Needles freak me out…

March 7th, 2013


Well then you are not alone. Most of us have had a bad memory or two of getting an injection as a child or an adult. The anxiety, the pain, the lingering soreness after the injection tend to stick with us and leave an indelible memory. What most people don’t realize is that an acupuncture needle is a fraction of the size of the needle you remember so well. In fact it typically takes 4-6 acupuncture needles to equal the size of one injection needle. 

Acupuncture needles are so small that many of our patients are shocked to know that the treatment has even started. They are even more shocked at how relaxed they are and some patients tell us that they have never been so relaxed in their lives. Many patients fall asleep during their treatments, and even many children (who universally hate needles) are eager to come for treatment because they understand how great it makes them feel. 

Of course there are always some people who just can’t go the needle route, and those people need to know that there are still some excellent natural options for their health and wellness. Other types of therapy such as Chinese herbs, dietary therapy, massage and nutritional supplementation are immensely helpful. They key is to approach each patient as an individual and customize the treatment options for them. So if you just can’t get by the thought of a thin, fine needle, then remember there are other treatment options available to you based on a 3,000 year old medicine that has benefited billions of people. 

An In-depth Look at Acupuncture for Depression and Anxiety

February 13th, 2013

It is estimated that over 100 million people worldwide suffer from depression and the number of people suffering with anxiety may be even greater. As the pace of our lives and the stress we endure increases, many of us reach a breaking point where we can no longer effectively cope with life’s demands. More and more people are turning to antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications just to keep up with the stress of the modern world. And while these medications can be extremely effective and helpful, there are other more natural methods for effectively treating depression and anxiety. 

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have been used to effectively treat depression and anxiety for thousands of years. Through a comprehensive approach that includes acupuncture, Chinese Herbal medicine, and dietary therapy we can effectively address a myriad of symptoms that can naturally improve your physical and emotional health. It is essential to remember that there is no one solution that will help everyone as this medicine is grounded in the belief that treatment should be customized to fit the individual patient’s needs. 

However, we can generally view depression and anxiety as the result of one of two conditions in TCM. In many cases depression and anxiety can be the result of stagnant energy (Qi) in the body which results in symptoms of lethargy, irritability, diffuse body pain, and a lack of interest in most activities. Other symptoms that may also be evident include frequent headaches, sluggish or sensitive digestion, and frequent mood swings. One of the key indicators of this type of depression/anxiety is that the person generally feels better with physical exercise and the more exercise they get, the better they feel. In addition, these people may feel worse if they eat heavy, rich foods that result in an increased level of stagnation and thus a more profound feeling of depression and/or anxiety. 

Another common condition that results in depression and anxiety is what is known in TCM as blood deficiency. This should not be confused with anemia, but is rather a condition where the person’s blood has become depleted typically from overwork, poor diet, or stress. The symptoms associated with this condition include extreme fatigue, an inability to get out of bed, a profound sense of despair, frequent weeping, a lack of interest in anything, and a feeling of being unable to keep up with the demands of life. Physical symptoms might include dry skin and hair, insomnia, a lack of muscle tone, poor eyesight, and heart palpitations. With this type of condition the person usually feels unable to exercise or worse after exercising. In most cases this is a much more profound case in comparison to a person with stagnant Qi, and is frequently the cause of postpartum depression. 

It is very important in these cases to assess each person’s needs and provide the appropriate treatment. Far too many people suffering from anxiety and depression are given the same type of pharmaceutical treatments with widely varying results. Our mental health has a direct relationship with our physical health and until we start addressing all aspects of a person’s health, we will be unable to provide the comprehensive care that everyone deserves.


Food as Medicine

July 20th, 2011

What many Chinese families have known for centuries is now becoming better known here in the west. The combination of everyday cooking with traditional Chinese herbs makes for a delicious and incredibly healthy meal that increases your energy level, reduces stress, and supports your immune system.

In fact, many Chinese herbs such as ginger, licorice root, dates, wheat, and barley are also common foods that also have important health benefits. These types of herbs are commonly referred to as food grade herbs or kitchen medicine and have greater benefit when used in combination rather than using individual herbs alone.

Many Chinese cooks will add simple herbs such as ginger (Sheng Jiang), Angelica root (Dang Gui), and Ginseng (Ren Shen) to chicken soup or stew for an energy enhancing, immune boosting dish that is as healthy as it is delicious. Other herbs such as Gou Qi Zi, commonly known as Goji berries make an excellent snack or provide a tasty addition to sautéed asparagus or broccoli.

The art of combining Chinese herbs with food has become so popular in China that there are now restaurants where a doctor will assess your current condition and then tell you exactly what to order off the menu. This concept takes individualized medicine combined with the power of food and a healthy diet to a whole new level.

What is Japanese Acupuncture? (Part 3)

April 27th, 2011

So the simple answer to the question of what is Japanese acupuncture is… there is no such thing. There are a wide variety of acupuncture physicians in Japan today. Some practice the contemporary Chinese style, some practice medical acupuncture, and a small but growing minority practice the neoclassical traditions as described above.

The different styles of acupuncture practiced in Japan can be broadly viewed as follows:

  • Contemporary Chinese Acupuncture is the form of acupuncture practiced in modern China today. It is based on the classical theories of medicine developed in China, but it was vastly simplified after the communist revolution in 1949. This style of treatment focuses on the specific functions of acupuncture points and uses larger needles with a strong stimulation to address specific problems.
  • Medical Acupuncture is often utilized by modern medical professionals as a secondary treatment used in conjunction with modern pharmaceuticals and physical therapy. The emphasis of this technique is placing needles at the site of the pain or problem and utilizing strong stimulation to affect a change. Meridian theory and classical concepts of organ physiology and pathophysiology are not part of this treatment approach.
  • Meridian Therapy (Keiryaku Chiryo) is the result of the neoclassical approach in Japan and is based on using acupuncture and moxibustion within the context of classical Chinese and Japanese theory to balance the flow of energy (Qi or Ki) and blood in the body’s meridians. In addition, each patient is assessed using classical techniques to determine the root of the problem and what is allowing their specific set of symptoms to manifest. This form of therapy is based on the classical texts such as the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal medicine and the Classic of Difficult Issues. In addition, it is heavily based on 5 element theory that is presented in these classical texts. This form of acupuncture uses very thin needles and gentle stimulation to move stagnant energy and supplement any energetic deficiencies. The emphasis of this style of acupuncture and moxibustion is not just the treatment of disease, but also the promotion of good health and wellness.
  • Toyo Hari Acupuncture is a very gentle form of meridian therapy that is predominantly practiced by blind practitioners in Japan. It is similar to meridian therapy in that the emphasis is on the meridians and very gentle needle stimulation. In this form of acupuncture, needles are often just touched to the skin and then quickly removed. Extraordinary sensitivity to energy (Qi or Ki) is required to practice this form of acupuncture

As we can see, the idea of Japanese acupuncture is quite misleading as there are a wide variety of acupuncture styles practiced in Japan today. Only about 20-30% of the practitioners in Japan practice any form of Meridian Therapy as it requires years, if not a lifetime, of extensive training in an art form whose roots go back thousands of years. Many of the great physicians we have trained with have been practicing this unique form of medicine for 40 to 50 years and they openly admit that they are still learning and developing their skills even after working with hundreds of thousands of patients.

In the United States today, likely less than 5% of the licensed acupuncturists practice this classical from of Meridian Therapy. It is generally not taught in most acupuncture schools here in the west and if it is, it is usually just an introduction. Japanese Meridian Therapy requires years and years of study, practice, and devotion. For many practitioners who need to get out of school and quickly start making a living, the years necessary to perfect their technique are too high a price to pay. Unfortunately, many people claim to practice “Japanese Acupuncture” unknowingly believing that using fine needles and gentle stimulation is all there is to this classic art form.

Many people who have experienced other forms of acupuncture try Japanese Meridian Therapy because they have not gotten better or the treatments were painful. When they experience Meridian Therapy, they are in awe of how painless and effective it can be. This style of treatment holds great benefit to many people, but we all must come to understand that all acupuncture is not the same. True classical acupuncture is the result of years of study, dedication, practice, and a profound desire to help those in need.

What is Japanese Acupuncture? (Part 2)

April 22nd, 2011

The catalyst of this movement came predominantly from the blind acupuncturist tradition in Japan where acupuncture was a traditional profession for the blind. These highly skilled practitioners benefitted from their highly sensitive sense of touch using very thin needles and gentle treatments to achieve outstanding results. They believed that acupuncture and moxibustion were only effective if the practitioners were well versed in and practiced classical concepts and techniques.

As the influence of western medicine in Japan grew, these practitioners faced a looming crisis as western concepts continued to undermine classical medical theories and disenfranchise the physicians who practiced them. A group of concerned and committed physicians such as Yanagiya Sorei, Okabe Sodo, Takeyama Shinichiro, and Inoue Keiri worked tirelessly to find and learn from senior physicians who were still practicing classical techniques. Much of the classical tradition was based on using the body’s meridians or energetic pathways to treat disease and promote health. The young men who worked so hard to preserve these traditions also incorporated some of the modern western scientific understanding of how the body works into their treatment philosophy.

Just as this neoclassical form of Japanese acupuncture was beginning to flourish, the dark clouds of World War II consumed Japan and the renewal of this valuable medicine was threatened once again. The difficult times that followed Japan’s defeat saw all forms of acupuncture and moxibustion banned by the U.S. occupation government as many reforms were instituted. At this time, all the differences among acupuncture physicians were set aside as they all worked to reinstate their rights to practice traditional forms of medicine. Following their reinstatement to practice medicine in 1948, many of the old arguments resurfaced and the debate continues today.

To be continued…

What is Japanese Acupuncture? (Part 1)

April 20th, 2011

People often ask us, what is the difference between Chinese and Japanese acupuncture? The answer to this question is both simple and complex. The philosophy and medical theories that form the nexus of Traditional Asian Medicine all come from the classical texts of China with the oldest being the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine written approximately 2,300 years ago.

As medicine developed in China, much of this information was spread predominantly by monks traveling between monasteries to the Korean peninsula and then ultimately to Japan. The teaching also spread westward to Tibet, Vietnam, and Burma (Myanmar) influencing other cultures and their approach to medicine.

As knowledge spread to Japan, its unique people, culture, and history started to influence and shape the medicine to the distinctive needs of its people. Particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries when Japan was closed off to much of the outside world, acupuncture and herbal medicine was further shaped and refined becoming a highly valued source of health, wellness, and treatment of disease.

During the late 19th and 20th centuries, Japan opened itself to the world and more modern forms of medicine were introduced by the Dutch and American delegations. At this time, traditional forms of acupuncture began to be viewed as unscientific and the constant refinement of diagnosis, treatment and technique that were the core of effective traditional treatment began to decline. It was at this time that a highly committed group of traditional acupuncture physicians started a movement to get back to the classical nature of the medicine that was imported over the centuries from ancient China.

To be continued….

Natural Fertility

April 14th, 2011

In the May 2011 issue of Whole Living magazine there is an interesting article called “Fertile Ground” that discusses the pros and cons of various natural fertility treatment options. The article addresses the concerns of many women who want to conceive in a more natural way without having to rely on hormone injections and IVF treatments.

The author briefly addresses some of the more popular natural approaches to fertility including acupuncture, diet, massage, Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs, and mind-body treatments. The article also briefly touches on the research related to each of these different therapies.

It is interesting to note that about one quarter of infertile couples utilize acupuncture to assist in conception. In many cases women are receiving acupuncture both before and after an IVF embryo transfer in order to improve the success rate. The author cites a German study that showed the success rate of IVF with acupuncture was 43% while the IVF success rate without acupuncture was only 26%.

The author also noted that her experience with acupuncture left her with a throbbing ache at each of the needle insertion sites. Unfortunately, this is a clear indication that she went to an acupuncturist who feels that deep needling with a strong sensation works best. As any well trained, traditional acupuncturist would tell you this is not usually the case.

When it comes to acupuncture for fertility, gentle needling with little or no sensation, combined with moxibustion is the most effective way to enhance blood flow to the ovaries and uterus. Sometimes less is much better, and it is very important that couples seek out well trained practitioners who will work with them as partners on their journey toward parenthood.

Chinese Herbs, a Natural Solution for Seasonal Allergy Relief

March 5th, 2011

Anyone who has ever moved to North Carolina from another state knows how difficult spring can be for seasonal allergy sufferers. Many people rely on antihistamines, decongestants, and allergy shots to find some level of relief. Many people don’t realize that there is a much better, more natural way to deal with seasonal allergies.

Chinese herbs have been used for centuries to help allergy suffers find relief and in some cases Chinese herbs can be used for a more permanent solution. Chinese herbal medicine is not used to just alleviate symptoms, but is also used to help support the underlying deficiencies in each patient so that they will become less reactive to allergens. With approximately 9,000 natural herbs and minerals used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are a wide variety of solutions and treatment approaches for allergy sufferers.

In addition, diet can be an important component of any allergy treatment plan. It is important to remember that Chinese Medicine treats each person as an individual and there is no one solution that will work for everyone. With an individualized approach, we can much more effectively address each patient’s unique set of symptoms and work with them toward a natural and effective solution.

Acupuncture: Just what the doctor ordered for stroke victims?

February 25th, 2011

A recent article in the Sun Sentinel once again reminds us of the importance of not giving up on stroke patients and continuing to find innovative ways to help them in their recovery. As one of the leading causes of death here in the Southeastern United States, stroke should be everyone’s concern. Stroke is also prevalent in parts of Asia where acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine are commonly used as an integral part of the patient’s recovery plan.

Far too many patients recovering from stroke go through the rehabilitation process and are then told that no further improvements can be expected. Nothing could be further from the truth. With acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine I have seen many patients achieve improvements in mobility, speech and mental cognition even years after the stroke.

I encourage anyone who has a loved one living with disabilities from a stroke to seek out further treatment and learn how the ancient techniques of acupuncture can help these people live a better life.

The full article can be found here…

Acupuncture and Depression

January 21st, 2011

When most people think about treatments for depression, acupuncture is usually not the first thing that comes to mind. Yet acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been used for thousands of years to combat this debilitating condition. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are two of the key treatment modalities of Traditional Asian Medicine that was originally developed to not just treat the physical body, but the mind and emotions as well.

The approach to treating depression with Traditional Asian Medicine is twofold. First, use acupuncture to gently unblock stagnant areas of the body that often leave patients suffering from depression feeling “heavy,” “foggy,” or “achy.” Second, use Chinese Herbal Medicine to support any underlying deficiencies that leave people feeling weak, exhausted, and unable to cope with the stress in their lives.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are two natural, effective ways of managing short and long term depression. They are often welcome alternatives to modern medications and they can also address other symptoms such as insomnia, poor digestion, and fatigue that may be contributing to the depression. In this way, each person is treated as a whole person integrating body, mind, and spirit.