The goal of Chinese medicine is to restore your health by restoring balance to the natural forces of your body. These forces include your body's ability to be active or to rest and heal, to warm and cool itself, to generate and drain fluids, among many others. Each of these “forces” are necessary for health, in their appropriate balance. For example, if your body or some system in your body is unable to slow down and rest, then its ability to heal will be compromised and wear and tear will accumulate. If your body or some system is unable to be active enough, then it will be unable to do its job properly. Acupuncture, herbs, bodywork, foods and therapeutic exercises all can be used to restore proper balance.
The injuries, accidents and significant health conditions you’ve had in the past can leave an impact on your body that may often be detected later and be at least partly responsible for what you are dealing with now. Sudden injuries and sudden impacts are often at the root of current joint, back and neck complaints. These include auto accidents (even “minor” ones), sports injuries and falls (off horses, down stairs, on ice, off equipment, etc.). Surgical scars can leave a subtle lasting effect on the body by creating a “drag” and an “interference” that can affect the performance of the body. Likewise, past major illnesses can leave repercussions that still reverberate today. It is very common to find that resolution of the current complaint requires addressing the past. Tissue Memory Release (TMR) is a major tool I use to find and treat old injuries.
Many health conditions have causes that are not obvious. One reason for this is that symptoms often come from a relatively healthy system that is finally having trouble compensating for another more compromised system, which is often quiet. For example, a lot of back pain comes from tension in the front of the body. Allergies often have their origin in digestive inefficiencies. Migraines, anxiety and depression can all have origins in the digestive tract. And hip, knee and IT band issues can come from old ankle sprains. A current complaint may have more than one “hidden cause”. Finding and treating each cause should move the current condition forward towards resolution. If you keep treating something and the condition does not move forward, then the cause(s) have not been found and the search should continue (see above paragraphs for ideas). Keep in mind that there are occasionally cases where the cause is not identifiable or addressable by the tools of Chinese medicine.
During a typical first visit, we will (1) look at your health history for clues to your current complaint (2) develop a treatment plan, and (3) begin actual treatment.
Treatment is usually bodywork, sometimes acupuncture, and sometimes a combination of the two. Patients are sometimes surprised to find that the bodywork is very subtle, and that they feel little or no discomfort from the acupuncture needles. The bodywork techniques I use involve prolonged, gentle pressure on a limb or the head while the patient is lying down. During this quiet, peaceful treatment patients may drift off, notice sensations in the body, or even have useful insights.
A major tool in helping your body to rebalance and recover from injury or chronic health issues
Sometimes used in conjunction with or instead of acupuncture for certain conditions, this could include Tui Na (Chinese bodywork) or certain Western manual therapies. Tissue Memory Release (TMR) has become one of my most important bodywork tools.
An herbal formula (as a tincture) or supplements may be recommended if considered appropriate
Based on your health goals certain foods might be emphasized for you to get more of or avoid
Special gentle rehabilitative exercises (from the Chinese martial arts) may be taught; practicing these at home can help you meet your health goals more quickly
A course of acupuncture treatments (10-12 sessions recommended) along with other modalities and recommendations can help you look and feel more youthful. Read more here
Difficulties around pregnancy can be helped through a multi-pronged approach. Read more here.
There are many ways that acupuncture works depending on what is being treated. The simplest explanation is that acupuncture stimulates the body to rebalance itself, whichever way it is out of balance. For example, acupuncture can settle an over-active digestive system, stimulate an under-active and inefficient digestive tract and regulate a disordered digestive tract. Acupuncture’s most notable effect is to promote relaxation. Most people experience deeper relaxation then they normally do on their own, even when they are asleep. After about 20 minutes, acupuncture has the ability to shift the nervous system into a deeper and more relaxed mode which facilitates healing, better digestion, deeper sleep, muscle relaxation, and calmness and clarity of mind. Acupuncture can also speed healing after injury and surgery by stimulating local circulation, reducing inflammation and keeping the healing process active. Acupuncture is also very famous for its ability to reduce pain.
As to how acupuncture does all this, there are two basic theories. The ancient theory is that we all have an energy field that is alive and active and runs and regulates our bodies. This energy, chi, flows in and around our bodies in distinct patterns that have been recognized for centuries in many different cultures. Acupuncture affects these energy patterns by stimulating locations that are known to have a strong effect on the flow and activity of chi. You might be able to relate to this if you have ever been hit in the solar plexus, which can completely shut you down as compared to being hit somewhere else on your body. Instruments of modern science have detected energy fields emanating from our bodies and have detected changes in this energy field in response to various stimuli. The modern theory of acupuncture is that it stimulates nerve reflexes which trigger the release of chemicals appropriate to the restoration of health. Some of this has already been shown in research. When considered carefully, both theories actually support and complement each other. I believe that we do have an energy field running and regulating the body, along with nutrition, hormones and nerve signals.