Welcome to the Rose City Acupuncture blog!

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1) To the left are the “top articles” that people read the most.

2) Below that, you’ll find articles categorized by topic. I’m big on self-care, so one of the topics is “Acupressure YOU can use.”

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The sacroiliac joint, sciatica, and unexplained lower back pain

I often have patients come in with a “mysterious” chronic lower back pain. Sometimes it’s described as lumbar or hip pain. They’ve been to doctors and chiropractors, but it still persists. As soon as they put their hand on it (low and to the side, where the buttocks meet the back) it’s pretty clear that the problem is the SI – the sacroiliac joint.

Pelvis

The SI joint – where the sacrum meets the ilium – is a long vertical area on the sides of the lower back. Back pain is often centered at the top of the SI joint.

At the bottom of your spine is a triangular bone, the sacrum. Attached to that is your pelvis (made up of the ilium, ischium, and pubis). Your femurs, the long bones of your thighs, settle into a socket on the side of the pelvis. A complex set of ligaments and lots of muscles join all these bones. If one or more of these muscles is tight, weak, or spastic, it can throw the balance of the entire pelvic system off. A few of the major players are Iliopsoas, piriformis, and quadratus lumborum. These muscles keep us upright and help us walk, but when they go bad… I call them the Holy Trinity of Lower Back Pain.

Quadratus Lumborum runs from the lower ribs to the top of the ilium. There are also connections to the spine. This is your "hip hiking" muscle - imagine a "belly dance" sort of motion - but if course it's essential in walking and other daily movements.

Quadratus Lumborum runs from the lower ribs to the top of the ilium. There are also connections to the spine. This is your “hip hiking” muscle – imagine a “belly dance” sort of motion – but if course it’s essential in walking and other daily movements.

Iliopsoas starts at the front of the spine and the ilium, goes through the pelvic cavity, and attaches to the femur. It gets tight on people who sit a lot, particularly if you are tense while sitting (motorcylists and people who hate their jobs).

Iliopsoas starts at the front of the spine and the ilium, goes through the pelvic cavity, and attaches to the femur. It gets tight on people who sit a lot, particularly if you are tense while sitting (motorcylists and people who hate their jobs). When tight, it jams the bones together and creates stress on the joints.

 

Piriformis

This is a back view. The piriformis muscle attaches at the sacrum, and goes across the butt to the femur. The sciatic nerve passes under it or through it, depending on your personal anatomy. When the piriformis gets tight, it squishes the sciatic nerve and can cause electric shocks or pain running down the leg.

With every step you take, the sacrum “nutates” – it tilts back and forth in relation to the ilium. If the bones are jammed together and can’t glide properly, it causes pain. Sitting can also be a painful prospect: If the joint is inflammed, the altered pressure of a seated position can be excruciating. I understand this very well because I developed lower back pain and SI problems along with a L4-L5 disc herniation after my car accident in 2001. I wasn’t able to sit at all for the 6 months before I discovered acupuncture and Osteopathy.

There’s rarely only one muscle involved. Usually a primary dysfuction causes a cascade of compensation with other muscles. Nerves can be pinched by either tight muscles directly or by a bone pulled out of place by a tight muscle (bones don’t move by themselves).  Nerve impingement can lead to pain radiating down the leg or into the genital area. Motor control as well as sensation may be affected. The leg may go weak, or a patient may experience bladder or bowel incontinence (If this happens, get to the ER immediately – they will take steps to relieve pressure on the nerve and prevent permanent damage).

In most cases, the first thing we have to do is reset the tension on the muscles. Acupuncture and medical massage will work wonders here. Once the soft tissue is corrected, I can generally realign the bones with fingertip pressure. They just slide back home with no drama or fuss. Now it’s a matter of allowing the irritated nerve to calm down, which can take 20 minutes to months (or never, in worst-case scenario), depending on the extent of the damage. Whenever you are dealing with entrapped nerves, it’s important to get care immediately. Releasing them quickly gives you the best shot at a full recovery like mine. Getting the pain knocked down allows you to rebuild. Rehabilition exercises and stretches (plus some myofascial release) will make your muscles strong and supple again, so they work properly, which will keep your bones in the right places. I no longer have any back pain, and I’m back in the gym doing heavy workouts including Romanian deadlifts!

Headache & migraine treatment options

Got a headache? The biggest cause is dehydration, so first, have a drink of water. Other common causes are caffeine withdrawal, high blood pressure, stress, low blood sugar, and tight neck muscles. If you have persistent or severe headaches, you should get them checked out by a healthcare professional (If only so they can say “It’s not a tumah!”), but for minor annoyances you can treat it yourself with acupressure (points listed below).

Human skull bonesI usually find that migraines are caused by hormonal imbalances, or by neck muscle tension pulling on cranial bones. Our skulls are not a giant fixed globe: There are lots of different plates and oddly shaped bones that make up our brain protection. The joints (called “sutures”) are shaped like jigsaw puzzles.

My favorite cranial bone, the sphenoid. It barely shows at the side of the head, but inside it makes a gorgeous butterfly shape. When torqued, it also gave me a monstrous migraine headache!

My favorite cranial bone, the sphenoid. It barely shows at the side of the head (it’s pink in the other picture), but inside it makes a gorgeous butterfly shape. When torqued, it also gave me a monstrous migraine headache!

Our bones move with a subtle pulsing called the craniosacral rhythm. If the neck muscles attached to the skull get too tight, they can jam up those joints and cause migraines. The fix: Acupuncture and medical massage for the muscles involved. Craniosacral therapy by a skilled practitioner is also wonderful, but be sure to see someone who’s thoroughly trained. A weekend seminar is not enough! If it’s hormonal causes, acupuncture is superb for that as well.

Here’s a handy acupressure point for any headache, including a migraine: It’s in that “second piercing” spot, below the anti-tragus. Press firmly for a few seconds. If you have an earring in, you should remove it if possible, at least until your headache passes. For more information on ear points, check out this article. Also, look at LI-4KD-1, and GB-21 and TB-5  if you have neck tension.

Press firmly with a fingertip or fingernail. It will hurt, but it'll be worth it!
Press firmly with a fingertip or fingernail to stop a headache or migraine. It will hurt, but it’ll be worth it!

 

Ear seeds – Radishes for reflexology!

If you ever attend an event with me, soon you’ll notice people walking around with funny little stickers on their ears. Ear seeds are my mobile acupressure strategy. When people come up to me and ask what I can do about their back pain in the middle of a party… BAM! On go the ear seeds. These are radish seeds on a tiny piece of band-aid tape. There’s nothing magical about the radish – they are just the right size and shape to apply acupressure to any of the 100 points on your ear (map below).

You’re familiar with reflexology, right? You know how your entire body is reflected on your hands and feet? Same deal with the ears. I can treat pain or dysfunction anywhere in the body, emotional upheaval, anxiety, etc. This is why I’m not a huge fan of lots of piercings. It’s also why ear massages are like getting a full body massage, and terrific for immediately calming someone down. Try it the next time your baby is cranky, your dog is freaked out, or your sweetheart has road rage. :) Just gently rub the entire ear – don’t worry about hitting specific points for this purpose.

Once the seeds are on, they are working. They will last 3-4 days, and you can shower normally. If you want to give the treatment a boost, and can’t feel them on your ears, give them a gentle squeeze to wake them up. If you are already aware of them, leave them alone… they will probably be pretty tender to the touch! Sometimes people find the ear seeds annoying or sore, particularly if they are side-sleepers or they are working superhard. In that case, just take them off. The point is to make you feel better!

I never charge for ear seeds. Ask me for them anytime – I always have them in my purse, and you are welcome to drop by the clinic for a quick installation.

Note: Some people use ear staples for quitting smoking, weight loss, etc. I prefer ear seeds, since sending someone out with an open wound is an invitation to infection. Acupressure is hugely powerful and hurts less, too!

There are about 100 points on the ear, so I can treat nearly anything. Ear seeds are quick, portable, and give you a few days of acupressure.

There are about 100 points on the ear, so I can treat nearly anything. Ear seeds are quick, portable, and give you a few days of acupressure.

Healthy Boots – that look great!

I got rid of 95% of my old shoes once I made the switch to minimal, wide-toed, unheeled footwear. Wearing my old collection just felt awful after my toes were liberated. Like children, once they are educated, there’s no going back. :) So I was left with my new shoes… and NO healthy boots. With our cold, damp winters, and as much time as I like to spend outside, that was no good at all. So I went on a mission. I visited Shoe Mill (their selection was disappointingly high-heeled and rigid-soled) and Footwise (just didn’t see anything that appealed to me). I would have liked to hit Cobbler Bill’s and the rest of my list, but I’m a busy girl!

I checked out both Imelda’s and Clogs & More on Hawthorne about a month back – all I found was the rain boots mentioned in the shoe shopping post. They may have some new stock now. After Nordstrom’s and Macy’s at the mall, I went online. Zappos was uncharacteristically empty of options, but the Nordstrom’s website was terrific.

Here’s what my quest brought me. I didn’t buy all of these, but I did “borrow” a few on my credit card, since they all have free shipping & returns, and I can wear them inside for a while to see how they really feel before I pick which one(s) to keep. Much better than a 30-second try in a store, right?

The Finds:

Keen Delancy

The Keen “Delancy” is close, but I couldn’t get it zipped. This is a common problem for me, since I am 4’10″ and my calf muscles start lower. If you have longer / slimmer legs, try them out. I have been distressed by Keen’s new line, which is both stiff and narrow. These are a rare, and welcome, throwback.

 

phoenixside

 

Soft Star makes this boot, the “Phoenix,” but it doesn’t meet my aesthetic standards so I haven’t tested it. I’m not fond of the “Ugg” shape and I don’t do brown. If you do, give them a go!

Born Lecia

 

 

Børn “Lecia” - These made me very, very sad. Born is a great company, and I was SO excited about having red lace-up boots! Sadly, the tops were too long for me, and pushed up under my knees. They were fine for standing, but when I moved and bent my legs they were no good. If you are a normal-sized human this will not be an issue. Note – these would be fine for even bigger calves than mine: The tongue has a big overlap. Worse than the height is the heel. It has a pointed bottom, and a soft sole, so the net effect felt like a point poking up into my heel. Immediately very uncomfortable, and it got worse over 20 minutes.

 

Merrel Haven (Nordies)

Merrell “Haven” is no oasis.

My first impression: The Havens are the least comfortable Merrell’s I’ve ever worn. They are far too narrow. By the time I sized up to a decent width, they were crazy long… Like, clown shoe long. Try again, Merrell. Plus, the look isn’t really my style. Note: The Captiva (not shown) is wider and better looking, but I couldn’t zip it. Besides, it has a small heel lift.

 

 

Born Kaila (Macys) healthy boots

THE WINNER! I was Born to wear these healthy boots! :)

 Børn “Kaila,”  at Macy’s 

Love these! They do have about a half inch net heel – the most heel I’ve worn in months – but it’s not bothering me. Initially the top of the calf was snug on me, but it quickly stretched sufficiently that I don’t feel it anymore. Bonus: There is an adjustable buckle at the top. Mine are matte black. This glossy pic is the “mahogany.”

Verdict: YES! There was even room for my Correct Toes inside these gorgeous things!

Romika Fiona

Romika,  please make a quieter, taller version!

 

 

 

Romika “Fiona” at Nordie’s. 

Also in black. These look narrow, but feel huge inside! I swear they are made of Tardis! Unfortunately the zippers jingle when I walk (I’d have to swap the tab out), and the height of the calf is awkward and unflattering. They would be good under pants or jeans, but I pretty much only wear skirts.

 

 

NF JaneyNorth Face “Janey II Luxe” (Ordered from Nordstrom’s website)

I very much liked the short zipper at the inner ankle, which allowed for easy on-off. However, the toebox was narrow and stiffly structured. That’s a no.

 

 

 

Sorel Yaquina

 

Sorel “Yaquina”  (Ordered from Nordstrom’s website)

So close! The toebox is just a little too snug. I could feel it pressing against my big toe. If you have narrow feet, these will work beautifully for you. But not for me.

 

 

Final verdict:

The only pair that really worked for me 100% was the Born Kaila. I’m wearing the black ones right now, and I’m ordering a second pair of “mahogany.” The Keen “Delancy” and Sorel’s “Yaquina” were close… try them if you are, respectively, slim-calved and narrow-footed.

Hopefully this little review has helped you find some healthy boots, and more importantly, reminded you of what to look for when shopping. Please let me know if you find any other good candidates!

Easy / Advanced Bodywork Class, Jan 18th

Saturday, Jan 18th, 10am-1pm, I’m holding another session of my intensive, 3 hr hands-on class on medical massage. Class will take place in the same building as my clinic at 3806 SE Belmont. The concepts are easy to understand, but you’ll get advanced results. We will cover 5 (possibly 6) techniques to help soothe tight muscles and chronic pain, and to generally relax your loved ones. NO massage or anatomy experience required! I’ll show you how to use the nervous system into tricking muscles into behaving, and how to erase scar tissue.

massage-myofascial

Myofacial release is a great way to show someone you love them, including yourself!

This advanced bodywork class is appropriate for every body, since I will show you how to tailor your work to your partner’s needs. Please note that you will be learning Osteopathic techniques, NOT traditional massage. Techniques include Trager, myofascial, exhaustion release, counterstrain, and percussion. Handouts will be provided. If the class goes smashingly well, we may have time for a 6th bonus technique. Bring a partner or come alone: We will practice on each other.

Limited to 8 people to ensure that I can provide lots of hands-on feedback and instruction: Make your payment now to reserve your spot! $75 per person. Reserve your space early if you want to come! I cannot take credit cards over the phone, but you can come by, use PayPal, or mail me a check.

Note: Tell your friends! If the bodywork class fills early, I can open a second one for later in the afternoon, since I am renting the space for the day!

Anti-inflammatory HTPT – Smell like pancakes *and* feel better!

Last month I mentioned that I was having some trouble with my Arnica distributer. I found a fantastic solution: Hai Tong Pi Tang. This is an ancient Chinese anti-inflammatory formula, containing frankincense, myrrh*, saffron, and a number of other herbs. The tincture is in an alcohol base, and made by a local acupuncturist. It comes in a spray bottle, so you can easily apply to any injured or inflamed area. External use only, and not on broken skin, please!

Here’s a fun bonus: The aromatic herbs combine to create a “pancake” scent. Much nicer than Ben-Gay or the usual herbal stinkiness! Watch out, though, you might get nibbled on by fans of maple syrup. :) 1oz bottle for $10, or 2 oz for $20.

I still have 2 bottles of the Organic Arnica, which is ideal for bruises, sprains, and strains.

frankincense resin

Frankincense resin – anti-inflamatory, anti-bacterial, and calming.

*Frankincense and myrrh have been “Moving” herbs in the Chinese pharmacopia for thousands of years. They are used to treat “stagnation,” which translates to muscular stiffness and pain, among other things. I was once on a cross-country flight when my back seized up. This was early in my acupuncture schooling, while I was still recovering from a traumatic car accident. Somehow I had neglected to pack any anti-inflammatory medication, and the flight attendants weren’t allowed to give me any. I was in so much pain, and I had hours left in that horrible seat! Then I remembered that I had brought along my herb samples to study for an identification test the next Monday. I ate the frankincense and myrrh samples – something I DON’T recommend, as they taste terrible! – and within 20 minutes my pain was gone. I’ve been a big fan ever since.

Human Touch

I shared a link on Facebook last week about the importance of human touch, and there was an immediate pile of private messages thanking me. One person shared that just that day a co-worker had touched her shoulder as she scooted past her in a tight space, and it made her realize how much she needed a hug. Although the article focuses on men, it’s true for women, too.

Some cowboys have to resort to other species to get their snuggles!

Some cowboys have to resort to other species to get their snuggles!

 

I’m so grateful that Robert is physically affectionate. But then, that’s one of the many reasons I chose him. I’m a hugger, and I couldn’t be partners with someone who wasn’t.

 

 

 

 

aaport3

Men as friends, enjoying comfortable physical affection. It’s a beautiful thing.

In our current American society, man aren’t really allowed to touch each other platonically. They shake hands, or slap each other butts to celebrate a touchdown, but they don’t hug the way women do. In European nations, it’s not unusual see male friends walking arm-in-arm. We used to do that here, too, but homophobia and general isolation have reduced common touch to a rarity. Look at these pictures. The intimacy of these pals is heartwarming. Let’s spread a little of that around here… grab a friend and give them a squeeze! Have some buddies over for movies and make a puppy pile on the couch!

 

 

friendssnapshots7

World peace though HUGS!

 

Human touch is important to generate oxytocin, a hormone linked to social bonding and happiness. The people in Richard Renaldi’s “Touching Strangers” project reported that they actually felt themselves caring for their fellow models, more than they expected. I know some of my massage patients come to see me more for the touch than for the therapeutics. It’s why they keep coming back long after I’ve fixed them. And I’m fine with that – it’s my job to help in any way I can – but if we all just touched a friend’s shoulder now and then we could reduce everyone’s stress quite a bit.

 

 

Triple Threat Chicken Recipes – 1 Bird, 3 Meals

One bird can feed 2 people for three days with a little creativity. Try these chicken recipes – they’re all easy, healthy, yummy, and frugal – it’s the total chicken package!

 Day 1: Roasted chicken

You can do this yourself (it’s not hard) or pick up a pre-cooked beauty at the grocery store on your way home. Did you know Whole Foods sells pre-cooked organic ones? That’s terrific if you’re exhausted and working late, but if you have time, try this:

A little rosemary on top makes for a beautiful and tasty presentation.

A little rosemary on top makes for a beautiful and tasty presentation.

Super-Easy Roast Chicken Recipe:

Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat it dry.
Rub the skin with butter or olive oil. Dust with salt & pepper. You can also try thyme, sage, and of course rosemary.
Roast for 20 min/lb. Some chicken recipes call for basting every 20 minutes after 40, but I usually forget to do this and it comes out fine.

Seriously – that’s it! If you can wiggle the drumstick easily, it’s cooked! You can also use a meat thermometer – the inside should be 165 degrees F.

For some variation, slide orange slices, lemon slices, or garlic cloves under the skin. You can also cut up apples and put them inside the bird.

Serve with some veggies (of course).

After dinner, remove all remaining meat from the bones. Stick it in the fridge for Day 2.
Throw the bones, vinegar, and some veggies into a crockpot to start a broth (instructions here) for Day 3.

Day 2: Chicken Salad

Chop the leftover meat into small pieces. Combine with:

chopped celery
chopped dried cranberries (or raisins)
chopped nuts (I love Trader Joe’s rosemary almonds but plain almonds, walnuts & pecans are lovely too)
just enough mayo to moisten (making your own is much healthier)
salt & pepper (omit salt if using seasoned nuts)

This batch contained lots of smoked almonds and *wow* it was delicious!

This batch contained lots of smoked almonds. Delicious!

Serve the chicken salad as a sandwich, or over a green salad. You can also use tortillas or butter lettuce as a wrap.

Has your broth been cooking for more than 24 hrs? If so, use a slotted spoon to remove the solids (bones and veggies – these are nutritionally tapped out at this point), and pour the remaining liquid into a medium soup pot, which goes in the fridge for Day 3.

 

This batch of homemade chicken noodle soup contained chunks of chicken meat, celery, some leftover bacon, and pepper. Re-using an almond butter jar makes getting to work spill-free!

This brew of homemade chicken noodle soup contained chunks of chicken meat, celery, some leftover bacon, and pepper. Re-using an almond butter jar makes getting to work spill-free!

Day 3: Chicken Soup

Remove the congealed fat (white disk on top) from the broth. Put the broth on the stove, and add veggies, pasta or quinoa, and spices. This can be super-hearty with kale and sweet potatoes, or light nourishment for someone fighting a cold. Have fun experimenting! If you don’t want chicken a third day in your week, the broth will freeze beautifully. Just chill it in the fridge and remove the fat layer from the chicken jello before transferring it to the freezer.

Got any favorite chicken recipes of your own? Please share!

Correct Toes, great shoes, & seeking “JL”

1) I am now carrying Correct Toes spreaders (100% guaranteed!) in addition to Arnica. I’ll never be one of those practitioners with an entire pharmacy at my fingertips, but these two products are of very high quality and not easily obtainable. In fact, due to some production problems with the Arnica, I am down to 4 bottles and may not be able to get more for a while. I’m looking into a replacement that will be just as effective.

2) The winner for the October 1 drawing (I give away an hour session to a random blog subscriber every month) has an invalid email. Unfortunately, she’s never been in to see me, so I don’t have a phone number. Just in case she’s subscribing under another email… If your name has the initials JL and you used to have a Yahoo email account… drop me a line! If nobody responds I will pick another lucky winner.

3) I’ve had some great success finding cute (dare I say even SEXY!) shoes that are biomechanically correct. Check out my updated shopping guide here.

4) Today I posted a few articles about Damp and weight loss and how they can be linked, one on posture, and another point you can use at home. :)