Strong winds are typical during spring (especially here in Windy Wellington). The blowing of wind in spring can offset the equilibrium of these organs, which in turn can affect other organ systems causing congestion and imbalance. When this happens, I see the most common symptoms of spring walk into my clinic:
5 Signs That Acupuncture Can Help You This Spring
1. Feeling a little extra tense or angry
In TCM, the Liver is responsible for smooth flow of Qi throughout the body. When the Liver is not functioning optimally, things like emotional and situational stress tend to aggravate us more.
2. Experiencing more than the usually sore muscle or headache
When the Qi isn’t flowing smoothly, we start to experience what acupuncturists think of as congestion or stagnation-type symptoms. These include pain, tension, tightness, or restriction of our muscles and body. Headaches and menstrual cramps are commonly worse this time of year as well.
3. Digestion feels a bit off balance
Good digestion is dependent on consistent and smooth movement of Qi throughout the whole body. When the Liver fails to control the flow, digestive problems are most likely to occur. Don’t forget the brain-gut connection, as we know, when our emotional stress is higher than usual, our digestive system takes a hit.
4. Springtime allergies
If the liver is not healthy, it could affect other organs like the spleen and the lungs. Symptoms of this disharmony between these organs include: chest congestion, sneezing, running nose, itching eyes and other symptoms that are associated with allergy problems.
5. Difficulty sleeping through the night
A weakened Liver can also affect your sleep. When the Liver is not controlling the smooth flow of QI, you might notice you’re up thinking all night or still upset about something that happened at work. The time of the Liver is also between the hours of 1am-3am and this is when most people wake and have a hard time falling back to sleep.
I have really come to appreciate this small, fuzzy, and tasty fruit since living in New Zealand for the past 3 months. I also discovered that kiwis can come in all sizes from as small as a grape to as large as a tomato and come in green or yellow colors. They are great alone, in salads, shakes, and of course desserts. Even though the kiwifruit is generally associated with New Zealand, it’s actually a native fruit of China. Originally called Yang Tao, the Chinese used the kiwifruit as a tonic for children and women after childbirth or chronic illness due to its high nutritional value. In 1904 the kiwifruit arrived first in the United States and later in 1906 found its way to New Zealand, where its popularity soared.
10 Facts about the Kiwifruit
1. Contain Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The black seeds of a kiwi fruit contain the all important omega-3 and essential fatty acids that the body needs to help maintain heart, joints and metabolic health
2. Rich in vitamin C
There is twice as much vitamin C in kiwifruit as there are in oranges. Vitamin C boosts the body’s immune system, aids in fighting off infections, and repairs tissues.
3. Other vitamins that kiwifruit are especially high in compared to other fruit
Kiwifruit is a great low fat natural source of vitamin E, which is well known for its heart health and antioxidant properties.
Kiwifruit is a natural source of folate which women take to help prevent neural defects in their unborn babies. It also assists in brain and cognitive development in children and combats cardiovascular disease.
A kiwifruit has about the same level of potassium as a banana, making it an excellent low-sodium option to access potassium.
4. Good source of the carotenoid lutein
Kiwifruit not only has one of the highest concentrations of lutein in fruits - but the lutein in kiwifruit has recently been shown to be highly bioaccessible.
5. Naturally high in antioxidants and other potentially-beneficial phytochemicals
Eating kiwifruit will provide your daily intake of antioxidants, such as polyphenols and carotenoids, to help fight the damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress.
6. Help improve the function of your immune system
Kiwifruit help to ward off the effects of stress, inflammation, and attacks from bacteria and viruses.
7. Eating just two kiwifruit a day has been proven to reduce the amount of oxidative damage to your cells and improve the repair of damaged Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) caused by oxidative stress
This has been shown in human studies both in New Zealand and Europe.
8. Eating kiwifruit with a meal reduces the oxidative stress on your body from that meal - especially if it is high-fat food
Researchers in the United States found that people who ate kiwifruit with or after a meal had a marked reduction in the markers of oxidative stress.
9. Just two to three kiwifruit a day has been shown to reduce blood platelet aggregation
Research studies in Sweden have shown that 2 kiwi fruit daily can reduce platelet aggregation that contributes to arterial and blood vessel blocking,.
10. Kiwifruit are really great to relieve that bloated and blocked feeling
Because of its unique combination of fiber and other components, kiwifruit is widely recognized as natural digestive aid.
Other Kiwi Facts
Today's medications for HIV/AIDS are working miracles - people are living longer than ever before. Even so, its essential for people living with HIV/AIDS to maintain their health and stay active. Incorporating all these steps at once can seem like a big task but start one step at a time. Print out this list (or your own list), put it on the fridge and start with just one step that speaks to you the most. As you reach your goal, go down to the next step on your list and before you know it, you'll have gotten through all ten.
1. Get Acupuncture! Better Yet, Get An Acupuncturist
I'm not just saying this because I'm an acupuncturist. Studies have shown that traditional Chinese medicine can help manage stress, improve the immune system, manage side effects caused by medication, peripheral neuropathies, fatigue, and digestive issues. There is also more to Chinese medicine then acupuncture that your acupuncturist pull out of their tool box to help you. There are herbal therapies, qi gong exercises, cupping, gua sha, tui na massage, and moxabustion. It doesn't matter if you go regularly, get maintenance treatments, or only get acupuncture as needed for symptom relief, no one will be a bigger advocate for you than your acupuncturist.
2. Eat A Well Balanced Diet
There isn't a perfect diet out there, its important to find one that works best for you. Some general guidelines to follow are:
HIV and many of its treatments can change your body’s metabolism—or the way your body processes nutrients and other substances. According to Tufts University School of Medicine nutrition experts, the right diet can make it easier for the body to process the many medications that people with HIV must take, and it may even help ease common symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and fatigue.
3. Skip Drugs And Alcohol
Not only can drugs and alcohol negatively interact with your medications, alcohol can also weaken your immune system.
4. Don't Forget About Your Mouth
Oral health problems like mouth sores, gingivitis, and thrush effect over 1/3 of the HIV/AIDS population. Brushing and flossing regularly, and visiting the dentist can help prevent problems like these from developing.
5. Find Ways To Reduce Your Stress
Research at the University of California, San Francisco, has shown a clear link between stress and reduced immune system function; stress can interfere with appetite and sleep patterns. There are 100 different ways to manage stress: yoga, meditation, acupuncture, talk therapies, exercise, video games - there's something for everyone
6. Use Caution When You Travel
Food borne illnesses can be unpleasant in healthy individuals but they can cause severe complications in people living with HIV or AIDS. It’s best to be prepared when visiting developing countries or a place where food and water safety can be difficult to ensure and the rates of transmittable diseases are higher. If you're planning a trip, be sure to talk to your medical care team to get advice and any extra supplies.
7. Keep An Eye On Your Skin
If the eyes are a window into the soul than the skin is a window into how the body's immune system is functioning. Skin problems are often among the earliest signs of HIV infection. People with HIV frequently have persistent skin infections so its important to watch your skin carefully for changes.
8. See Your Doctor Regularly
Even though I said your acupuncturist can be your biggest advocate, your doctor is too. Seeing your doctor regularly can help to make sure that your medication doses are correct, monitor your viral load, track any new infections, establish baselines, and get you set up with any services you might need.
9. Take Your Medication On Time
Yes - this is important too! Studies show that
taking the correct medication dose and taking your medications on time is directly correlated to a decrease in your viral load and can possibly help to prevent medication resistance. The lower your viral load, the healthier you can be.
10. Learn All You Can About HIV/AIDS And Get Involved!
Tests results, CD4 levels, doctors visits - it can be confusing and overwhelming when you're in new and unfamiliar territory. There is so much information out there - from websites to blogs and message boards, even at your local library. Studies have shown that people suffering from a chronic disease who take an active approach to their health care are much more likely to enjoy a better quality of life.
Over 46% of people living with HIV/AIDS say they feel isolated and alone but it doesn't have to be that way. There are a ton of community centers, meet up groups, support centers, and chat sites. Whether you're ready to get out there and meet people or just dip your toe in the water, the most important thing to remember is you are not alone!
Last but not least, I'm here to help, feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.
The Emperor's Seed
There was once an Emperor from China who had no children and needed to choose a successor.
Thousands of children from across the kingdom came to the palace and were surprised when the Emperor exclaimed that he was going to choose one of them. He gave them all a seed. They were to go home to their villages, plant the seed in a pot and tend to it for a year. When they return in a year, the Emperor would judge their efforts and choose his successor.
There was a boy named Ling who received his seed and returned to his village. His mother helped him to choose a pot and the soil and Ling watered his seed every day.
After a few weeks, there were signs of life in all the other children's pots but not in Ling’s. The weeks passed and Ling continued to water his pot every day.
After a few months, the pots of the other children really came to life. Some had trees starting to grow, some had flowers and some had leafy shrubs. Poor Ling still had nothing growing in his pot.
Ling continued to water his pot every day.
A year passed and it was time to return to the palace to show what had grown and decide on the new heir.
Ling was anxious as his pot still showed no signs of life. “What if they punish me? They won’t know that I’ve watered it every day, they’ll think that I’m lazy.”
His mother looked him in the eye and explained that whatever the consequences were, he had to return and show the Emperor his barren pot.
Ling and the other children entered the palace gates. By now, some of the plants were looking magnificent and the children were wondering which one the Emperor would choose.
The Emperor came out and started to make his way through the crowd, looking at the many impressive trees, shrubs and flowers that were on display. He spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. The emperor asked his guards to bring ling and his pot to the front.
The Emperor held up the pot for all to see and the other children laughed. Then the Emperor continued, “A year ago, I gave you all a seed. I told you to go away, plant the seed and return with your plant. The seeds that I gave you all were boiled until they were no longer viable and wouldn't grow, but I see before me thousands of plants and only one barren pot. Integrity and courage are more important values for leadership than proud displays, so Ling here will be my heir.”
I was recently asked to write an article for Body Positive, a HIV/AIDS support center in New Zealand. My passion for working with the HIV/AIDS community was sparked during my clinical externship with UC San Diego Owen Clinic, one of the top HIV/AIDS clinics in the US. Here, I experience firsthand how beneficial acupuncture can be alone or as a complement to western treatment regiments. If I ever had doubts in the power of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), my work with the HIV and AIDS community has erased my fears. While TCM can not cure the disease itself, its importance lies its power to significantly improve ones quality of life
Energy on Hold - Fatigue and HIV/AIDS
Western medicine has come a long way in managing HIV/AIDS, but sometimes it’s the intangibles that really determine quality of life. Although people are unquestionably living longer lives, fatigue prevents many from living the kind of life they want. In recent studies, researchers have found that between 20 and 60 percent of people with chronic HIV infection, and up to 85 percent of people with an AIDS diagnosis, have suffered from fatigue at one time or another. In the Western medicine paradigm, the causes of fatigue can be numerous and hard to pinpoint. Fortunately, diagnosing and treating a generalized complaint such as fatigue is one of the strong points of traditional Chinese medicine.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) includes several different modalities such as acupuncture, Chinese herbology, qi gong exercise, and tui na massage. Acupuncture, the most commonly used form of TCM, is insertion of sterile, hair thin needles into specific points on the body. These acupuncture points are places where the nerves and blood vessels are densely packed and stimulation of these points regulates the function of the brain, nervous system and internal organs to stop pain, increase circulation and restore normal functioning of the body. These ancient practices are still used by millions of people all over the world. Historically, at the root of traditional Chinese medicine is the concept of qi (pronounced “chee”). Qi is understood in terms of its functions and activities, lying somewhere between matter and energy. Qi is considered the fundamental power underlying all the activities of nature as well as the vital life force of the human body. When the body is in homeostasis and qi is free-flowing, the result is health; stagnant or imbalanced qi leads to disease.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the causes of fatigue fall into the basic category of deficiency or blockage of qi. Qi can be damaged by over-work, over-thinking (or worrying), aging, unhealthy eating, enduring illness, or side effects of medication. Everybody deals with these problems; for HIV/AIDS patients living with a compromised immune system, these struggles can seem insurmountable.
A study conducted by National Institutes of Health in 2000 focused on the usage of traditional and complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, by adult patients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. It concluded that 98 percent patients who were using traditional therapies in conjunction with their Western medicine regimen reported feeling better, having more energy, feeling in control, and better able to cope with their disease.
Once the underlying cause of fatigue has been determined, a treatment plan is established to strengthen and invigorate the Qi and improve the symptoms of fatigue. Specific acupuncture points and Chinese herbs are chosen according to the precise diagnosis that incorporates each area of imbalance. In addition to acupuncture and herbs, a healthy nutritional plan and gentle exercise program will be incorporated for optimal energy and vitality. This can not only help people with the disabling aspects of fatigue but with digestive issues, boosting the immune system, medication side effects, and sleep disorders. Which adds up to one thing: getting people back to doing what they love most.
You've seen it before - these red, mysterious, circular marks on the backs of celebrities and maybe even your friends. Now you're acupuncturist has just broken out the glass cups and its not to suggest a toast. When the fire cups come out, its most likely because something in your tongue, pulse, or presentation clues your acupuncturist into stagnation that's present in your body.
WHAT IS CUPPING?
Fire cupping is a form of traditional medicine found in many cultures around the world. The earliest record of cupping is in Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world. It describes that in 1,550 BC, Egyptians used cupping. Archaeologists have found evidence in China of cupping dating back to 1,000 BC.
In traditional Chinese medicine(TCM), cupping is performed by creating a vacuum on the patient’s skin. The low air pressure required to form a suction may be created by heating the air inside it with an open flame or a gentle suction pump. With an open flame, as the air inside the cup cools, it contracts and draws the skin slightly inside. Cups are normally used only on softer tissue that can form a good seal with the edge of the cup. They may be used singly or in large number to cover a larger area. They may be used by themselves or placed over an acupuncture needle. Skin may be lubricated, allowing the cup to be moved and slide.
WHY IS IT USED?
The therapy is used to dispel stagnation, stagnant blood and lymph, thereby improving qi flow. Generally, cupping is combined with acupuncture but it can also be used alone. The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate the nervous system. Cupping can be used to relieve back and neck pain, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, rheumatism, and even cellulitis.
IS IT SAFE?
While cupping is considered relatively safe, it can cause some swelling and the appearance of bruising on the skin. As the skin under a cup is drawn up, the blood vessels at the surface of the skin expand. This may result in small, circular bruises on the areas where the cups were applied. These bruises are usually painless and disappear within a few days of treatment.
Ouch! You've just dropped that can of spaghetti sauce on your foot, its late in the evening, the doctors office is closed, and the area is starting to swell and really hurt. What do you do?
This is where simple and effective home remedies come in handy. My favorite for a situation like the one above is an Onion Poultice.
Onion poultices are used for moving toxins out through the blood, lymph, and skin in cases of bruising, swelling, and inflammation. It can also be really helpful for lung and chest congestion that accompanies a bad cold, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
How to Make a Onion & Salt Poultice
What you’ll need:
As with anything, if you feel any symptoms of discomfort (burning or itching) or think you're having an allergic reaction. Remove immediate and rinse the area.