All winter long, we see patients suffering with headaches, runny noses, congestion, phlegm and feeling “blocked up” where they can’t breathe. And as the seasons turn, more patients pour in struggling with painful sinus headaches and discomfort associated with the change of temperature. In reality, they’re dealing with not only external temperature changes but internal ones, too.
One of the basic principles of acupressure and acupuncture is diagnosing if the body is too cold or too hot and then helping it back into balance. Sinus headaches and cold headache symptoms are a result of a body dealing with changes or pathogens that is running too cold or too hot.
External pathogens, for example, can cause the body to produce too much mucus. That creates the uncomfortable sinus pressure and blockages above or below the eyes, around the nose and in the chest and throat. In the beginning, this mucus is a clear color, which means the body is cold. After a longer period of time, the color is yellow, which means the body is running hot, inflamed and fighting to recover.
The Role of Acupressure, Cupping & Herbs with Headaches
We use acupressure to help stimulate the body and reduce the pathogens causing sinus pain and congestion. What that means for you is that you receive a head and sinus massage that provides relief, feels great, gets circulation going and clears blockages all around the eyes.
If a patient comes in with a cold, cupping can really stimulate the lymphatic flow and kick that cold out much faster. Rather than a week or more of lingering feelings of being sick, often a patient has one really sick day and then is done and better.
Herbs are also a crucial asset because of they’re ability to change the body’s temperature and especially help warm it up. Eating warm foods, drinking only warm liquids and lots of rest and care will also help warm the body and speed the recovery process.
With inconsistent weather and hectic schedules, it can be a challenge to stay in balance — both in terms of lifestyle and health. Acupressure, acupuncture, cupping and herbs can be valuable resources to stay happy and headache-free.
Sometimes patients receive a diagnosis that creates a tremendous amount of fear and stress—even when the problem is too small to warrant intervention. It’s a curious but common combination of circumstances that can destroy peace of mind even if it’s not destroying the body.
I recently had a patient come to Eastern Medical Center with scans that showed three spots on her lung. It was a form of cancer, her physicians said. But the spots were so small there wasn’t much in terms of Western medicine that could be done or needed to be done, she was told. Physically, she was in no immediate danger. But emotionally, she was struggling mightily. She wanted the cancer gone from her body … no matter how small it was. But she also didn’t want to be taking powerful and toxic Western medications unless urgently necessary.
She started exercising regularly, changed her diet and did everything within her own power, but the tiny spots remained. That’s when she turned to Traditional Chinese Medicine. We began treating her lung channel, using acupressure to release blockages and acupuncture to open energy channels and increase blood circulation to the area. Three months later, she was re-tested, and the small spots were gone. The doctors wouldn’t say she was “cured,” but there was no more cancer in her body. Her results were clean—and that’s what she needed to put her mind at ease.
In this case, acupuncture helped her physical body heal. But perhaps more importantly, it restored her emotional quality of life. It’s one more way in which acupuncture is truly holistic care.
People don’t want surgery if they can help it. It’s a simple statement that’s obvious for a number of reasons:
- As the expression goes, “there’s no such thing as minor surgery.” Surgeries are serious business and often have lifelong consequences (both positive and negative).
- Surgeries are incredibly expensive. In a best-case scenario, you’ll be buried in insurance company paperwork. In a worst-case scenario, you’ll be on the hook for thousands of dollars in many cases.
- Surgeries put you out of commission. The recovery process following surgery totally changes daily life, for a period of time that depends on the complexity of the procedure.
Needless to say, I have many people come to Eastern Medical Center following incidents who have been told they need surgery and are looking for “another way” to heal. I’m always excited to see these patients because in many instances, acupuncture, acupressure and Chinese herbs can help the body sufficient heal and avoid surgery entirely. There are cases where I recommend the patient should have the Western surgery done and then come for acupuncture as part of the recovery process, but at least the person has the peace of mind knowing he or she left no superior options on the table.
Two areas where people should think “acupuncture!” before going through with surgery are torn ligaments and broken bones. Under the right circumstances, acupuncture can be a totally non-invasive alternative to surgery and save the patient time, suffering and thousands of dollars.
Two Patients, Two Surgeries Avoided
I have recently been treating a patient who simply fell wrong on her knee. It wasn’t a dramatic accident, but it did have a dramatic effect: She damaged an interior knee ligament so badly that doctors recommended surgery to insert a cadaver’s ligament into the knee. She came in on crutches and could barely walk or put pressure on the leg … but most of all, she was creeped out with the idea that part of a dead person was going to be inserted into her knee.
We began a protocol where she came in every day for treatment – and every day the coloring around the knee improved. The healing stimulated by the multiple acupuncture treatments was so effective that when she went to meet with the surgeon, she was told she didn’t need surgery anymore. She was so happy!
Another patient just fell on her elbow wrong and managed to break it. Her healing process is a similar story, but she was primarily motivated to choose acupuncture because she didn’t have health insurance, couldn’t afford the surgery and didn’t know what to do. After a number of acupuncture treatments, she returned to her doctor. The doctor said surgery was no longer necessary to repair her arm because it had healed very well-and fast! Ultimately, she went back to work as a waitress far sooner than I would have liked!
It’s totally common these days for someone to get a “second opinion” before undergoing a costly surgery. Let’s spread the word so more of those second opinions are with acupuncturists!
One of the many debilitating symptoms of fibromyalgia is extremely low energy. It’s hard to function and get anything done – and there’s not a pill you can pop to give you that energy back. To compound the problem, the body can’t heal itself it if doesn’t have adequate energy, and the spiral that occurs leads to all kinds of joint pain and a constant feeling of being “too cold.”
The low energy, unyielding pain and “coldness” all negatively impact lifestyle. You want to be active. You want to dress normally (instead of wearing tons of layers). You want peace of mind and a sound body. And these are all totally understandable, reasonable “wants” for a human being to have.
Our goal at Eastern Medical Center is to try to fulfill those “wants” to the fullest possible extent using acupuncture and Chinese herbs. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the symptoms I’ve described are typically a result of a “yang deficiency.” That can be addressed through acupuncture to restore the proper balance and radically increase the body’s energy flow.
One of my acupuncture patients spent $50,000 on Western specialists and fibromyalgia clinics simply trying to “feel better” and find relief from constant pain. She lost her job and her house because she couldn’t move, couldn’t go outside and couldn’t drive at night because the intensity of oncoming car headlights would create piercing head and eye pain. Saddest of all, she began to adapt to this abnormal lifestyle and expect life to look that way.
After $50,000 and no relief, she turned to Eastern Medicine. After one treatment here, she noticed a change. And after every treatment, she felt a little better, with a little less pain. Then, she had a little more energy. Then, she felt a little warmer. Treatment after treatment, all these “little” amounts began to total a “lot” of change. After four treatments she could go outside at night. Recently, she told me she was able to have friends and family over whom she hadn’t seen in some time — and they all commented about how beautiful she looked. She has more energy she can give to herself and her loved ones. That $50,000 didn’t do anything, but acupuncture changed everything.
Maybe more than anything, fibromyalgia sufferers need hope. I hope this story provides an idea of what a brighter future can look like, and I’m here eager to help new patients find more energy and heal.
Scoliosis is a problematic curvature of the spine. The curve usually takes the shape of a “C” or “S” and can cause the person to stand and walk off-balance and have uneven shoulders and hips. According to the National Institutes of Health, a birth defect, tumor or another disease might cause the spine to have a curve that isn’t temporary. People with mild scoliosis might only need checkups to see if the curve is getting worse. From the Western medical perspective, others might need to wear a brace long-term or have surgery.
As far as the day-to-day impact of this condition, when the spine’s curve is incorrect, it can cause a great deal of pain. Fortunately, acupuncture can help dramatically with the pain for scoliosis sufferers, and it the right circumstances can help the body restore the spine’s natural curvature, eliminating the problem altogether.
From an Eastern medical perspective, congestion in energy and blood flow is often the culprit for scoliosis sufferers. When acupuncture opens up that congestion — those “blocks” along the spine — allowing for efficient blood flow throughout the body, it relieves the pain tremendously. The body’s metabolism regulates, and the body finally has an opportunity to really heal.
Acupuncture is so powerful in relieving scoliosis pain that many of the patients I’ve treated relax more deeply than they have in years … sometimes even falling asleep during treatment. And as the body starts getting long-sought nourishment, tight areas and muscles continue to relax more and more, expanding the relief and release.
We are capable of putting up with so much pain and adapting so completely to medical conditions that when we’re actually finally comfortable, the physical and emotional relief is enormous. One of my greatest joys as an acupuncturist is helping people be comfortable while rediscovering how great they can physically feel when they have a little support in their healing process.
Cutting Out Cold
You can’t discuss acupuncture and digestion without talking about the damage often done by the “American diet.” For starters, the American diet is cold, cold, cold! From a Chinese Medical perspective we always want the body in a healthy balance — making sure the organs and body systems aren’t too cold and damp or excessively hot. Either extreme will deplete your energy, lead to body dysfunction and uncomfortable symptoms.
One thing that’s truly American is ice-cold beverages — especially in summer. What seems better than a cold drink on a hot day, right? Refreshing, cools you down, ahhhh! But what seems natural to the mind is actually totally unnatural for your body. Think of it this way: How often do you see a National Geographic program where African elephants are kicking back with a cold drink? It’s unheard of in their natural habitat. The water they drink reflects the temperature of the environment, and there are no radical swings in temperature from their external environment and what they put in their bodies.
We’re just the same. Our body’s have a harsh reaction to something so cold being imbibed. It affects blood circulation, which for women affects menstruation. It causes stomach pain. And all you have to do to prevent it is drink something room temperature or drink hot tea when you’re not overly hot from the temperature outside. A simple switch to warming food and drinks will eliminate many people’s nagging pains — especially stomach pains — that have plagued them for years.
I recently saw a menopausal patient who was experiencing extreme hot flashes. Naturally, she wanted to cool down. So, he began to sleep with an ice pack on her stomach. She came to me complaining of sharp, intense stomach pain. I told her to immediately stop with the ice pack, and her pain vanished. You may be thinking, “Duh!” But in our culture we are so used to this idea of tasty cold drinks and “cooling off” that it doesn’t occur to many of us that the cold we’re forcing on our body might be the culprit of our ills.
It’s okay if you have ice cream every now and then. I’m not telling you to “stop having fun” with meals and desserts. Just start with cutting out cold drinking water and see if you feel different after awhile.
Meals in Balance
Eat at consistent times. Eat smaller meals more often, if possible. Make sure your meals balance the “five tastes” whenever possible: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and savory. In the American diet, we’re really good at sweet and salty, but if we don’t have a balance, it throws off the body’s digestion. And whenever possible, eat local and organic. It may cost more, but the price of poor health is much higher.
Detox from alcohol, drugs, smoking or even sugar is a matter of will. It’s a matter of strength. It’s a matter of emotions. And largely it’s a matter of body chemistry. When people are addicted, there’s an imbalance. It could be from an “addictive personality,” an emotional-based trauma, a means of escape or a physical issue. As a member of the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, part of my job is helping patients get from addiction through withdrawal symptoms to balance and freedom.
Alcohol Detoxification with Acupuncture
Long before alcoholism, for most people there was a time when they didn’t actually like the taste of liquor. Over time, the body got used to the alcohol and eventually became chemically and/or emotionally dependent on it. One of the things acupuncture can do is stimulate certain chemicals in the body that help it return to its natural state of disliking the taste of alcohol again. When the body doesn’t “want” alcohol, it’s a lot easier to stay away from it.
Alcohol Detox: The Process
When a patient comes in for alcohol detox (or other forms of detox), we talk about their reasons for drinking. We talk about the details of consumption now — as well as in the past. Once I fully understand the nuances of that particular patient situation, we begin slowly easing into the detox process. We reduce the alcohol intake slowly while beginning with the acupuncture treatments. We use acupuncture to stimulate the body’s liver to help with the detoxification and eliminate toxins easier and faster. We use acupuncture to help the patient get out of the “stuck” patterns and lifestyle of drinking and for their energy to begin following again in ways that support change. We balance weak meridians, increase strength and inner strength … and often through doing so increase self-worth and will. We further reduce any emotional dependency on alcohol (or drugs) by helping the patient feel different in their body —feel as they did before addiction.
Acupuncture Detox Beyond Alcohol
Acupuncture is amazing support for detoxification from drugs such as cocaine as well as smoking and sugar addictions. In these cases, acupuncture helps balance the chemicals in the brain so that the patient doesn’t have the same urges and cravings.
I worked with a senior who began smoking at age 19. After a lifetime of trying, he finally quit with the help of acupuncture. Our work together was both about balancing the body and helping him find the habits and activities in life to replace the time he used to spend smoking. Another patient had a serious sugar addiction, and as her body chemistry changed from the acupuncture treatments, her cravings ceased. We supplemented the acupuncture with conversations about nutrition so that she would know how to eat differently (and think differently about food) once the cravings were completely gone.
Detox and withdrawal symptoms would be a challenge for even the most mentally and physically fit person. Fortunately, acupuncture is there to simplify and accelerate the detoxification process, while improving overall health at the same time.
Nobody wants to be told, “You’ll be taking these pills for the rest of your life.” First of all, medications are expensive, and a lifetime of Western drugs might be the equivalent of putting one extra child through college (or at least buying one extra used car, depending on the quality of your insurance coverage). Even more importantly, we’re all aware at this point of the nasty side effects associated with long-term medication use. Ultimately, what the doctor is really saying is: “You now have an additional lifetime expense … and you’ll have to deal with the consequences of introducing this into your body.”
Quite frequently, people come to Eastern Medical Center looking for help with getting off “lifelong” Western medications. Often I hear about symptoms such as sluggishness and tingling in the fingers and toes, which are common side effects of many drugs. Fortunately, acupuncture is a powerful tool for getting off of medications while balancing the body so that it doesn’t “need” the pills to sustain stable health. We can use acupuncture to taper off medications in a safe, gradual way and balance the chemicals in the brain so that the patient doesn’t suffer withdrawl symptoms.
It doesn’t matter if the patient has just been diagnosed and still has a prescription slip in hand or has been taking the same medication for a decade. In either case, there’s almost always an alternative to a lifetime of medication use.
It’s also important to reiterate that someone can appreciate the benefits of Western medications while still desiring to get off of them. Western treatment and drugs play a critical role in medical care — especially in acute, short-term situations. But that doesn’t mean we want to be at the mercy of medications for a lifetime! I often say that pills can create temporary stability, but acupuncture can achieve sustainable natural health.
In the next post, I’ll discuss how acupuncture can help the body detoxify from drugs (recreational or medical) and alcohol. This is a key piece of the puzzle because after the body has been subjected to external influences over an extended period of time, it needs to flush out all those toxins before truly being well again. So please stay tuned for that!
For Part I of this story (describing Eastern and Western medical philosophies on a diagnosis) please click here.
I recently treated a patient who had been diagnosed with Wegner’s granulomatosis (inflammation of the blood vessels affecting the kidneys, lungs and other organs). He was on immunosuppressants, steroids and in horrifying joint pain. Everything was inflamed, from his knees to his arms to his wrists to his ankles. He had been told that he’d be dealing with this forever, and this person who you could tell had once been bursting with energy and zest for life was now a shell of himself. He loved to travel and felt that part of his life was over. He loved an active lifestyle and thought that part of his life was over. All this, based on the idea that he’ll never change. I would argue that there is change from day to day, hour to hour, albeit subtle and small. There is always change.
He only ended up in my office because his daughter had been coming for acupuncture and persuaded him to give it a try when he lost hope. After weekly visits for a month, he began to notice little changes. He was sleeping better and some body functions were normalizing. By two months, he was riding his bike again (a favorite activity). By the time we finished the critical phase of his treatment, he was flying internationally again. This person thought his life was over. In just a few months of acupuncture and complementary nutrition, he had his life back.
A body is not a car. It will get worse if left untreated and will improve when healing is stimulated. Nothing in the body stays the same forever. Anytime someone tells you or someone you love that “no change is possible,” they may honestly believe that … but you don’t have to.