Tag: Alternative Medicine

Close up of a 12 year old boy relaxing on an acupuncture table, getting cupping

Cupping for Kids!

A child laying comfortably on an acupuncture table getting cuppingWhen I introduce cupping to kids, they’re hooked.  They request it right away in every treatment.  Most of them even say that of all the tools I use, cupping is their favorite.

Cupping is a system that uses glass, bamboo, silicon, plastic or earthenware cups to create a suction on a person’s skin.  This is done by sucking the air out of the cup and placing it on the skin.  The skin is pulled upward into the cup to improve blood flow, open the pores and release tension in the area.  With kids, I use gentle cupping to improve stress, muscle tension, insomnia, inflammation and other symptoms.

How Does it work?

Parents often ask me how cupping works.  There are many explanations for the therapeutic mechanism behind cupping.

It starts with understanding the influence of heat in the body.

According to Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM), heat is a medical symptom.  Eastern medical practitioners aim to balance the level of heat in the body.  People – kids and adults alike – can have internal heat symptoms (those that are inside their body) or external heat signs (those that are visible and present on the outside).  Feeling hot at night time is an example of an internal heat symptom.  Red, inflamed acne, eczema or other skin conditions are visible external heat signs.

When I look for heat in a patient, I am monitoring a variety of body systems for its presence.  It could influence the patient’s body temperature.  They may have skin that feels warm to the touch.  They may complain of feeling hot more frequently than others around them.  However, some kids have signs of internal heat, but do not feel warm at all.  In this case, a pattern of heat symptoms and signs affect multiple internal body systems.  When excess warmth causes or aggravates health conditions, we see multiple body responses related to heat, such as these:

  • a dark red tongue color
  • a tongue with a bright red tip and/or a yellow coat across the top.
  • irritability, anger, frustration
  • difficulty relaxing and thus difficulty sleeping
  • nightmares, night terrors, restless sleep
  • dry skin and lips that have a red coloring to them
  • constipation or dry, hard, painful bowel movements
  • dark yellow or orange urine (not affected by supplements, medications or food)
  • strong smelling stools, urine or gas
  • red and painful acne, other red rashes or skin conditions
  • sore throat
  • skin that feels warm to the touch

There are too many signs and symptoms to list all of them here, but this is a start in understanding heat’s impact on the body.  Heat is most commonly found in children because they are young and active.  It is easy for them to fall into an imbalance that involves too much heat.

While heat sounds like a simple concept, it can become a very complex problem to treat, especially when it affects multiple body systems.  One way to clear heat from the system is to open the pores and vent it from the body.  Cupping is a fun and unique way to do this.  In this way, it cools a child’s temperature.  This includes calming their “internal temperature,” to decrease frustration, anger and irritability.

Another way to vent heat from the system is to relax the body and release physical or emotional tension.  Many children – primarily teenagers but younger kids too – have tension in their neck and shoulders.  Heavy backpacks full of text books and hunched forward postures from playing on iPads or computers have created a “neck and shoulder tension epidemic” in our culture.  We’re all guilty of promoting activities that add to this epidemic – me included.

Some children who have no symptoms of physical pain or stiffness still carry mental/emotional strain that can, at times, result in physical tension.  Cupping lifts the skin, opens up the surface capillaries and promotes fresh blood flow through the area.  This action restores blood, fluid and energy flow through the body.  In doing so, improves both physical and emotional relaxation.

You can learn more about how cupping works from this great Everyday Acupuncture podcast.

Does It Hurt?

Are you kidding me?  The first person to let me know if something hurts would be a child.  If cupping was painful, children would cry and beg not to come back, but my practice is bursting with children who beg and plead for cupping.

I completely understand why I get this question so often – no one wants to subject their child to something uncomfortable.  But rest assured – cupping is painless!

When I work with kids, they get to choose how tightly I place the cups, similarly to how adults get to direct the strength and depth of a massage.  I start out very gentle and pay close attention to what feels comfortable for the child.

Teenagers may request stronger cupping if they’re dealing with acute or chronic pain, because if feels good similarly to a deep massage.  Younger children tend to stick with gentle cupping, as the taste for a stronger round of cupping develops with time.

What About Cupping Marks?

Kids do receive marks from cupping.  However, because I use gentle cupping on kids, they are usually not very dark.  They do not look like pictures of famous Olympic athletes or other adults who have received cupping.  Kids don’t have nearly the level of tension in their muscles as adults do.  The more tension a person has, the darker the cupping marks.  Also, I don’t leave cups on kids for long periods of time, because, well – let’s be honest – kids don’t lay around in one position for very long.  I let the cups rest for anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes and then we move on.  The longer a cup stays on one position, the darker the mark.

Here is a picture of cupping marks on a 7 year old child – you can see that they are not very dark.  These types of marks last about 3 – 7 days, depending on the child’s ability to heal.

7 year old child raising his t-shirt to show the light red circles leftover from cupping on his back.

What Does It Help With?

The first thing that I see change after a few treatments with children is their sleep.  Sometimes, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep is the result of a more complex condition.  If so, it may take more than just a few balancing treatments to remedy.  Other times, all they need is a little bit of heat clearing and balancing and they tank out right around bedtime.

12 year old child receiving cupping on her upper back12 year old child receiving cupping on her right shoulder and upper back.

As mentioned earlier, teenagers (and some children) deal with constant aches and pains.  They carry around heavy bags and sit at computers for hours at a time.  They get repetitive motion injuries from being very active in sports.  They also get stiff from being very inactive while sitting all day long in school.  Neck and shoulder pain, tension headaches, back pain, hip pain, even abdominal pain have responded favorably to cupping in the past.

Stress responds favorably to cupping as well.  Environmental influence, dietary response, home or school interactions and political tension all contribute to an increase in mental/emotional stressors for our kids.

Children and teenagers have the opportunity to learn stress coping methods and to form a resilient mental/emotional landscape from a young age.  They can create lifelong habits to decrease their stress by trying treatments like cupping early.

In addition to sleep challenges, pain and stress, cupping is also used in treatment for anything involving heat and the list is extensive.  Here are some of the conditions that may benefit from cupping:

  • ADHD/Attention Issues
  • Asthma
  • Acute Ear Infections
  • Bed-wetting
  • Common Cold or Flu
  • Colic
  • Constipation
  • Developmental Disorders
  • Digestive Issues (chronic constipation or diarrhea, abdominal pain, etc.)
  • Chronic Ear Issues
  • Eczema or Rashes
  • Fever
  • Insomnia
  • Migraines/Headaches
  • Chronic Sinusitis
  • Teething
  • Chronic Urinary Problems

And more…

Kids truly enjoy pediatric appointments at Light & Dark Acupuncture because the tools used are new, interesting and adventurous.  Cupping, which is typically included in each pediatric session, is no exception to the rule.  Not only is cupping okay to do on children, it is painless and effective and they absolutely love it.

To learn about more tools used in Light & Dark pediatric sessions, check out The 5 E’s: What to Expect In Non-Needle Pediatric Treatments at Light & Dark Acupuncture.

Come try out cupping!
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Herbal Medicine & the Common Cold, Hot Flashes, Vitamins & Supplements, and of course… Tap Dance!

In this interview, fitness trainer Greg Dyer (no relation – but he has a great last name!) interviews Light & Dark Acupuncturist & Herbalist, Molly Dyer about treatment of the common cold.  Dyer explains the reason why Chinese herbal formulas can powerfully kick out colds and flu at any stage.

The two discuss another topic as well – the over-consumption of vitamins and supplements.  We’re not talking about taking a few supplements on a daily basis, here.  We’re referring to those who take handfuls of vitamins and supplements and even herbs.  Healthy or hurtful? What do you think?

And let’s just be honest – any discussion would be incomplete without turning towards tap dance and its healthy effect on mental, physical and social well-being. What does this have to do with acupuncture and herbology?  Find out in the following episode of Conscious Body Movement, the podcast!

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.

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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!

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