With Mother’s Day fast approaching I thought it would be a good time to tell you a little about how Mothers play a role in acupuncture.
Mother-Child relationships are found nearly everywhere you look- humans, animals, plants (sorta) and Chinese Medical Acupuncture Theory!!
You may have heard of the term “Five Elements” or “Five Element Theory” but I’m sure most of you haven’t delved into the nitty gritty of those elements. The Five Elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water play a key role in a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) diagnosis. This can get confusing so stay with me. Each element has a variety of associations to them- such as a taste, smell, sound, season, climate, direction.... and in TCM the most important: an organ system. The Wood element is associated with the Liver organ system. Fire is associated with the Heart organ system. Earth is associated with the Spleen organ system. Metal is associated with the Lung organ system. Water is associated with the Bladder organ system. Each element is like a person- that exhibits many qualities. And like people, the five elements actually have a particular order in which they exist: each element having both a Mother and a Child. This is called the GENERATING CYCLE.
Wood is the Mother of Fire. Therefore, Fire is the Child of Wood.
Fire is the Mother of Earth. Therefore, Earth is the Child of Fire.
Earth is the Mother of Metal. Therefore, Metal is the Child of Earth.
Metal is the Mother of Water. Therefore, Water is the Child of Metal.
Water is the Mother of Wood. Therefore, Wood is the Child of Water.
And it goes around and around.
For the elements to be in balance, they have to essentially give and take in equal amounts. And like human relationships, there is a system of support that acts as a checks and balances. This is called the CONTROLLING CYCLE. For instance Wood “controls” Earth. And Earth “controls” water. Think of this as a grandparent forming a support relationship with their grandchild that is independent of the child’s parent. A little tag team. Mothers, you know what I’m talking about ;)
These relationships are more easily understood when looking at a diagram.
Keeping these relationships in mind is helpful when thinking about people AND your TCM diagnosis. There is a little bit of every element in every person. You are part your parents, grandparents, great- grandparents and so on just as you are part Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. When there is imbalance in the system, symptoms occur and your diagnosis is formed. So in TCM and in life, we can thank our Mothers for creating us and keeping us healthy! Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mother Figures reading this.
*(The naming of these cycles sound a bit harsh and don’t truly reflect what’s happening. I suspect this is due to a poor translation as the ancient theoretical texts were written in a variety of Chinese dialects and translated many times over before they were printed in English).
If you have been here for awhile you know I am a big fan of how smart the human body is. In its purest form, the body is highly adaptable. We are literally designed to live in our native environments with little help from outside factors. Our ancestors lived off the land, built shelter out of native materials and our bodies, in essence, do the same.
As the seasons transition and new plant growth begins to emerge, the native and seasonal foods begin to blossom. But for some, that growth can cause some systemic upheaval. It isn’t fully known why some people develop seasonal allergies or food sensitivities but it has been documented, at least anecdotally, that people who relocate far from their native lands, often have a hard time adapting to the new local diet and new local flora. And there does seem to be some genetic predisposition to allergies. Making you wonder if there is a link between where your ancestors are from and what your body is optimized to eat (and breathe). Of course there is a lot to consider here- from pesticides, to pollution, to major lifestyle shifts over the centuries. We are no longer living off the land. We are importing foods from different climates, or modifying crops to grow (what should be) seasonal foods, year round. We have indoor plumbing and heating systems so that we no longer have to adapt to the weather the way our ancestors did. In many ways that is seen as progress. But in other ways, it has introduced some new challenges to the adaptable human body.
Couple that with the time of year when one day its cold, and warm the next, it is only natural that the body isn’t quite sure what to do to keep you healthy. In the Spring and Fall when there are many common allergens afloat in the air, a body will begin to develop antibodies to help fight off the allergens. And in Winter when there is a flu virus circulating, your body will work to fight off that particular virus. But when the weather can’t seem to make up its mind, the body is left doing A LOT of work. If you think you are over-worked, you should check in with your immune system. That thing is on 24/7!
So how do we make this work in our favor? You guessed it self care. Keeping a regular sleep schedule as the seasons transition is vital to maintaining a healthy immune system. Drink plenty of water. Eat your seasonal fruits and vegetables. Move your body. And of course, get acupuncture!
I get this question all the time and I totally understand it. Most people come to acupuncture as a “last resort”. They have already exhausted other measures such as medications, injections, surgeries, PT, massage, chiropractic care and so on. Doctor after Doctor, appointment after appointment and they are tired. I understand. I’ve been there. That is how I found acupuncture, too.
But here is the thing: There is no magic bullet to true healing. Acupuncture is not a band-aid the way some “treatments” are. It seeks to address the cause of your symptoms and that, unfortunately, takes time. You would not expect to do ONE sit up and get a 6-pack would you? Or to take ONE blood pressure pill and never need another, would you? Change is possible, but it takes time and repetition. Your body has all the necessary ingredients to reverse most symptoms but it has to have the right circumstances to do so. And the primary circumstance is a commitment to repetition.
Will you need acupuncture forever? Not likely. Might you need it long term? Possibly. Are there any guarantees- NOPE. But don’t let that frighten you. Nearly everyone gets some kind of relief with the right time commitment. I have many patients that achieve a symptom- free state who choose to keep getting regular acupuncture because they like it. Or they are afraid to cut back because they do not want their symptoms to return.
“Regular” treatment or maintenance means different things for different people. Some people have symptoms that arise from a lifestyle issue. For example- if you have a job that requires you to stand all day but standing for too long hurts your back. If you are not close to retirement and are facing many more years on your feet, it is vital to find a balance that both reduces pain but also keeps you healthy enough to continue working. As you become symptom free, that is when we play around with what treatment frequency will work to keep you in optimal health. Some people come every other week, some come once a month, some come 4 times a year. Some disappear entirely until a symptom acts up again. It all depends on your particular circumstances. But we will work as a team to find out what works for you.
<3 The Heart in TCM <3
A little Background:
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is one of the fundamental theories guiding acupuncture practice. There are parallels between Western and Eastern Medicine but the philosophies are not the same. It is important to note that TCM pre-dates our Western understanding and labeling of Anatomy and Physiology. Therefore there are not direct correlations between Western and Eastern terms. These are not simply translations as the TCM existed first.
Now let’s talk about The Heart:
In TCM there are yin organs and yang organs that play a role in the development and function of the human body. The Heart is one of those organs, in fact, like with Western Medicine, it is considered by many to be the MOST important one.
In TCM, the Heart, is a yin organ. Yin organs have colors, smells, tastes, climates, and sounds associated with them. The Hearts color is red- no surprise there as the Heart is responsible for circulating the blood and controlling the blood vessels- just like in Western Medicine. But, it does so much more than that. Because TCM is a holistic practice, we must think outside the chest to really appreciate all the the Heart has to offer.
The Heart controls sweat, opens to the tongue, houses the Mind, manifests in the complexion and is related to joy.
Now some of these make rational sense- like the complexion. If you have high blood pressure, you may have a red-rosy face and low blood pressure may make you look drawn out.
But, I bet you are wondering how your Mind could be in your Heart. The TCM Mind, also called Shen, has at least two different meanings. The first is in relation to complex mental faculties and the other is related to spiritual aspects. This basically means that the state of the Heart will influence your emotional state. Now THAT makes sense. When you feel joy, you are happy. When you feel sad, you are unhappy. And someone who may experience too much joy, or mania, is likely to have some mental-emotional struggles that can be due to the overstimulation of the Mind. Or if you have a “Broken Heart”, you experience a lack of joy and may even have discomfort in your chest.
Seeing some of the parallels between TCM and Western Medicine is really neat. While many aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine can be very complicated it is also very beautiful in its simplicity. We are always trying to find a balance in your body. The Heart is just one small, but vital, piece of the balancing act.
New Year, New...
With January comes Resolutions. And for many, that means resolving to commit to better health. Maybe you want to drink more water, eat healthier, go to the gym more regularly, get 8 hours of sleep or FINALLY commit to regular self- care. My personal opinion is... Resolution or no Resolution, it is ALWAYS a good time to reset. It doesn’t have to be January 1st for you to decide to make a change for the better.
If you follow my Instagram Page then you probably know that I host Wellness Wednesdays and I give a weekly challenge to my followers. I love that challenge to be mid-week because it allows for a mid-week reset and refocus. No need to wait for Sunday or Monday, you can do it any day, any time.
If your goal is to get more acupuncture, then I recommend trying to book your desired days/times a few weeks in advance. January resolutions ALWAYS bring an influx of patients to acupuncture. Which means, you may have to wait longer for your desired appointment times. If I notice this is becoming a problem, I may (slightly) adjust the clinic hours to accommodate.
With that being said, please try to only commit to appointments you are sure you can make. Emergencies happen- getting stuck at work, children getting sick, bad weather, car trouble.... You will NEVER be penalized for actual emergencies. But evening appointments will be in high demand this winter and a "no-show" may result in a missed appointment fee. The beauty of the clinic is that it allows for MANY appointment options. If you foresee a problem with your upcoming schedule, please reach out as soon as possible and I will do what I can to accommodate your needs.
Winter is on its way...
With winter fast approaching I thought it would be a good time to talk about some fun tips and tricks to stay healthy this season. You know the usual; get enough rest, hydrate, eat right, exercise... So, let’s talk about the UNUSUAL stuff that you may not know.
In Chinese Medicine the goal is to remain in perfect, constant balance with yourself and the World around you. If there is balance, there are NO symptoms.
Because Winter brings cold, the way to counter act that influence is to stay warm. This includes things like eating warm foods (both in temperature and nature) as well as protecting yourself from the elements. This means more than just wearing a coat. In fact the MOST vital place to keep warm is actually the back of your neck, so wearing a scarf, even when it is only a little chilly goes a long way to prevent illness. Other places that are vital to keep warm are your head, your low back, abdomen (no more crop tops, ladies) and your hands and feet.
Avoiding salads and sweets during this time of year will keep your digestive and immune systems optimized. If you have a craving for sweet, opt for things like sweet potatoes that have a sweet flavor but also provide warmth and nourishment. Pears are also a great choice because they help keep the lungs moist and healthy during the cold/dry months. Pears can be boiled, baked or even added to your (room temperature or hot) water. Please avoid drinking cold drinks during cold months. Your digestive system needs warmth to work and since the outside forces are cold, your GI tract may take longer to heat up. If you are putting cold into it, that is like asking your campfire to start up while you are hosing it down.
Now more than ever, it is important to protect yourself from illness. Since the onset of COVID people are afraid to admit if they aren’t feeling well. Follow these tips and you are on your way to staying healthy this season. And of course, there is always acupuncture to help you along.
If you are like many people in New England you love when the weather gets cooler; the leaves start to turn, you can get pumpkin flavored ANYTHING and its official sweater weather. Apple picking and soup making are at the top of many “To-Do” list. But for a lot of people, myself included, with the Fall comes Fall allergies. For some it's just a mild headache, or congestion. But for others its an all out attack- coughing, sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose, post nasal drip, itchy/watery eyes, exhaustion, skin rash.... The Fall can make you wanna fall- right back into bed. The good news is, acupuncture is super beneficial for treating Fall allergies and with a slight head start, you can even avoid symptoms all together. But have no fear, if you allergies are here now. I can help.
The goal of acupuncture is to create balance in the body. Perfect Homeostasis. If you are symptomatic in any way, you are out of balance. Acupuncture boosts the immune system, improves circulation, decreases inflammation, stops coughing, transforms phlegm and can stop itching. It's LITERALLY the antidote to allergic reaction. Acupuncture coupled with a few tips and tricks to get ahead of things (hello proper hydration, changing your clothes when you come in from outdoors and getting adequate rest) you can enjoy all that Fall has to offer.
Is Acupuncture right for me?
YES!!! And I’m not just saying that because I am an acupuncturist. There are limitless benefits to acupuncture and everyone can partake- even if you think there is nothing “wrong” with you.
It may be obvious but acupuncture can be used as TREATMENT for health related conditions. If you have pain, illness, stress or mental-emotional difficulties, acupuncture can be used to treat your ailments. It is not a substitute for other forms of medicine but a supplement to conventional care.
Acupuncture can be used to PREVENT illness or symptoms from occurring. Acupuncture increases circulation and boosts immunity, therefore serving to prevent symptoms from popping up. For example, people who experience seasonal allergies every Spring, may begin treatment prior to Spring and can often avoid allergy symptoms altogether.
And lastly, acupuncture can be used as a form of MAINTENANCE. Once you recover from pain or illness, it is often prudent to continue care in some form to continue feeling well. This means different things for different people. I have some patients that come in 4 times a year for general wellness and that is enough. And I have some patients with who recover from major illness and still come every other week because they like how it feels to be well.
If you have questions about how acupuncture can help you, please reach out. I am happy to offer my knowledge.
I get asked this question all the time. Over the years the way I answer has changed a lot. You see, in school we are taught to keep our personal lives private- to maintain professional boundaries with our patients. And this is a very personal question. But after some time in clinical practice I realize that patients connect best when they can relate to you. So while I will not disclose ALL of the details of my personal life, I feel comfortable talking about this. Acupuncture changed my life for the better at a time when I desperately needed a change. It was a miracle to me. And I wanted to be able to create that miracle for others.
I have Crohn’s Disease. I started to get sick when I was in college. And like many people, my symptoms got worse under stress. So for the next 7 years I struggled with illness as I tried to navigate college, graduation and my first (and second) careers out of school. For a stretch of time I was so sick that I spent every single vacation and personal day in the hospital. I vomited my dinner every night for years. In those 7 years, I had been on 17 different medications, had countless endoscopies, colonoscopies, small bowel series exams, biopsies, test after test after test. I was referred out for second and third opinions all because no matter what I tried, I could not get my symptoms under control. My job was stressful on its own but also required travel; which meant irregular sleep and meal patterns, too much caffeine and frequent alcohol use (Hello, “business dinners”). I tried to maintain the appearance that I was fine but literally felt like I was dying on the inside. One fateful day, in between back to back meetings, I went to the restroom and had an intestinal prolapse. If you don’t know what that is, you may NOT want to google it. But that was the moment I knew something had to give. I had been considering going to Medical School anyway and this was just the push I needed to make the change. I wanted to learn more about health and wellness and desperately wanted to be able to understand why I felt the way I did.
When I was released from the hospital, I scheduled my first actual vacation. I wasn’t going to travel. I was just going to spend the week taking care of myself. And thinking about my future. I scheduled my Medical College Admission Test, booked a facial, made an acupuncture appointment, met with a new dietician, ate home cooked food and just tried to catch up on rest.
My first acupuncture treatment was interesting and I spent most of it overthinking…
What the heck IS this doing? How did I get here? Is there something in these needles? How long has it been? What if I have to pee? Or poop? Can I afford this?
But after my second treatment, something happened. I didn’t feel drastically better. When you are in chronic pain it can be hard to pinpoint when things STOP hurting. You are so used to pushing through and trying not to focus on the discomfort. But, my symptoms subsided A LOT. Enough that I was able to stop taking medication. It only took 2 acupuncture treatments to do what 7 years of specialists and 17 medications could not. I felt better. That created a mental shift for me. I wondered why I wanted to practice conventional medicine when it hadn’t been that helpful to me. I immediately started to explore acupuncture, and naturopathic medicine programs. I still fully believe in Western Medicine and have great relationships with my physicians. But, I also believe in treating the body as a whole and not just treating a symptom or a disease. I felt called to help others in the way that acupuncture had helped me. And while I still have Crohn’s disease, it has been 13 years since I started acupuncture. I am mainly symptom free and still have never needed medication again.
My story is not typical. Most people need much more acupuncture to overcome a chronic illness. But it is a testament to how powerful acupuncture can be. And hopefully it can serve as an example that trying something new may just be the light at the end of the tunnel for you.
What do I wear to my appointment??
I cannot believe I have been in this business 10 years and have never thought to address this question. I guess its one of those blind spots you have when you do something day in and day out; you don’t consider that others are new to it.
So here is the answer- you can wear almost anything that is LOOSE FITTING and comfortable. Wide leg jeans, wide leg yoga pants, shorts, skirts, dresses and any kind of short sleeve shirt are generally good choices. Skinny jeans, leggings and turtlenecks are not. In order to receive treatment, your acupuncturist will need unrestricted access to your lower legs, lower arms and sometimes your neck and upper back. If pulling up the legs of your pants restricts your tissue, then your blood flow will also be restricted. Since one of the main goals of acupuncture is to improve your circulation, we do not want to start off on the wrong foot (or leg!) by having to fight with your clothing for optimal circulation. I even heard an acupuncturist say that pajamas are the perfect thing to wear for treatment! This can serve double duty since the majority of acupuncture patients take a nap during treatment anyway.
If you don’t typically dress in a way that is conducive to receiving acupuncture, then I recommend leaving a short sleeve t-shirt and a pair of shorts in your car so that you may change when you arrive for your appointment. That way, you are always prepared.