Balance

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Our bodies are in transition. We are always in transition. As long as we are alive, change is inevitable. Chinese medicine looks at normal and abnormal patterns of change and gently moves the body towards harmonious balance.

This constant ebb and flow is also recognized in Western medicine through a primary concept of homeostasis, meaning we maintain balance in the body through multiple physiological processes. Homeostasis is the continual balancing act. There are many examples of homeostasis in the body: I can’t begin to count them all nor do I believe science has identified them all. We are all still learning. 

A simple example illustrating homeostasis is our body’s relatively narrow range of normal temperature. If we get too hot, we sweat to cool down. If we get too cold, we shiver to generate warmth. 

A concept of balancing is essential to Chinese medicine. If something is moving too fast, we attempt to slow it. Too slow, quicken it. Too hot, cool it. Too cold, warm it. Too wet, dry it. Too dry, moisten and lubricate it. And so on…

Where did this ancient but ever-evolving medicine look to produce theories of change in the human body? They went macro: they looked at patterns of change in nature, on the land, in the sea, and in the sky. They looked at harmonious nature, always in flux, and they considered what happens when the ever-balancing act is not functioning properly. If we move outside the norm of balance, we either recover and get back in balance, or we develop pathology. Chinese medicine has treatments to support normal physiology as well as pathophysiology. It’s all a spectrum. 

Examples with conditions and balancing treatment principles: 

Too hot: fever -> clear heat

Too cold: some infertility -> warm the uterus

Too wet: moist rash -> dry it out

Too dry: itchy flaky skin -> moisten and lubricate

Too slow: elderly constipation -> move the bowels

Too fast: anxious mental chatter -> slow, calm mind

Or, another way to consider this is to examine one common condition, for example, constipation. We look at the root, the cause of constipation, to determine principles of treatment. Example:

Constipation caused by slow motility -> move the bowels (abdominal massage, acupuncture)

-or- 

Constipation caused by dry stools -> moisten (fluid intake) and lubricate (oily foods)

-or-

Constipation caused by too much heat creating dryness -> clear heat and moisten

Whereas constipation is one common symptom, there are different treatments depending on cause. Chinese medicine seeks to discern patterns of harmony and disharmony in the body to help bring them back into balance.

One reason Chinese medicine can preventively treat a condition is because patterns of disharmony arrive before disease. If we can recognize the pattern early, it’s easier to treat.

Commonly quoted but still so useful to remember, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” -Benjamin Franklin

GRATITUDE

A Thank You Note to My Teachers

Thank you for everything. I’m so grateful for your lessons and your help, for sharing your knowledge and wisdom, and for nurturing me in my own growth as a person overall & as a practitioner of this medicine. I think our field may be exemplary in its ability to share and I’m honored, lucky, and grateful to be a (small) part of it.

Today, in this note, my thank you is intended for my (literal) teachers,specifically, the professors at Five Branches who taught my Masters program (4 full-time years together), who let me fumble and ask lots of questions and stumble and try again, many of these teachers came from very far away (China), learned a very different language which meant that I could study and learn more easily in my own native tongue, who stretched my mind by helping me learn some Chinese concepts (which can be very different than Western concepts), who shared so givingly, who studied and still study so much themselves, and who inspire me to be my best.

Other teachers I’m grateful for from school were born here, some Asian-American, others not, all who dedicated years (decades) to their own studies and practices and then shared to teach us and whose common language helped me ask questions with different nuance.

Thank you to the translators who helped my generation by offering a different set of books than they had when they studied. More translations have arrived and more are coming, wow.

With the strengths of our profession, I studied foundations and continue to study so that that I can practice well to help others, which in turn helps myself. Thank you. My life would not be the same without you. Please forgive me if I’ve temporarily forgotten other contributors.

I’ve had all sorts of other types of teachers over time. I recognize moments where I learn from many places that I walk, other professors from a previous degree, as well as earlier teachers when I was still a child and teen.

I learn a lot from my patients, who I should write a separate post to, just about the depth of gratitude I have for them in sharing and trusting me to work with them. Thank you from the depths of my heart.

Also, family and friends provide a rich source of lessons and learning  as we are connected through familiarity, fondness, & love. And for the children close in my life and everywhere, who bring their own unique, unencumbered perspectives, often startlingly honest and so beautifully fresh. Many thanks.

I find lessons and learning through my interactions with strangers. We are sometimes able to delve differently into the heart of a matter, share openly in other ways, and learn from one another. Sometimes strangers come from quite different perspectives and whose insights can be so new and fascinating to me, having had different life experiences.

I learn from animals (and other non-human creatures) and watching them, sometimes caring and loving them. Sharing and learning with an animal includes a lot of non-English language and our cultivation of communication, trust, and rapport seeds lessons in many other areas. My life would simply not be the same without the animals. So much gratitude.

And of course, thank you to the teachings of the land and sea, the cosmos, and the many lessons available through observation of nature and change, which is fundamental to the practice of Chinese medicine, and of which I try my best, with variable success, to heed the lessons of.

I have so many teachers. Thank you all.

I will return to this page and possibly add/edit over time, but for this morning, that’s what I have to share.

Blossoms in the Spring (I took this photo):

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What about the research (RCT, randomized controlled trial) on Chinese medicine?

Search to see if there’s published research in a subject area that interests you.

On 3/1/2016, I searched several acupuncture topics (for fun) on MedPub (a database of the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health). I could have easily chosen other search examples such as “acupuncture + digestion” or “acupuncture + nausea and vomiting” but here are some examples of how many research trials were found:

“acupuncture” yielded 24,194 results

“acupuncture pain” yielded 6,493 results

“acupuncture low back pain” yielded 607 results

“acupuncture cancer” 1,263 results

“acupuncture chronic pain” 1,392 results

“acupuncture pregnancy” 849 results

“acupuncture migraine” 403 results

“acupuncture anxiety” 548 results

“acupuncture depression” 793 results

And one example:

JAMA, journal of the AMA, a meta analysis (comparing research studies) of 17,922 patients, regarding back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache, and shoulder pain, found that “acupuncture was superior to both sham and no-acupuncture control for each pain condition – – Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option”

[ Oct 2012:   http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1357513 ]

Definition “Research”: Webster’s 2nd Edition, c.1934 (1910)

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From http://www.merriam-webster.com March, 2016:

Full Definition of research

  1. 1:  careful or diligent search

  2. 2:  studious inquiry or examination; especially :  investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws

  3. 3:  the collecting of information about a particular subject

What conditions does acupuncture treat?

“Since at least 200 BC, the application and effects of acupuncture and herbs have been documented. It is only recently, however, that systematic exploration of Chinese Medicine using the scientific method has become more recognized and accepted in the West.

Chinese and Western scientists have proven that acupuncture does indeed increase levels of endogenous morphine-like substances. Clinical studies of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of illnesses have led to acupuncture’s acceptance beyond pain control.

The following is the World Health Organization’s now famous list of diseases that lend themselves to treatment by acupuncture. The inclusion of herbal remedies in a scope of practice may broaden the range of disorders that may be successfully treated.” 

http://www.pacificcollege.edu/resources/about-medicine/treatable-disorders ]

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Acute and chronic colitis

Acute and chronic gastritis

Acute bacillary dysentery

Acute duodenal ulcer (without complication)

Chronic duodenal ulcer (pain relief)

Constipation

Gastric hyperacidity

Gastroptosis

Diarrhea

Hiccough

Irritable bowel and colitis

Paralytic ileus

Spasms of esophagus and cardia

Gynecological Disorders

Benign amenorrhea

Benign irregular menstruation

Dysmenorrhea

Infertility (Not WHO recognized. Clinical experience proves effective.)

Menopause syndrome

PMS

Cardiovascular Disorders

Essential hypertension

Neurological Disorders

Cervicobrachial syndrome

Disc problems

Facial palsy (early stage, within three to six months)

Headache and migraine

Intercostal neuralgia

Meniere’s Disease

Neurogenic bladder dysfunction

Nocturnal enuresis

Paresis following stroke

Peripheral neuropathies

Trigeminal neuralgia

Musculo-skeletal Disorders

Arthritis

Fibromyalgia

“Frozen shoulder”, “tennis elbow”

Localized traumatic injuries, sprains, strains, tendonitis, contractures

Low back pain

Muscle pain, swelling, stiffness and weakness

Osteoarthritis

Sciatica

Work and sports related injuries

Respiratory System Disorders

Acute bronchitis

Acute rhinitis

Acute sinusitis

Acute tonsillitis

Bronchial asthma

Common cold

Disorders of the Eye, Ear, Nose & Mouth

Acute and chronic pharyngitis

Acute conjunctivitis

Cataract (without complications)

Central retinitis

Gingivitis

Myopia (in children)

Toothaches, post extraction pain

Psychological Disorders

Anxiety

Depression

Hypersomnia

Insomnia

OCD

PTSD

Somatization disorder

Other Disorders

Appetite suppression

Withdrawal from street and pharmacological drugs

One of my favorite questions people ask me about acupuncture…

Question: Do I get acupuncture and who do I see?

Answer and Explanation: Yes, I do (sometimes) and I sometimes see different practitioners based on what health concern(s) I’m working on, usually not at the same time. If it is at the same time, I tell each practitioner what kinds of other work I’m getting or doing so we’re all on the same page and so recommendations don’t overlap (for example, I’ll take herbs from only one practitioner at any given time).

Sometimes I’m using Chinese medicine to treat one thing and sometimes I’m using it to treat another, or another, etc. For example, if the condition is physical pain-related, I may opt for a practitioner who works with that specific condition or otherwise treats a lot of musculo-skeletal pain. Generally-speaking, we all work with conditions of pain, but some will have sub-specialties in certain types of pain (example: someone who focuses on the neck or joints or whatever).

Because acupuncturists (as we are called) often have specialties or sub-specialties, I try to pay attention (and ask questions!) regarding what practitioners are focusing on in their continued studies, which we all do. Some may be particularly strong in the area of herbal medicine, medicinal massage, a particular style of acupuncture (of which, there are many), etc.

If I’m looking instead for treatments for a different kind of health concern, like to improve my energy levels, sleep, digestion, stress, than I may work with another practitioner based on fit, their training and approach, etc.

I think Chinese medicine generally works better when utilized as a series of appointments so depending on whether it’s an acute or chronic condition, I consider how many appointments, and how often will I get them (weekly, 2x p/week, more often?) and for how many weeks. Sometimes I like to consider a routine 4-6 appointments just to see how I’m responding to a round of treatments.

As a general note: For acute conditions, sometimes one can need less appointments and for chronic conditions, sometimes one can need multiple rounds of treatments. Alternatively, sometimes just a random appointment on a monthly basis can be very nice as a “tune-up” (of sorts) or perhaps, as a preventive measure to help the body stay in harmony.

It’s amazing how much variety can be found within the field of acupuncture! I can’t emphasize that enough. 

 

 

 

 

 

WELCOME

Hello. My name is Sheilah. I am starting my first blog here. My intention with this site is to share tidbits about Chinese medicine, and acupuncture specifically, that pique my curiosity in the hopes that maybe others will find something helpful or interesting.

Another intention is to help potential patients of acupuncture get to know me a bit so they may have a sense of whether I may be a good choice for working with them on their health concerns.

I will probably include other types of musings just because life overlaps and there’s probably some way I believe them to be related.

Chinese medicine looks at the “big picture”, looks to patterns of harmony and disharmony in nature, to help understand how the body works and how better health may be restored. You’ll probably see various posts about change in nature since this is one way I learn about changes in the human body.

Please feel free to contact me directly if you’re interested in discussing how this medicine may help you. (415) 730-4144