Year: 2016

Picture of the meeting room at Light & Dark Acupuncture, two comfortable chairs, a lamp and some tissues

On Authentic Connection, Privacy and Flatulence

 

There are a lot of legalities surrounding patient-practitioner relationships.  The first thing we cover in Professional Relationships 101 is obvious – these patients and practitioners shouldn’t be dating.  Beyond the obvious lessons on inappropriate practitioner behaviors, learning to be in a healthcare setting is all about mastering the art of being present with the person sitting in front of us.

I want my patients to feel like they are at home when they step into my clinic.  They can take their shoes off, sit in the comfy chair, sip on some comforting tea if they like, and tell me what’s on their mind about their health.  While we discuss the many aspects of physical, mental and spiritual health, my clients don’t have to feel like “patients” – they can feel like people.

When I sit with my patients and take in information about what is going on with their health and how it is impacting their life, I want the connection to be authentic.  Most of the time, it feels like chatting with a good friend (who happens to know a lot about herbs, the body, and how to stick needles into it).  These moments of authentic connection with my patients are so profound – we often laugh together, sometimes we cry together, and we share inspirational stories that lift our spirits and leave us feeling lighter and breezier than before.  In these moments, I am washed over with gratitude towards the patient who is with me in that moment.  Their willingness to share their stories, struggles and successes provides me with a deep well of inspiration to dip into when I need it the most.

Sincere human connection is the foundation for an abundant healing process.

Pain is a little more bearable when we feel seen and heard.  If you start any treatment with positive human connection, the possibility of symptom relief is greater. This approach rings true for internal disorders like digestive issues, musculoskeletal disorders that affect the muscles, tendons or bones, neurological disorders such as neuropathy and even psychological discomfort such as anxiety or grief.

Because my patients have courageously shared their health concerns with me, I take confidentiality laws very seriously.   Acupuncturists, along with doctors, counselors and other healthcare professionals, follow HIPPA guidelines to protect the privacy of their patient’s health records.  For this reason, we are not really supposed to say, “Hey! How’s it going?!” to our patients in public.

If I am Ernie’s acupuncturist, and I am treating him for flatulence (that is, farting for you teenagers and 50-year-old teens), and then I see him in public and say, “Hey, Ernie! How’s it going?” a few potentially embarrassing things may happen here.

  1. Ernie may think, “Oh, crap! She’s going to talk about my flatulence!” No patient should ever fear that their acupuncturist will do this in public.
  2. Ernie may be totally fine with me saying hello, and then introduce me to his friend, Bert, who says, “How do you two know each other.” Ernie enthusiastically answers, “She’s my acupuncturist!” and Bert, equally enthusiastically responds with, “Cool! What is she treating you for?!”  Ugh.  Now what?  A patient should never have to worry that their acupuncturist is going to talk about their flatulence in public.
  3. Ernie may see me, get nervous that I’m going to talk about his private health concerns and symptoms, and run screaming from the room, passing gas the whole way. Did I mention that no patient should ever have to experience this?

In actuality, flatulence is no laughing matter because most of my patients are too embarrassed to bring it up until their third or fourth appointment, and it can indicate serious digestive issues that need to be addressed.  Health issues can be uncomfortable and awkward to discuss, so it is imperative that practitioners provide a safe and comfortable environment where patients feel safe to discuss their concerns.

So, kick off your shoes – heck, I’ll do it too.  Trust that your privacy is as high of a priority to me as that of your health and well-being.  Be yourself.  Share what’s on your heart and what’s in your body in a way that feels relaxed and comfortable.  As a patient-practitioner team, we’ll tackle everything head on.  You don’t have to do it alone.

My dad holding my brother, Sean and myself, sometime in the late 80's

Why I Became an Acupuncturist & The Man Who Inspired My Compassion

“Have a good day, Dad!  Go save someone’s life!”

I shouted this every day as my dad dropped me off at middle school.  You couldn’t cut through my pride with a laser when I thought about my dad helping patients at his family practice.  In fact, one day, a friend said to me, “Hey, Molly!  Your dad has touched my balls before!”  I brushed it off.  He was doing his job – nice try.  I was convinced by the “doctor magazines” with pictures of swollen, oozing eyeballs and necrotic patches of skin that my dad was a brilliant medical doctor.  I was further persuaded by the fact that he spent hours in his chair reading these nasty publications.

My dad’s commitment rubbed off on me.  As I grew, a thick layer of medical ethics settled in my psyche.  It spoke of a commitment to active listening, being present with the patient’s concerns, following safety regulations and researching conditions for hours on end, until you have a handle on them – until you can help.

I did not know that these values were inside me until I dusted off the cobwebs during my graduate school program and started speaking my thoughts to a room of bright, medically-minded students.  The pull to go into a medical profession existed as a mere hint while I pursued theatre in undergrad, and again as I ran after school programs for at risk youth.   It wasn’t until I came across acupuncture that I fell for the bait – hook, line and sinker.

But why acupuncture?  Why not nursing? Why not follow in my father’s footsteps with an M.D. like the man I idolize.

The next piece of my past leaves me feeling vulnerable and ashamed when I share it because my entire existence revolves around this one event.  It feels like I cannot have a single in-depth conversation without this topic coming up, and the records that play over and over in my mind say that people think I repeatedly bring this up to get attention.  I wish that so much of who I am and what I do were not determined by this one event in my life.  But it is.  I will forever be processing the loss of my mother at 3 years old.  She passed away in child birth, and we lost the baby as well.  It was a shock for my family and for our small town community.  She was truly a light in this life to those who knew her.

After years of processing my mother’s death, I came to a conclusion that deeply impacted my decision to go into Eastern medicine.  The Western medical field is mind-blowingly advanced – we can replace a person’s limb, regenerate burnt tissue, read a sequence of DNA, cure diseases that used to cause millions of deaths.  But maybe Western medicine does not have all the answers.

It couldn’t save my mom.  The doctors didn’t even know there was a problem until it was too late.

I don’t blame the medical community for my mom’s death.  I don’t blame anyone.  But her loss opened me up to the deepest mysteries of human experience, spirituality, and scientific sink-holes.  I was fascinated by any explanation of how the human body works, be it physical, spiritual or emotional.  Interest in alternative healing modalities was a natural fit.  I place great worth that which has been proven by science, but I understand from the depth of my being that we have not yet uncovered all the answers.

I had a completely positive experience with the healthcare system as I grew up.  The nurses let me hang out at the nurse station, drink hospital juice, and make pictures with the color-coding tape (for those of you who did not grow up with hospital nurses as your babysitters, this is the different colors of tape that they used to color code their files).  I got to draw on the bottom of the dry erase board where the patients’ initials and room numbers were listed, and our medicine cabinet at home was a mecca of cures.  I was Dr. Dyer’s daughter – if I coughed, someone immediately showed up with Robitussin.  Heck, I had the greatest healthcare gift of all; a dad to answer my every health-related question or concern.  Sickness was never something I had to fear or worry about.  I was in good hands. 

Despite my comfort with this system, I recognized its limitations.  I hated taking medication.  I did not always agree with the dietary recommendations that Western medicine embraces.  Sometimes it felt like they weren’t really solving problems – they were just masking the symptoms, only for them to return at a later date.  The drive to resolve what happened to my mom inside my mind has inspired me to look deeply into the cracks where Western medicine falls short.

One of the things I saw in those cracks was the dehumanization of healthcare.

I went to the McDonald’s of healthcare at Kaiser Permanente for a few years.   My time with the doctor was limited to about 10 minutes, during which she stared at a screen, asked me a lot of questions, and typed in my answers.  She turned to me for all of 3 minutes to feel my lymph nodes and listen to me breathe through a stethoscope.  During that visit, they shipped me in to the office, zipped me over to the treatment room with quick pit stop at the scale and vital signs station.  Then, they whizzed me over to the pharmacy and whirled me out the door.  “What just happened in there?” I asked myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect doctors.  I witnessed the depth of their training and continuing education throughout my life, and I know they act from a place of concern for their patients.  On the other hand, I also recognize that they are working for a system that is no longer working for them.  My Kaiser doctor tried to ask me about acupuncture, which she seemed to find interesting, but our conversation was cut off mid-sentence by a nurse poking her head in the door to ask a question.  And then she was off to a new room and a different patient.

Another time, I went in for my “lovely lady cervix-plucking” (i.e. PAP smear – we all on the same page here?).  The doctor did her business and then left the room.  She didn’t tell me if I was supposed to get dressed… or leave?  She just ran out, left the used, messy tools on the table next to me, and vanished.  I slowly sat up, gathered my surroundings and came to the conclusion, “I think I am supposed to leave now.”  So, I stood up, got dressed, picked up my things and opened the door.  I looked in this direction and that direction.  I couldn’t remember for the life of me which direction I came from.  This is not an uncommon occurrence for me.  After a few minutes of gazing like a lost child through the cubicles in front of me, I found something that resembled an exit.  I headed towards it.

“Am I supposed to get a paper from them?  Or talk to someone else out here?” I thought as I passed the front desk.  At this point, I decided to wrap up my dazed and confused pondering.  I thought, “Well, if I was supposed to do something, they sure as shit didn’t mention it.”  I walked out.

Even when my dad was not doing the doctoring for me growing up, his partner (my regular MD) asked me questions about myself, looked me in the eyes, spent time truly looking at my body and observing my symptoms.  I felt relaxed because my discussions with him made me trust him.

Observation is one of the four key diagnostic criteria in Chinese medicine – you have to actually look at the patient.  You cannot make a diagnosis without careful observation.  Being a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes using acupuncture and herbal remedies, requires connection, active listening, being mindfully present and spending time with the patient.  These are all things I experienced while growing up that I have found lacking at times in our Western healthcare conglomerate.

What happened to our medical care system?  When did the human connection piece exit stage right?  How can we expect to do our jobs effectively as healthcare providers if we don’t observe the person in front of us, or take the time to give them the simple directions of, “You may put your clothes back on.”  (…and they wonder why there was a naked man standing in the middle of Colfax a couple weeks ago).

I got lucky – I had an awesome doctor growing up.  He paid more attention to me than most doctors do and he showed me what caring and compassionate healthcare looks like.  I know that there are still a lot of great doctors out there, working to help humans and make their lives more vibrant and healthy.  But the system is changing in a way that decreases the connection between doctor and patient.  This connection, in my eyes, is the very heart and soul of healthcare.  Empathy plays a huge role in knowing what a person needs to heal, and empathy occurs when we look each other in the eyes, recognize human suffering, and use our intuitive understanding of healing to tailor our approach to that individual’s needs.

We connect, we recognize, we instinctively know how to help.  This is the story of our ancestry, and it makes prescribing medicine more effective.

I became an acupuncturist because my father illustrated compassion towards others, because I grappled with the mystery of the divine timing involved in my mother’s death, and because I inherited ethical standards around building trustful patient-practitioner relationships in healthcare.  In my journey to embrace Eastern traditions of holistic care, I have used the best examples my Dad offered me and implemented those into a whole-body practice I can share with my patients.   I enjoy spending quality, face-to-face time with my clients.  I love laughing with them – laughing is central to the healing process.  I also appreciate sitting with them while they cry – another essential component to healing.

This human experience is meant to be shared, so if you’re looking for a medical encounter that is about connection, listening and hearing your health concerns, visit me and allow me to provide you with the type of medical care that I have been so lucky to receive.  My goal is to help you feel relaxed and cared for in a modern medical setting while addressing your immediate and long-term health goals.

To book an appointment online, click here!

Ocean and Sky Background with banner that says, "Personalized Healthcare in the East and West"

Personalized Medicine in the East and West

Have you found the lightning speed of discoveries in the field of genetics absolutely fascinating and promising for the future of medicine?

As we have learned more about the human genome, genetic testing has become affordable and accurate at predicting and preventing disease.  Our level of understanding disease has expanded from a 2D view to a 3D view, and we can now piece together many of the achingly beautiful mysteries of the human experience.

In discussions around genetic testing, we are beginning to hear a term that is gaining popularity with Western medicine – “personalized medicine.” According to The National Cancer Institute (NCI) Dictionary of Cancer Terms (n.d.), “personalized medicine” is:

A form of medicine that uses information about a person’s genes, proteins, and environment to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease.”

As the Stuff You Should Know podcast describes it, personalized medicine involves the concept that, “people have different types of reactions to different types of treatments and can have different types of experiences with different types of diseases.”  They note that this realization occurred in the Western Medicine tradition in the mid-20th century (“How Personalized Medicine Works,” 2015).  

With genome testing, we can potentially predict the exact effect that a specific medication will have on an individual and the likelihood that administering it will have the effect that we desire.  We can bring these predictions down to a mathematical equation and act with more certainty in administering medication, in predicting the spread of disease, and in predicting the onset of disease, etc.  Potentially, we may be able to prevent forms of cancer from occurring in individuals with an increased risk of developing them, simply by knowing their genetic risk for such diseases.

In traditional therapies, we have used the concept of personalized medicine for centuries. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), includes five basic modalities:

The system uses these five techniques to craft individualized treatments.  Each session employs one, all, or some combination of these techniques based on the person’s healthcare needs.  Together, the five methods demonstrate a long history of time-tested results through “precise medicine,” i.e. medical treatment based on a person’s constitution and individuality.  Here is personalized medicine at it’s inception.

So then, how old is the concept of personalized medicine?

The origins of acupuncture points and acupuncture meridians are so ancient that we are not completely sure which came first.  The discovery of a man known as Otzi who died under a glacier in the Alps may lead to discoveries about the origins of acupuncture.  Otzi had tattoos on very specific acupuncture points on his body, sometime around the year 3250 B.C.E.!  We are talking about the possibility of a 5000 year old medical tradition – based on personalized medicine!  

Even in the west, we see it in the underpinnings of the Hippocratic Oath; an oath recited by every doctor upon their entrance into the field of medicine:  

“It is far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.” – Hippocrates (c. 460 BC – c. 370 BC)

There is a similar saying in the TCM tradition; “yi bing tong zhi, tong bing yi zhi,” which translates to:

“One disease, different treatments; Different diseases, one treatment. – Such an old quote that no one seems to know who said it.

What does this mean?  It means is that six people who walk into a TCM practitioner’s office with asthma will likely receive six different treatments.  However, it is possible that one person with asthma and one person with rheumatoid arthritis will have the exact same constitutional patterns, leading to a treatment that is identical.  The treatment is built around the individual and not around the disease.

When a patient walks into my practice, they receive an individualized treatment formulated for their specific body-type, symptoms, and underlying patterns of disharmony.  They receive a custom herbal formula that is specific to their symptoms, exactly where they are today.  In this way, my goal is to treat the root of a disease, and not its symptoms alone.  By doing this, I can stave off the symptoms of chronic or acute pain, wheezing, headaches, sweating, or whatever is bothering you, while also taking out the underlying pattern of disharmony in the body that is causing those symptoms to reoccur. 

Your symptoms of physical or emotional discomfort are unique to you.  They are a reflection of who your genetics and your “epigenetics;” in other words, the physical, emotional and spiritual experiences that define your personality and constitution.

It is no coincidence that personalized medicine is currently landing in the Western medical field.  Western audiences are ready to understand the power of viewing the individual as a unique universe with personalized needs.  A rise in popularity of TCM coincides with our increasing understanding of the human genome under the context of personalized medicine.  People are beginning to realize that a healthcare system where everyone is treated the same is not as powerful as a system where individual needs are met.  The combination of Eastern and Western medicine styles complement one another nicely and provide a hopeful future for personalized healthcare.

For a custom treatment built for your specific constitutional needs, book an appointment here.  

We’ll begin by talking about you.

 

References:

Stuff You Should Know,  (2015, June 26). How Personalized Medicine Works [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from:  http://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/podcasts/how-personalized-medicine-works/
NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms?cdrid=561717

Hands in front of a pregnant belly, holding baby slippers, fertility blog photo

4 Steadfast Reasons to Use Traditional Chinese Medicine for Fertility

“Why do we always give ear needles to women who are trying to become pregnant?” asked my professor during a lecture on treating fertility.

The acupuncture students in my class shouted out various answers:

“To regulate the hormones.”

“To improve the likelihood of conception.”

“To enhance the strength of the treatment.”

“Yes… but what’s the biggest reason that we always give ear needles to women who are trying to become pregnant – every treatment, every single time?” she repeated.

“Stress,” offered another student.

“YES.  Because when the body is doing it’s biological count down, and a woman is receiving test after test, and monitoring her body temperature daily, and eating carefully to regulate her blood sugar levels, and taking medications and timed hormone injections to enhance her likelihood of conception… And when her husband is rushing off in the middle of a work day to a clinic where he has to ejaculate into a cup in a strange environment at the exact moment when his wife or girlfriend may be fertile – this may be the most stressful time in a couple’s life.  And to conceive under the condition of this type of stress is unlikely – your sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive and your stress hormones are out of whack.”

Duly noted.

Years later, I have not forgotten this emphatic point.

What my professor did not cover in this description is the deep heartache, self shaming and cultural humiliation that can happen to a couple when they cannot conceive.  If you were not aware that stating things like, “Are you two planning on having kids soon?” can seep a gut-wrenching heartache into an infertile couple, who keeps their struggles private from the public and may leave you completely unaware of this anguish inside of them, consider yourself informed and read this article.

This leads us right into the first of 4 Steadfast Reasons to Use Traditional Chinese Medicine for Infertility

1. It reduces stress.  Stress, anxiety and grief are key elements that must be eliminated during the fertile window in order to ensure successful implantation for pregnancy.  Acupuncture, and particularly ear acupuncture, can regulate stress and help the body relax.  Have you heard about couples that cannot get pregnant for years, as they go through tests and appointments galore, but they hit up a beach vacation and come back expecting a new family member in 9 months?  Reducing stress levels is essential to healthy conception.

2. Evidence-based Results.  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which includes acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, does more than just regulate stress in infertile couples.  It relieves Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).  It improves symptoms of  PCOS and assist in inducing ovulation.  For years, acupuncture has shown in Western studies that it can reduce blood flow impedance in the uterine artery, which helps increase the uterus lining’s receptivity during implantation.  There are Western studies galore that point to the positive effects of TCM on infertility.  As an acupuncturist, I refer to these articles to inform me on what I know has been proven to work.

3. Individualized Treatments for your Unique Constitution.  Western studies, impeccable and shatterproof as they are, miss the most important aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  In TCM, we look at both the patient’s symptoms and their unique constitution to create an individualized treatment.  Our treatments address both the “root” of the disorder (i.e. the internal and external systems in the body that are creating the issue) and the “branch” (i.e. the symptoms that occur as a result of underlying imbalances, for instance, infertility.).  Our treatments are designed to specifically address the patient that is in front of us instead of offering a catch-all treatment for every person with infertility or any other disorder for that matter.

You know what is absolutely, positively awe-inspiring about these individualized treatments?  Infertility is such a rapidly expanding field as the growing acceptance of various sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions arrive on the scene.  Our world is now, more than ever, a color wheel of life experiences as opposed to our previous black and white view.  As healthcare begins to address those of non-conforming gender identities and tailor to same-sex couples, individuation in care is essential.  Traditional Chinese Medicine has trail-blazed in providing individualizing care for over 2000 years.  As this traditional field grows to become more inclusive, it can use these humble roots to lead healthcare into a new era.  This new era will provide comprehensive, high quality, informed healthcare where it has previously been denied.

4. Light & Dark Acupuncture. When I treat individuals for infertility, I craft a treatment that is founded in evidence-based research.  These treatments also address my client’s unique make up, and everything taking place in their body at this given moment in time.  I love being present with my patients and creating a space where they can grieve, heal and celebrate on this journey to parenthood.  If you are looking for a professional you can trust to walk through this journey with you, schedule an appointment today.  This is a long, but rewarding adventure that I’d be honored to jump into with you!

Person holding red, inflamed, painful achy knees

Acupuncture for Jarred, Achy Knees

As a tap dancer, my knees have taken the brunt of my quick turns and circle shuffles over the years.  Any good tap dancer will point out that I should be moving from my hip in order to protect my knee.  Well, we all should be doing many things, but we are all doing the best we can with what we’ve got.

I can tell that I am moving from my hip more on my right side and less on my left, because my left knee sends an occasional temper tantrum up to my brain, which causes me to take the class a little more slowly that day.

As a response to this occasional knee pain, I have stuck many a needle into many a knee – including my own.  Electric stimulation of the needles in the knee can interrupt the pain pathway, i.e. the signal being sent by your nervous system to your brain that says, “Hey!  Brain!  There’s some pain in my knee!”  By interrupting and re-setting this pathway, acupuncture can decrease pain.

Additionally, it can strengthen the tendons and ligaments surrounding the knee.  For people who refuse to let a little knee pain get in the way of their passions, this is the most important part of a knee treatment.  Curative medicine is where athletes recover, but preventative medicine is where stars are born.

Below is the link to a great article on the recent science behind treating the osteoarthritis-related knee pain.  Dancers, soccer players, basketball players, and all other athletes of knee-jarring sports, bring me your knees so that you can get back to doing what you love!

http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1572-acupuncture-relieves-arthritis-knee-pain

 

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