Archive for March 2013

Addressing Pain

pain treatment with acupuncture and TCMWhile pain means suffering and misery to most, it is also a sign that your body is alerting you to pay attention! If your house smoke alarm starts beeping, do you turn it off without addressing the cause of the alarm–the fire? Of course not! Yet many people try to cover up pain by taking drugs or simply ignoring it. While this may temporarily dull the pain, your body will continue to remind you that something is still wrong, and the pain can become more intense and chronic.

 It is important to treat pain as pain can slow recovery, interfere with sleep and eating, and worsen fear, anxiety, frustration, and depression. However, “quick fix” drugs have negative possibilities and they often do not treat chronic pain effectively over the long-term.

“Today, adverse drug reactions and drug interactions are directly responsible for thousands of deaths annually and for more than 20 per cent of all hospitalizations for adults over the age of 65.”

— Statistics Canada, 1998

Since drugs do not take care of the source of the problem and they can be associated with many side effects, what can you do?

Traditional Chinese Medicine can address both the branch (the symptom) as well as the root (the cause) of the pain. Acupuncture is a natural, time-tested, safe, and effective way to treat pain. It is acknowledged by the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Arthritis Society, and many pain management centres and institutes.

Chinese herbs, supplements, and food cures can be used alone or to support acupuncture treatments.

How does TCM treat pain?


TCM doctors have used acupuncture and herbs to treat warriors, martial artists, emperors and empresses, farmers, children, and more for over 5000 years. 

The basic premise is that pain is a result of a blockage of the normally smooth flow of Qi through the meridians. Qi is the energy that nourishes every cell, tissue, organ, and system in the body. When it is obstructed, it accumulates on one side of the blockage and is deficient on the other side. One of the symptoms associated with this problem is pain. This pathology can be compared to a hose through which flows water to feed a plant. If there is an obstruction in the hose, the water will not flow smoothly and the plant will wilt. And remember, if any area is damaged, tight, or restricted, it also does not receive proper blood flow, and that impedes full healing.

“If there is free flow, there is no pain; 
If there is no free flow, there is pain.”
– Classical Chinese medical text, Nan-Ching, 
2nd Century A.D.

Acupuncture


Acupuncture relieves pain by moving the Qi. While this is not understood at present by western science, medical research has shown acupuncture to be a safe and effective treatment method for pain. 

Acupuncture has been shown to stimulate the production of endorphins (chemicals that block pain), neutralize trigger points, relax muscles, and block the transmission of pain signals to the brain by stimulating competing nerves. 

One major benefit to acupuncture as a complementary therapy, is that it can be used safely with other therapies, including pharmaceutical drugs.

Herbal Remedies


Many herbs have been shown to be anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving. A TCM herbalist will choose herbs that move Qi and Blood to relieve pain, and also add herbs to treat the underlying imbalances.

Food Cures


Without proper nutrition our bodies do not heal well. In order to replace and repair damaged cells, specific nutrients need to be available. When they are not, recovery is impaired. In addition, as with the herbal remedies, some foods have medicinal properties, and food recommendations can be made to suit the individual.

What kinds of pain can TCM treat?

Both acute and chronic pain can benefit from TCM treatments.

Acute Pain>

Acute pain begins suddenly, is short-term, and is usually the result of a specific injury. An example of acute pain is seen in someone who has just sprained his or her ankle. In the event of a recent injury, x-rays can be used to determine if there is a fracture, and ice is usually applied during the first 24 hours to relieve swelling. 

Acupuncture and/or herbs can be used to bring down the swelling, relieve pain, and speed healing. The earlier an injury is treated, the faster the recovery.



Chronic Pain


Chronic pain is generally defined as pain that lasts longer than three months. It can have significant psychological and emotional effects as it may limit a person’s ability to function well. 

Chronic pain occurs in about 11-54% (depending on age) of people, and a conventional search for treatment is unsuccessful for many, thus leading to frustration.

Because TCM treats the source of the symptoms, as well as the pain itself, chronic pain is well-treated by TCM’s holistic system.

 

More

Bye Bye Knee Braces

skating and knee painWhen I was 12 I was figure skating 4 days a week and taking dance lessons once a week, in addition to the usual play and activities that kids do both within and outside of school. I also occasionally had swimming lessons, diving lessons, and gymnastics lessons. In other words, I was very active. But at that time my knees started to hurt.

They hurt when I ran. They hurt when I skated. They hurt when I rode my bike. And sometimes they hurt just because. So my mom took me to the doctor and then to the physiotherapist. I was diagnosed with bilateral chondromalacia patellae. Simply put, both knees did not have enough cartilage, the cushioning material, underneath my kneecap. That meant that the bones in my knees experienced more friction, resulting in pain.

I went to physio treatment every week for close to a year. The physio used ultrasound and a TENS machine, instructed me to ice my knees regularly, and gave me quad strengthening exercises. He also had me fitted for knee braces and shoe orthotics. I hated it all. Icing my knees for 10 minutes felt like an hour of torture. I regularly left in more pain after physio. The quad strengthening was fine, but actually, as a figure skater, my quads were pretty strong. Shoe orthotics in those days were not nearly as common as they are now. The only running shoes we could find that fit them were Brooks. Big, ugly Brooks. We did the best we could to find regular shoes to fit the orthotics, but I was a pre-teen and definitely NOT going to wear orthopaedic-looking shoes.

The knee braces. Those were the worst part. They were neoprene, supposedly breathable. But the rash at the back of my knees that occurred when I exercised and sweated proved otherwise. Plus, their “skin” coloured tone did not make them invisible.

Through high school and university I kept up my sports and added in more athletic activities, including volleyball, squash, and step classes. I kept wearing the shoe orthotics and the despised knee braces.

When I moved to Japan for a couple of years, I told myself that I didn’t have space to take the knee braces–poor excuse. Ha! I did still suffer knee pain. My main mode of transportation was a bicycle and the pain got so bad one time that I went to the hospital to have them take a look. The doctor there, without even touching or testing my knees, told me to stop riding my bike. That was how I got to work, so I bore through the pain and managed.

Time and again, I rediscovered my “Achilles heel.” I cried in pain most of my way down Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia (walking downhill is very hard on knees), I gave up after just one painful session of road running training for the Vancouver Sun Run, and my knees gave way when I stepped of the bike after my first (and for a long time, only) spin class.

Shortly after returning to Canada I discovered a “new” medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine. Before even trying out acupuncture, Chinese herbs, or any of the other therapies I now offer, I decided that I would change my path from sports medicine to TCM. In TCM school I received acupuncture and Chinese herbs. I started investigating other ways to help my knees and found that I had very tight hamstrings, so stretched and stretched.

During my 4th year of TCM school I sold my knee braces. Darn. I wish I would have kept them. But not because I want to wear them ever again. Because I’d like to have them as a reminder of where I was and were I am. I will not run distances on the road. But I can run on trail and treadmill and soft surfaces. I can ride my bike. Recently, I even ran down–the dreaded downhill!–Grouse Mountain on my snowshoes. I’m still careful. But, I’m now training to be able to run 10-12 miles on soft terrain for the Tough Mudder this year (2013).

 

More

Acupuncture: How does it work?

acupuncture needle“So, does acupuncture actually work?”, they ask me. Even if they don’t ask, many people think it. Until you experience the benefits of acupuncture, it’s really a fair question to ask. After all, sticking hair-thin needles into various points on the body to heal it doesn’t necessarily fall within the contexts of our western minds. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few links to research about acupuncture and how it works.

Acupuncture improves blood circulation

Acupuncture affects the connective tissue

Acupuncture affects the central nervous system (CNS)

Acupuncture changes reactions in the brain as seen via functional MRI (fMR) imaging

Acupuncture releases the feel good hormones known as endorphins (an old research paper, but still a good one)

Bioelectrical resistance is different along acupuncture channels and at acupoints

The National Institute of Health has also issued a Consensus Statement on Acupuncture stating: “Acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative or be included in a comprehensive management program.”¹

¹ NIH Consensus Conference. Acupuncture. JAMA 1998;280:1518-24

More

What points address stress?

What points address stress?

There are many points on your body that can help address stress. As a Dr. TCM, I would ask you questions and assess you before choosing from some of these (or other) points for relieving stress:

– DU20 (bai hui): I call this the “lifting point” as it helps to lift your energy at the same time as it calms your mind.

– Yintang: I nicknamed this one the “aren’t you going to do that point” point as after receiving this point once, if I start to leave the room without doing that point during subsequent sessions, patients often ask me that

– Kidney points (various points on your legs and torso): On top of your kidneys sit the adrenals and these glands are busy little bees, often overworked organs, so supporting the Kidney points supports the adrenals. Kidney imbalance signs might include fatigue, anxiety/fear, low back pain, weak or achy joints, feeling unable to take a deep breath, and hormonal imbalance, including low libido.

– Spleen points (various points on your legs and torso): In TCM, the Spleen is associated with worry and over-thinking and also affects your digestion (the TCM Spleen includes the physical organ, the pancreas). Spleen weakness signs include foggy-headedness, fatigue and feeling weighted down, bloating, diarrhea, and gas.

– Liver points (various points on your legs and torso): The TCM Liver is like a military general, liking order and routine. Modern day life means that we don’t rest with sunset and rise with sunrise or always eat regular meals regularly, chewing our food well. Sometimes grabbing a glass of wine or bottle of beer might seem like a good way to de-stress, but these affect your liver. In addition, if you notice that you are feeling irritable, frustrated, or angry, you may need to support your Liver.

– Heart points (various points on your arms and torso): The TCM Heart is important to pump your blood to keep you alive. It is also your “House of emotions.” The emotion of the Heart is joy, but all extremes of emotion affect the Heart. Since the Heart is also known as the “King” organ of TCM–without it, you would quickly die–taking care of this system is vital.

– Lung points (various points on your arms and torso): The TCM Lungs, just as your real organ lungs, are clearly important for breathing. But the TCM Lungs also address sadness and grief. If your stress is impacted by these emotions, opening the Lung channels can allow a wonderful healing release. Other signs up Lung troubles include problems with breathing (asthma, shortness of breath, etc), sensations of tightness in chest, skin issues, and immune system imbalances like getting sick often or autoimmune disorders.

More

Veggie Nori Rolls for Cleansing

I found these online via Dr. Oz and I have to try them soon! I normally try to post recipes I have actually made, but I couldn’t wait to share this one. This is a great one for those who are doing a cleanse or want to get some detoxification benefits. I added my commenta in italics.

Vegetarian Nori Rolls with Nut “Rice” via Dr. Oz
Serves 2

Ingredients

1 cup soaked sunflower seeds (for a couple of hours or more; I often soak them overnight)
1 cup walnuts, soaked in pure water for 2 hours (or longer)
1/4 red onion
Chopped fresh herbs (your choice, I guess; I like basil and oregano for their anti-inflammatory and anti-viral/anti-bacterial benefits)
1 packet of nori wraps
1 carrot, cut into very thin strips
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into thin strips
1/2 avocado, cut into strips
1/4 red cabbage, finely shredded
Sprouts
Wheat-free Tamari Soy Sauce
Wasabi
Fresh ginger
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp water

Directions

To make the “rice,” place the sunflower seeds, walnuts, onion, and herbs in a food processor. Process for 2 minutes, or until nut mixture has the consistency of rice. Set aside. Thinly slice the ginger and marinate in vinegar and water. Take a sheet of nori and spread one-fourth of the rice mixture onto it. Lay carrot, cucumber, red cabbage, avocado, and sprouts over it. Roll the nori up tightly, using a sushi mat if you have one. Cut the roll into about six pieces, using a sharp knife. Repeat for three more nori sheets. Serve wraps on a platter with ginger, wasabi, and wheat-free tamari.

Let me know what you think of this recipe.

 

More

TCM and Nutrition Detox Package

liver cleanse spring detoxAccording to Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is the season when the liver and gallbladder are most active. With over 500 vital tasks, your liver works very hard. All the blood that leaves your stomach and intestines passes through your liver where it is processed and filtered. The liver also produces bile, which helps to break down fats for further digestion; stores iron; produces cholesterol to carry fats; converts excess glucose into glycogen for storage; supports the immune system; and clears the blood of toxic substances.

Spring is a great time to consider a detoxification cleanse. During this time of year, nature comes to the surface——flowers bloom, grass grows, leaves reappear. Doing a cleanse during the spring season works with the natural flow of the body as we are still a part of nature.

If you are ready to do a cleanse, but have health issues, have never done a cleanse before, find cleansing programs too challenging, or want to go beyond the scope of a basic detox kit, this package may be the right fit for you.

A Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) consult gets to the root of what will best support your body’’s cleansing process by customizing food choices, supplement products, herbals, treatments, and lifestyle activities.

Nutrition consultations will guide you with easy to follow specific meal plans which will focus on the foods recommended by the TCM doctor as well as other liver supportive and detoxifying foods.

Included in the package:

– TCM consultation (30 minutes)

– Nutrition consultation (50 minutes)

– Acupuncture treatment (60 minutes) to support cleanse

– Nutrition consultation follow up (30 minutes)

– 10% Discount coupon for supplements

Cost: $225.00 Incl. tax (Over a $55 Savings)

*If you would like help with the food preparation/cooking part of the process, please contact us for details.

More

Seasonal Reminders for Spring

wellness care springBooooiiiinggg! Spring has sprung. This week I received a letter from my strata. It was our spring seasonal reminder list–make sure the balcony drains are clear, open valves to outside hose connections, etc. This letter reminded me about more than building maintenance things-to-do. It also reminded me to remind you how the shift into spring can affect your health, so I thought I’d do a comparable list to help you get ready.

Household tip: Check smoke, carbon monoxide and security alarms, and replace batteries.

Body tip: Check in with your own body. Have you been ignoring pains, fatigue, and other symptoms that are trying to alert you? If yes, it’s time to start making changes.

Household tip: Check for winter damage like cracks, leaks, signs of moisture.

Body tip: Check for winter damage. Is your skin dry from the months of heaters? Have you been over-indulging in cold weather comfort foods? Are you stiff and sore from months of couch surfing? Even if you haven’t yet acted on your New Year, New You intentions, it’s not too late. Spring is like a fresh start. Now that you know what you need to work on, you can restart on your path to healthier activities.

Household tip: Spring clean your house. Clean the windows, clear your drains and gutters, get into the nooks and crannies to clean out the dust, dirt, and mold.

Body tip: Time to detoxify! Spring is a great time to do a cleanse. This is when your body is best set up to cleanse, so make good use of it. If you have health issues, have never done a cleanse before, find cleansing too challenging, or would like to go beyond the basic detox kit, Connect Health’s nutritionists and I have paired up to offer a TCM/Nutrition Cleanse.

Household tip: Open windows to let some fresh air inside.

Body tip: Get outside and breathe in some fresh air. If you’ve been hiding indoors to avoid the cold, snow, or in the case of Vancouver, the rain, find ways to get outside more.

 

More

Needles to Reduce Stress…Really

Needles. The word usually provokes stress for people. For those who’ve not received acupuncture, that is. My patients know that ahhhhhcupuncture (said like a sigh) gives them a chance to relax and feel better. In fact, some of my patients have called their acupuncture sessions, their “spa time.” I get used to seeing the blissed, semi-dopey faces post-treatment. As a result, my receptionists and I have learned not to ask challenging questions at the end of the treatments.

Why do people feel so good after acupuncture? One of the well-documented effects of acupuncture treatment is the release of endorphins–feel good hormones. The word endorphin can be understood by breaking it down. “Endo” means substances your body can produce itself. The “orphins” part of the word refers to morphine, an opioid chemical that relieves pain and suffering. The good thing about endorphins is that they are naturally produced by your own body, so don’t have the negative side effects of an externally delivered morphine, while still benefitting from the feelings of well-being.

Another biochemical that your body releases during and after acupuncture is called serotonin. This substance is found in your central nervous system (CNS) and gut. Serotonin is important in the regulation of mood. Pharmaceutical antidepressants such as Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Cipralex, Effexor, Cymbalta, and Marplan–the list goes on and on and on!–also work on keeping serotonin circulating. Serotonin is important in supporting good sleep, memory, and learning. Healthy digestive activity also relies on serotonin. Have you ever had butterflies in your stomach, knots in your stomach, nausea, or diarrhea when you are nervous or stressed out? Then you know why the gut is sometimes called the “Second Brain.”

The first question I get with regard to acupuncture is almost invariably, “Is it painful?” My answer is, “No.” For more about this, check out my articles, “But I’m afraid” and “Planning for the Worst.

There are many points on your body that can help address stress. As a Dr. TCM, I would ask you questions and assess you before choosing from some of these (or other) points for relieving stress:

– DU20 (bai hui): I call this the “lifting point” as it helps to lift your energy at the same time as it calms your mind.

– Yintang: I nicknamed this one the “aren’t you going to do that point” point as after receiving this point once, if I start to leave the room without doing that point during subsequent sessions, patients often ask me that

– Kidney points (various points on your legs and torso): On top of your kidneys sit the adrenals and these glands are busy little bees, often overworked organs, so supporting the Kidney points supports the adrenals. Kidney imbalance signs might include fatigue, anxiety/fear, low back pain, weak or achy joints, feeling unable to take a deep breath, and hormonal imbalance, including low libido.

– Spleen points (various points on your legs and torso): In TCM, the Spleen is associated with worry and over-thinking and also affects your digestion (the TCM Spleen includes the physical organ, the pancreas). Spleen weakness signs include foggy-headedness, fatigue and feeling weighted down, bloating, diarrhea, and gas.

– Liver points (various points on your legs and torso): The TCM Liver is like a military general, liking order and routine. Modern day life means that we don’t rest with sunset and rise with sunrise or always eat regular meals regularly, chewing our food well. Sometimes grabbing a glass of wine or bottle of beer might seem like a good way to de-stress, but these affect your liver. In addition, if you notice that you are feeling irritable, frustrated, or angry, you may need to support your Liver.

– Heart points (various points on your arms and torso): The TCM Heart is important to pump your blood to keep you alive. It is also your “House of emotions.” The emotion of the Heart is joy, but all extremes of emotion affect the Heart. Since the Heart is also known as the “King” organ of TCM–without it, you would quickly die–taking care of this system is vital.

– Lung points (various points on your arms and torso): The TCM Lungs, just as your real organ lungs, are clearly important for breathing. But the TCM Lungs also address sadness and grief. If your stress is impacted by these emotions, opening the Lung channels can allow a wonderful healing release. Other signs up Lung troubles include problems with breathing (asthma, shortness of breath, etc), sensations of tightness in chest, skin issues, and immune system imbalances like getting sick often or autoimmune disorders.

TCM also has stress-management options that do not involve needles for anyone that does not want to have acupuncture.

But think of this. One of my patients told me that when he gets up from his acupuncture treatments, he is the most relaxed he has ever been…in his life. Wow!

More
%d bloggers like this: