Thank you to Expertise for recognizing the accomplishments of Acupuncture by Devon and awarding us Best Acupuncturists in Oakland 2019.
I am honored to have gracious patients who spent the time to tell their success stories!
Thank you to Expertise for recognizing the accomplishments of Acupuncture by Devon and awarding us Best Acupuncturists in Oakland 2019.
I am honored to have gracious patients who spent the time to tell their success stories!
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease that disrupts normal function of the epithelial cells in the body. Epithelial cells line the passageways of many of our vital organs, including the lungs, liver, kidneys, reproductive system and the skin. Those who have cystic fibrosis have a defective gene that impairs epithelial cell function. This can lead to a buildup of sticky mucus throughout the body that may eventually lead to lung damage and chronic coughing, affecting how patients with cystic fibrosis breathe and filter air, digest their food and absorb the nutrients from that food. In the United States alone, there are nearly 12 million people who suffer from this disease. Unfortunately, there is no known cure and most of those affected with the disease only live into their 20s and 30s. Current modern medicine treatments focus on increasing the quality of life by managing symptoms.
Traditional Chinese Medicine, TCM, can help cystic fibrosis sufferers. This medical system uses multiple modalities to treat the symptoms of cystic fibrosis. Everything from acupuncture to cupping can be utilized to help the patient and decrease the buildup of mucus throughout the body.
From the 400-plus acupuncture points on the human body, many are especially helpful for expelling phlegm and mucus, decreasing pain and helping to calm the central nervous system, all of which are symptoms of cystic fibrosis. If a cystic fibrosis patient is suffering from chest pain due to excessive phlegm buildup in the lungs, then regular acupuncture treatments can help decrease that pain and make it easier for the person to breathe.
In traditional Chinese medical theory, people are born with a limited amount of Qi (pronounced “chee”) or vital energy, and over time it is depleted. However, Qi can be regenerated by incorporating healthy living choices, like regular exercise, proper sleep and a healthy, balanced diet. Those who suffer from cystic fibrosis begin life with a smaller supply of Qi and this means it is vital for them to save as much Qi as possible. Because cystic fibrosis attacks the lungs and gastrointestinal tract, these areas immediately become deficient and weak. Regular acupuncture treatments can help by stimulating the body’s own healing mechanisms to preserve Qi.
Another modality frequently used in TCM is cupping. To perform cupping, oxygen is sucked out of a vessel, often a glass cup, creating negative pressure and then that vessel is placed on the body. The negative pressure will act like a suction cup and it will draw oxygen-rich blood into the tissues, which facilitates healing. Cupping can also draw out toxins and create drainage, which can help break up any phlegm in the lungs, thus decreasing pain in the chest area.
For those suffering from cystic fibrosis, combining TCM with conventional medicine can be a huge blessing, improving patients’ overall quality of life.
By Justine Myers, Lic. Ac.
Substance Use Disorder (SUD), more commonly referred to as addiction, is a major problem here in Massachusetts. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 10% of Massachusetts residents over age 12 suffer from substance use disorder (SUD). Common treatments for SUD includes detoxification, behavioral therapy and medications, followed by recovery support services to prevent relapse.
Massachusetts needs to do as much as possible to help treat and save individuals suffering with substance use disorders. One effective, simple and inexpensive adjunctive therapy that is not yet being widely utilized within our state is the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association’s (NADA) 5 needle point ear acupuncture protocol (5NP). Proven effects of the NADA 5NP include relaxation, decreased withdrawal symptoms, decreased symptoms of emotional distress (i.e. stress, anxiety, depression, and aggression), reduced cravings, relief of insomnia, mindfulness and prevention of relapse. The NADA 5NP can be used alongside all the other traditional treatments to enhance the success rates of treatment and long-term recovery.
The NADA 5NP involves the insertion of 5 acupuncture needles at specific acupuncture points of the earlobes (10 needles per person). Supplies for this procedure cost less than 30 cents per person. If professionals who are already working in addiction programs are allowed to practice the NADA 5NP as part of their job, then the costs to add this procedure to existing care are very minimal. Thousands of addiction programs, drug courts, prisons, healthcare and trauma units throughout the United States have been using ear acupuncture for many years. This protocol has been used in cooperation with the American Red Cross for trauma relief after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters.
Why doesn’t Massachusetts already widely utilize the NADA 5NP? The widespread use of the NADA 5NP in Massachusetts will require the passage of an acupuncture detox specialist (ADS) law. Currently, only licensed acupuncturists are able to utilize this protocol, and there aren’t enough licensed acupuncturists available to provide ear acupuncture in every public health facility where access to this treatment is needed. In addition, it is not logistically possible for most licensed acupuncturists to leave their own acupuncture clinics in order to work at another facility for only a few hours a week.
27 states in our country have auricular acupuncture laws already. Maine just passed an ADS law in June of 2019, leaving Massachusetts behind as the only New England state without an ADS law. Because an ADS law has such great potential to benefit the people of Massachusetts, I and many other licensed acupuncturists are supporting Massachusetts house bill H1880 and senate bill S1336, each titled “An Act Relative to Acupuncture Detoxification Specialists.” Representative Carole Fiola and Senator Michael Rodrigues are each sponsoring these bills that are assigned to the Joint Committee for Public Health.
These bills would allow for specific licensed healthcare professionals (i.e. nurses, drug counselors, social workers, psychologists, and certain physicians) who aren’t licensed acupuncturists to practice the NADA 5NP following specific training requirements. Once trained, these professionals would be allowed to perform the protocol within their current scope of practice, bringing the NADA 5NP to more people in the commonwealth.
Passing the ADS law would be an effective, efficient, inexpensive and safe way to provide one more tool in the toolbox for those in SUD treatment and recovery. If you’re personally affected by SUD or have experienced the benefits of acupuncture yourself, please help turn these bills into a law. Contact your state senator and representative, and ask them to support bills S1336 and H1880, “An Act Relative to Acupuncture Detoxification Specialists.” Together we can work to make SUD treatment and recovery a success for more people in Massachusetts.
Autoimmune diseases are a collective group of disorders that plague nearly 50 million people in the United States today. When a person suffers from an autoimmune disease it means their own immune system is attacking the body and altering or destroying the tissues. Autoimmune diseases include things like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, pernicious anemia, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Conventional medicine can diagnose 100 different autoimmune conditions. Unfortunately, the treatments available to people with these disorders is not as plentiful through conventional medicine. It typically involves the use of pharmaceuticals that can have side effects that are as bad, if not worse, than the symptoms of the disease itself. And even worse, many people are told they have no options. This is where Traditional Chinese Medicine can be beneficial.
Acupuncture treatments are completely customizable. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners don’t treat based on the Western medical diagnosis. They attack the disease based on its diagnosis in Chinese medicine. This means that they not only want to treat the symptoms, but also get to the root of the problem. This is much different from Western medicine with its one-size-fits-all type of treatments. The ability to treat each person as an individual with their own unique diagnosis is why traditional Chinese medicine is so successful.
Many factors play into an autoimmune disease. Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at the body as a whole, allowing the patient to get a more complete treatment, usually with better results. Since autoimmune diseases are thought to be a deficiency in people’s immune-system responses, TCM practitioners will work to restore and rejuvenate the factors that are vital for good immunity. These things include blood and the energetic life force known as qi (pronounced “chee”). There can also be underlying genetic factors involved in autoimmune diseases, so acupuncturists may also work on building up a patients essence or jing. Research has shown that acupuncture causes responses in nerve cells, as well as in parts of the brain. By utilizing acupuncture, those suffering from an autoimmune disease can, over time, reprogram their brains and cells to perform as intended.
The use of electroacupuncture may prove useful for people suffering from autoimmune diseases too. Electroacupuncture emits mild electrical stimulation to acupuncture needles. These light shocks trigger the body to produce hormones that suppress pain and inflammation. This helps raise endorphins circulating in the bloodstream. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers.
Chinese herbal formulas can also be very effective in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Chinese herbs have specific qualities that can help boost blood, qi and jing. When acupuncture and Chinese herbs are combined, the effects can be quite favorable. The herbs will actually compliment the acupuncture treatments by extending the effects of the needles. Many times this will shorten the number of treatments required, as the patient will start to see results sooner.
Many people dealing with autoimmune diseases also experience high levels of stress because of their disorder. It can be very stressful trying to lead a “normal” life with severe pain and other symptoms. Studies show acupuncture is very relaxing, and it helps reduce excess cortisol levels in the brain that contribute to chronic stress.
As autoimmune sufferers start to see improvements with acupuncture treatments and herbs, they may also be able to do things they couldn’t before, like exercise. Exercising not only improves blood flow, but it also increases immunity. Exercise also increases the amount of endorphins in the body. So just by receiving regular acupuncture treatments and herbal supplements, those suffering from autoimmune diseases may be able to lead a much more normal life with a lot less pain and suffering.
If you are dealing with some type of autoimmune disease, consider giving Traditional Chinese Medicine a chance. The outcomes may be life changing.
Statistics show eight out of 10 people will experience low back pain at some point during their life. Seeking medical treatment for back pain is very common. Typically back pain is fleeting and can be easily resolved with rest, heat and an occasional anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen. However, once the damage is done, the recurrence of back pain can be as high as 50 percent. Part of this is because as we age, things like muscles and tendons become less flexible and pliable. It is also very well known in the United States, people are too sedentary and this leads to excess weight gain that can create added pressure on the body, especially the low back.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a medical system that dates back nearly 3,000 years. But despite its age, TCM has a lot of validity to offer in the age of modern medicine. Thousands of studies have proven acupuncture, just one of the modalities used in TCM, can be very beneficial in the treatment of low back pain. Here are five reasons why someone should consider getting acupuncture to treat low back pain.
In comparison to most Western medical approaches to treating low back pain, acupuncture is the clear winner. There are no real negative side effects associated with acupuncture treatments. There can be a bruise or a little tenderness after the treatments, but that pales in comparison to the side effects from most pharmaceuticals or surgical procedures. Even regular ingestion of ibuprofen can deteriorate the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, eventually leading to ulceration.
One thing truly different about TCM is every patient is treated differently. There could be 10 people with the exact same Western medical diagnosis in an acupuncturist’s’ office, but they may all be treated differently. This is because not everybody’s root cause of the ailment is the same. This makes acupuncture treatments very personalized.
Back pain is frequently accompanied by joint inflammation in the spinal column. Acupuncture promotes the release of vascular and immune-mediating factors that actually decrease inflammation. Usually when inflammation is decreased, so is pain.
Low back pain can frequently disrupt sleep. With regular acupuncture treatments, not only is the pain and inflammation of back pain decreased, but so is the sleep interruptions due to the aforementioned pain. This is just one of the positive side effects of acupuncture.
Regular acupuncture treatments can improve a person’s overall well-being. And when it comes to low back pain, life can be changed dramatically. People sometimes have to miss work due to the pain and lack of sleep caused by the pain. But acupuncture can change all of that, allowing people to resume regular everyday activities.
For anybody who has ongoing low back pain, the five reasons listed above should give you hope acupuncture can provide relief. Let us help you along your path to wellness.
Statistics show that almost eight out of 10 people experience low back pain at some point during their life. Seeking medical treatment for back pain is very common. Typically back pain is fleeting and can be easily resolved with rest, heat and an occasional anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen. However, once the damage is done, the recurrence of back pain can be as high as 50 percent. Part of this is because as we age, things like muscles and tendons become less flexible and pliable. This can also be attributed to the fact that many people suffer from low-grade dehydration because they don’t drink enough water and they don’t ingest enough healthy fats that keep the muscles and tendons loose. It is also very well known that in the United States, people are too sedentary, and this leads to excess weight gain that can create added pressure on the body, especially the low back.
Studies have shown acupuncture stimulates the body to produce natural steroids that reduce inflammation. Acupuncture also increases the production of endorphins, which are helpful in reducing pain. In this way, acupuncture can be very helpful in preventing costly surgeries or prescription pain medication addiction. If a person seeks out acupuncture treatments when the low back pain is acute, it can potentially help them avoid chronic pain.
Along these lines, there are also some things that can be done at home to help with low back pain. Acupressure uses the same concept of acupuncture without the needles. By applying pressure to specific acupoints with either a finger or a smooth rounded instrument, it is possible to decrease low back pain until an acupuncture treatment can be scheduled. Here are three acupoints that can be used to help with low back pain.
Large Intestine 4 – This point is located bilaterally on the back side of the hand, in the webbing between the forefinger and the thumb. When the hand is made into a fist, the point can be located in the center of the mound of flesh that is created. This point is used for relieving pain anywhere in the body.
Gallbladder 34 – This point is found bilaterally on the outer side of the lower leg. It can found in the depression that is in front of and below the head of the fibula. This point is known as the influential point of the tendons.
Urinary Bladder 40 – This point is located bilaterally on the crease behind the knee, right in the center, directly behind the knee cap. This point helps relieve pain along the spine. It is helpful for relieving muscle spasms and reducing pain associated with sciatic nerve involvement, which stems from the low back.
Self-acupressure is an effective way to help relieve low back pain when you are unable to get in for a treatment. These three points can also be used on a regular basis in between acupuncture treatments to help keep low back pain at bay. Regardless, chronic low back pain should be evaluated to make sure that there are no structural issues that may require surgery. Ask me about acupressure if you’re curious!
Essential oils have been used for centuries for perfumes, cosmetics, natural flavoring, religious ceremonies and much more. However, today the power of the healing aspects of essentials is greatly being realized by health practitioners and the general public alike. Hospitals throughout the U.S. are combing essential oils with post-surgical treatment to:
Why is Quality Important?
Not all oils are created alike. As an Essential Oils Acupuncturist©, it is important to discuss the difference between commercial versus artisan oils and what you should expect your practitioner to be using in a treatment or what you want in your natural tool box at home.
95% of oils on the market are chemically industrialized which means they have been adulterated somehow. This can mean that fatty oils or alcohol has been added to reduce the purity and potency of oil but increase the crop yield for sale. Only 5% of the oil has to be pure to be labelled such and organic by definition is only 85% and most often the last 15% is a synthetic.
More commonly, many times essential oils are blended with an inferior oil or another species to increase yield. For example, most lavender is cross produced with lavandin or spike lavender so they are not true to the name. Why this is important is that each oil has its own unique therapeutic use and blending with other species or synthetic voids these properties. Bottom line: there is a difference between artisan and commercial essential oils and if they are going to be used clinically or applied to your families, they must be artisan.
doTerra: Tried and True
As a healthcare practitioner, the health and safety of my patients are my responsibility and all the supplements, herbs and products I recommend in my clinic, I use on myself and my family daily including oils and oil-based products. I choose the doTerra line for multiple reasons
All new patients of Natural Family Acupuncture and ANY former Acupuncture by Devon patients receive a free 20-minute introduction to essential oils session with me! Just call 510-998-8027 to schedule.
Patients frequently come to us with diagnoses of plantar fasciitis and, less commonly, plantar fasciosis, while many other patients come in simply complaining of pain in their heels and/or arches of their feet without any medical diagnosis or with pain related to bunions. In all of these cases acupuncture is often helpful at relieving pain and improving function (i.e. the ability to walk and stand more comfortably), but we realize there are often underlying causes that are likely causing these conditions that could be addressed to prevent further pain and foot damage.
We recently came across this informative video about plantar fasciosis, plantar fasciitis and bunions. If you suffer from heel or foot pain and/or have been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, plantar fasciosis or bunions, we recommend this video for some tips that you may find helpful.
Note: we have no connection with the company, Correct Toes, that produced this video, but we think the approach is worthy of consideration so we have decided to share it with you in hopes that you may find it to be helpful.
One of the most wonderful things about being an acupuncturist is the ability to stimulate points on my own body when I need to. If I get a headache, or feel a cold coming on, I can always hop up on my table for a quick tune-up with some needles. Even when I’m not at the office, the magic of acupuncture can still work for me – as long as I know where the points are and what they do, I can press on them and get results.
So, what points do acupuncturists use when they need to chill out? There are so many points on the body that help to calm the mind and bring us down from our stresses and anxieties. My top three, however, are pericardium 6, liver 3, and stomach 6.
Liver 3 is a point located between the first and second toes. If you slide your finger between the toes up until you hit the junction of the two bones, you will find a very tender spot. This is a great point for so many things: irritability, headaches, TMJ, anxiety…the list goes on. If you think about these four issues, they all have one thing in common: they result from the energy in the body rising upward. Liver 3 is a very grounding point. It channels the energy downward. When we are in a state of anxiety, it’s so hard to get out of our heads, but this point will help.
Pericardium 6 is a point that is commonly used for stress and nausea. You have probably seen the bands some pregnant women use around their wrist for morning sickness. These are designed to put pressure on this point, quelling the queasiness. The point is located between the two tendons on your wrist, two fingers up from the wrist crease. Pressing on it is immediately calming. It helps to open the chest, as well, so if your anxiety comes with a side of chest tightness or shallow breathing, this is your point.
Stomach 6 isn’t typically on the top 10 list of acupuncture points for stress, but it is my favorite. If you clench your teeth, you can find it by going one finger width anterior and superior to the angle of the mandible at the belly of the masseter muscle. Like many people, I hold a lot of tension in my face and jaw. Massaging this point creates an instant release for me. Once I feel the muscles in my face release, it brings a sense of relaxation into my entire body. Try it for yourself, it feels great!
No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, setting goals is one way to help you get there. Often, when people have no goals, they lack motivation, focus and direction. Setting goals also provides a benchmark to determine whether or not you are succeeding. But how do you set goals if you’ve never done so before? Or what if you have set goals in the past, but you didn’t achieve them? Do you just give up and tell yourself that goal setting doesn’t work? That’s one option, but let’s put things into perspective.
1. Set goals that motivate you. The goals you set for yourself should be important to you, making you feel there is value in achieving them. Make sure you’re able to identify why each goal matters to you, otherwise it will be hard to take action.
2. Break the larger goals down into smaller, more specific goals. For instance, if your goal is to lose 60 pounds over the next year, break that down into smaller more achievable goals. For example, set a goal of losing five pounds per month for the next 12 months. This makes the larger goal more feasible and accessible.
3. Write down your goals. The physical act of writing down a goal makes it tangible and real and adds a sense of accountability to the goals. Pay attention t the wording you use. In place of “I would like to” use “I will” to give your goals more power.
4. Make an action plan to achieve your goals. In other words, don’t just focus on the end result. Spend time working on the steps it will take to get you to your ultimate goal.
5. Adjust your goals periodically. Goals may change as you age or as you start to change. Your goals should be adjusted accordingly, allowing for flexibility and growth.
6. Tell someone close to you what your goal is. Like writing your goals down, saying them outloud to someone makes them feel more real and helps to hold you accountable for achieving them.
7. Don’t give up. Many times, when we are faced with failure, we tend to give up on our goals. Some of the most successful people in history failed numerous times before they got it right. And they all had to stop, adjust and reevaluate their goals as they went along, but they ultimately succeeded because they stayed the course.
People are often curious to know how acupuncture works. Many scientific studies have been done to understand the mechanisms behind acupuncture. Here we’d like to share with you links to several articles that explain the way acupuncture works in detail:
What Is Acupuncture? (and how acupuncture is said to work) from Live Science
Chinese Medicine Demystified (Part V): A Closer Look at How Acupuncture Relieves Pain by Chris Kresser
Acupuncture: Why It Works from Mercola
Does Acupuncture Work By Re-Mapping the Brain? from AEON
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each season is associated with one of the elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Perhaps unsurprisingly, summertime is associated with the element fire. Fire represents maximum activity. In nature, everything is at its peak growth during the summer, so TCM sees our energy as its most active and exuberant. Summer is the time of year with the most yang energy, which is all about excitement and assertiveness.
Summertime is also associated with the heart and small intestine, according to TCM. When the fire element is in balance, the heart is effectively circulating blood and ensuring the beginning of the digestive process in the small intestine is working. From an emotional standpoint, a balanced fire element looks like confident self expression, gentle sensitivity and a strong heart and mind connection.
TCM suggests that summer is the time when our fire and yang energies are most likely to be in balance, because of what is happening in nature. However, it’s also really easy to get overextended, quite literally overheated and energetically burn out by September. Summer can be a very busy season, full of outdoor adventures, vacations and social commitments on top of our regular obligations.
Here are 4 tips to maintain balance in your fire element this summer.
Adjust your sleep schedule. TCM suggests realigning your sleep schedule as the season changes will help you have the most energy throughout your day. In the summer, take advantage of the long days by getting up early, going to sleep later and taking a rest in the middle, hottest part of the day.
Be conscious of your priorities. At the beginning of summer, write down your four top priorities for this summer, so you can come back to them all season long as you find yourself pulled in many directions. These might be reading, spending time with family, swimming and cooking. Or something totally different. Whatever they are for you, mindfully choosing four priorities is a great way to stay grounded through all the activity.
Balance your exercise with breath. Summer is the highest energy, highest movement time of year, including in terms of moving your body. TCM suggests getting a lot of exercise during the summertime. Along with running, biking, swimming, hiking or whatever your summer activity of choice is, incorporate some slower, more mindful movement to stay strong and healthy. Practicing yin or restorative yoga or choosing to meditate in stillness outside can be great for staying in tune with your bodies needs and cultivating mindfulness in all your activities.
Stay hydrated. The opposing element to fire is water, and addressing its implications is an important part of staying balanced during summer. Especially if you live somewhere very hot in the summer, it is very important to drink plenty of water each day. Whether the climate is humid or dry, drinking enough water is very important. Staying hydrated helps your energy levels and assists in digestion. TCM also recommends watermelon juice for cooling the body and cleansing the system.
Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM is all about balance. In this ancient system, the key to health is to move through the world in such a way that our bodies can remain in homeostasis, in balance. This idea connects to sleep patterns, what we eat and ultimately the flow of Qi, or energy, throughout the body. For that reason, healthy eating in summertime, according to TCM, is all about using cooling foods to balance out how hot it is outside. In other words, we can find homeostasis from the inside out.
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for healthy foods to keep you cool and active all summer long.
Fresh fruits like watermelons, strawberries, tomatoes and pear are cooling and have strong yin energy. Summer meals should be predominately fresh fruits or vegetables, according to TCM. These food groups have the strongest yin energy, balancing out the fierce yang and fire energies of summer.
Fresh vegetables that are in season in your region are also a great choice, especially cooling vegetables like cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, peppers, celery, radish, carrots and cauliflower. Vegetables have the second highest yin energy, according to TCM.
Summer herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley and mint are a great, healthy addition to most recipes. These herbs are also natural diuretics and heavy-metal detoxifiers, which flush excess waste from the body.
The best foods to eat vary with geography. If you live in a place where summer days are long, but not very hot and the nights get really cool, incorporate more neutral or even warming fruits and vegetables into your summer smorgasbord. These fruits and vegetables can include most varieties of squash, especially pumpkin, butternut and acorn squash, lentils and legumes, whole grains like brown rice and root vegetables like beets, potatoes and parsnips.
In places with cooler summers, or during late summer, the fifth season according to TCM, diet is about prioritizing self-nourishment so it can be utilized as energy. Late summer is the time to choose smart sugars that won’t clog up the spleen pathway, including apples, carrots, dates, figs, grapes, peaches, pears, sweet potatoes and squash. These smart sugars also regulate the body’s blood sugar, which decreases the strain on the pancreas.
For those whose summer climate is hot, here is a recipe for a cooling, detoxifying water you can drink all summer long to keep yourself in balance.
Cooling detox water:
Slice the lemon, lime and cucumber and add to the water. Stir in the mint. Let it sit in the fridge overnight and enjoy chilled.
June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month. In honor of this occasion and in order to help more people who suffer from migraines and headaches, we’d like to share some information with you about how acupuncture can help these conditions.
We treat people with migraines and headaches frequently, often with good success. Many of our patients come to us for the treatment of migraines and headaches at the recommendation of their neurologists or primary care physicians. The American Migraine Foundation recommends that people who suffer from migraines try acupuncture. A meta-analysis of twenty‐two clinical trials including 4985 participants in total showed acupuncture to be effective in reducing the frequency of episodic migraines. Another study showed acupuncture to be helpful for frequent episodic or chronic tension-type headaches.
In our experience we find that acupuncture often reduces the frequency and severity of migraines and headaches. Of course we cannot guarantee it will work for every single patient who comes into our office, just like a specific medication can’t be guaranteed to help every patient who has a particular health condition. Overall, however, we feel confident in acupuncture for these conditions as we’ve had a lot of success helping our patients who suffer from headaches and migraines.
This post was written by Justine Myers, Lic. Ac.
Most acupuncture points are located on the 12 primary channels that flow along the surface of the body. However, there are eight Extraordinary Vessels that flow more deeply in the body, and are perhaps even more powerful that the 12 primary channels. The Extraordinary Vessels regulate the 12 channels, and are deep lakes of energy, which can feed the 12 primary channels when they are depleted.
Chong Mai is one of the most important Extraordinary Vessels, and some texts place it as the nexus of the whole Extraordinary Vessel network. It has numerous branches throughout the body and has even more physiological and energetic functions.
The Chong Mai, also called the Penetrating Vessel, originates in the space between the kidneys, along with Extraordinary Vessels Du Mai (Governing Vessel) and Ren Mai (Directing Vessel or Conception Vessel). Its internal branch descends through the uterus and emerges in the perineum. Its descending branch flows down the inner leg to the medial foot and big toe. Meanwhile, its abdominal branch flows upward through the abdomen, following the kidney meridian, and spreads out throughout the abdomen and chest. The head branch further extends through the throat, chin and eyes. While the spinal branch flows along with the Du Mai up the spine.
Based on its pathways alone, it is easy to see why the Chong Mai is such a powerful vessel, as it covers so many areas of the body and touches so many of the 12 primary meridians and organs.
The Chong Mai is called the “Sea of Blood,” making it incredibly important in treating gynecological conditions. It is said to transform kidney essence into menstrual blood, and plays a key role in maintaining healthy menstruation. Particularly concerned with adequate movement of blood throughout the body, it can be used to treat any sort of blood stasis pattern, including certain gynecological, circulatory, musculoskeletal and hormonal pathologies. The Chong Mai is particularly linked to heart blood, through its action of dispersing through the chest. Therefore, the Chong Mai is related to heart rhythm, cardiac function and emotional issues such as anxiety and panic attacks (as the spirit resides in the heart blood, from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective.)
Chong Mai helps to keep energy and blood moving throughout the whole body – when there is stagnation or pain, the Chong Mai isn’t functioning optimally. By maintaining flow throughout the primary channels, the Chong Mai also is closely tied to the correct directional flow of energy in each system. The Chong Mai also has a close relationship with the stomach, so for nausea as well as other stomach symptoms, treating the Chong Mai can help.
The Chong Mai doesn’t have any points that lie on it directly – rather, it is opened through certain points on the wrists and feet. The Chong Mai can thus be stimulated with acupuncture, but also with Chinese herbal medicine and techniques to direct energy such as Tai Chi and qi gong.
In addition to the 12 main acupuncture meridians that flow along the surface of the body, there are also deeper channels of energy in the body called the Extraordinary Vessels. You can understand the relationship between the primary acupuncture channels and the Extraordinary Vessels by thinking about what happens when it rains: first, small ditches become full – these are the collateral vessels that break off of the 12 main channels. Next, the reservoirs become full, which are the 12 primary channels. When they are full, they overflow into the Extraordinary Vessels, which are deep and vast lakes of energy within the body.
The Dai Mai, or Girdle Vessel, is one such Extraordinary Vessel. It is unique because it is the only channel – primary or extraordinary – that flows horizontally. The Dai Mai originates at a liver meridian point on the lateral ribs, descends to the waist line and then encircles the waist like a belt. In the back, it connects with a side branch of the kidney meridian.
The Dai Mai divides the body into two halves, and it has the essential function of keeping energy flowing effectively between those two halves. If the Du Mai is too tight, then energy can’t flow properly, causing pain, sluggishness or a feeling of heaviness through the whole body. It can also cut off energy circulation to the legs, causing pain, cold legs and tense outer leg muscles.
If the Dai Mai is slack or weak, then energy can’t rise properly, which can cause many different health problems. When the Dai Mai is too weak or loose, fluids and dampness can pool in the Lower Burner, causing symptoms such as difficult urination, cloudy urine and excessive vaginal discharge. A weak Dai Mai also means energy can’t flow properly into the channels of the legs, leading to muscle weakness and atrophy. When the Dai Mai is weak, it can’t adequately hold the kidney’s essence, which depletes many other Extraordinary Vessels. When the Dai Mai is slack, energy cannot rise through the body, leading to such problems as hernias, organ prolapse and recurrent miscarriages.
The Dai Mai is closely related to the liver and gallbladder energy systems, based on its trajectory and what points it overlaps with. It helps to regulate excessive energy in those systems. This makes it useful for treating symptoms such as temporal headaches, migraines, anger, gallbladder pain and chronic neck and shoulder tension.
Based on its pathway, the Dai Mai can also be used to effectively treat abdominal pain, low back pain and hip pain. It can be treated with acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, tai chi, qi gong and many other forms of exercise.
This excellent article highlighting the impact of POCA (People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture) community acupuncture clinics throughout the country was recently published. Community acupuncture patients are “taking part in one of the quietest revolutions growing across the country: cooperative community acupuncture.”
If you want to help support more accessibility to POCA clinics like Acupuncture Together to become available throughout the USA and Canada, please join POCA at https://www.pocacoop.com/membership/join-patientcom/. There are great member benefits for POCA patient members, including a May special for POCA members at Acupuncture Together, and your membership will help make acupuncture more accessible for more people.
We frequently treat people for jaw pain/tension and TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder related pain, typically with good results. Here’s a study showing the efficacy of acupuncture for TMJ disorders. Although this condition occurs in people all the time, there tends to be an increase in cases we see at this time of year, likely due to the seasonal shift to spring. Chinese medical theory recognizes the way seasons affect our health, and an interesting tendency at this time of year is for muscles and tendons in the head, neck and upper body to tense up. Symptoms of pain and tension in the jaw commonly occur along with headaches, neck and/or trapezius (tops of shoulders) pain and tension. The great news is acupuncture is helpful for all of these symptoms, so if you or someone you know is suffering with these discomforts, we suggest giving it a try.
In traditional Chinese medical theory, one of the best ways to stay healthy is to live in balance with the seasons. Balance, in this context, means mindfully crafting your diet and certain aspects of your lifestyle based on what season it is.
An easy way to think about this is with fruits and vegetables: we are lucky these days to have grocery stores stocked year round with fruits and vegetables from every corner of the globe at all times of year. That makes it possible to enjoy asparagus into the winter months in northern climates where asparagus would never naturally grow at that time of year if at all. Chinese medical thought prescribes realigning our diets with what would be available to us in the region where we live and at each time of year. In this way, we’re aligning ourselves with the rhythms of the earth. Not only that, but eating fresh, local fruits and vegetables probably means they’re going to be better tasting fruits and vegetables in the first place, because they’re fresh off the vine and ripened close by. Living in balance with the seasons helps to keep us healthy and free of disease, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Each season is also connected to one of the main organ networks and a related element, both based on associations with what is happening in our bodies and in the natural world. In spring, Chinese medicine says we should be attentive to our livers. Springtime is all about new life and life-giving processes. The liver provides essential support to our lungs, heart and circulation system – in other words, all the life-giving systems in our bodies. The liver also stores and distributes nourishment to the whole body. It also filters toxins from the blood and breaks them down for elimination.
When the liver is functioning properly, there is functionality throughout the whole body, and we feel a physical and emotional freedom and expansiveness that allow us to take on the essence of springtime.
Here are four ways to tweak your lifestyle this spring in order to support balance in your liver.
Make it a habit to wake up earlier in the spring than you were during winter. Notice if getting up earlier allows you to have more energy during the day.
Try to incorporate more movement into your daily life during the spring. Especially during spring, exercise is a great way to battle depression and anxiety that can creep in due to a liver imbalance.
The flavor connected to the liver is sour. Adding lemon to your water is a simple way to do this that will help you digestive and emotional health.
Be intentional about developing or maintaining habits that help you to de-stress during spring. Springtime can feel like a burst of energy compared to winter, but it is important to make space each for downtime and not get too busy too fast.
Traditional Chinese medicine says aligning your diet with the seasons is one of the best ways to stay healthy. Mother Nature provides exactly what we need to be healthy. Paying attention to the fruits, vegetables and herbs that grow during different seasons in the region where you live is a great way to incorporate the philosophies of traditional Chinese medicine into your own life and access greater healing.
In the spring, TCM suggests eating cooling foods to balance out the effect of warmer temperatures outside.
TCM also suggests taking the time to be mindful about the environment and energy around you when you eat. If you are stressed out or rushing when you eat, that will affect how your body is able to process the nutrients you’re consuming. Breathe deeply, chew well and take the time to digest your food.
For more spring in your step, here are four specific foods that can support your health and wellbeing this spring.
Lemon: In traditional Chinese medicine, the organ associated with spring is the liver and the flavor associated with the liver is sour. Sour foods, like lemons, help flush toxins from the liver. Adding fresh lemon to a cup of warm water each morning is a great, simple, practice that will do wonders for your liver.
Greens: Fresh leafy greens are most plentiful during the spring, and eating them is associated with cleansing and building. The bright green color of leaves comes from chlorophyll, which is a wonderful healing agent. Any greens, but especially those darker in color, like spinach or wild greens such as dandelion greens, are very beneficial.
Asparagus: Asparagus is a finicky plant with a short growing season: spring. Make a point to catch this plant powerhouse. Asparagus is full of vitamins A, C and K as well as folate and fiber. According to TCM, asparagus builds the nourishing fluids in the body, meaning it soothes irritation and helps fertility. It also promotes healthy lungs, clearing congestion and conditions like bronchitis.
Fruits and vegetables: In general, spring is the time of year when more fruits and vegetables become available locally. Peruse your local farmer’s market or take note of any produce in the grocery store that’s labeled “local.” Incorporate these items into your diet in abundance!
Try incorporating these foods and cleansing principles with this delicious spring salad!
Asparagus, snap pea and quinoa salad