TB-5 (immune support, neck pain)

The Triple Burner channel relates to the fluid in the upper, middle, and lower body. I believe it correlates to the lymphatic system, since it plays a large part in immunity.

TB-5 will help you fight off an infection, and relax the back of your neck.

The 5th point is named Wai Guan, or Outer Pass. Think about a pass through a mountainside: It lies between the radius and ulna bones of your forearm, about 2 inches from the wrist. “Outer” refers to the back (posterior, Yang) side of the arm, as opposed to the front (anterior, Yin) surface.

Press TB-5 firmly with a fingertip for 10-20 seconds to stimulate your immune system if you have a cold, flu, or any other type of infection. Allergies can benefit from using this point to regulate an over-active immune system. It’s also helpful for aches on the back of the head and neck.

Cosmetic acupuncture: Before and afters

I finally remembered to take a good set of pictures:

Before

After

Before on the left, after on the right. This beautiful woman is about to turn 55. She gained these impressive results after just 5 sessions. She tells me that she loves the way her face looks more relaxed.

 

 

Before

After cosmetic acupuncture. Her skin is softer, and the lines between her eyes are shallower, with smoother edges. A dramatic difference!

Cosmetic acupuncture works by increasing collagen production, improving muscle tone, and stimulating circulation of blood and lymph to the face. Body points are also used to treat the skin as a whole. Most people see subtle changes immediately, with a more powerful shift after a few sessions. If you are a smoker or sun-worshipper, you will need to make a longer commitment to achieve results.

LV-3 (irritability, hormones, leg, hip, or lower back pain)

LV-3, Tai Chong (Great Surge)

Liver 3 is found on the top of the foot, between the long bones of the 1st and 2nd toe. It’s a very important point for the Liver, and helps to move stuck energy from the waist down. You can use it to treat lumbar back pain, leg or knee pain – pretty much any stagnation in the lower body. It’s also great for red eyes and other “Yang Rising” problems, and for dysmenorrhea & hormonal imbalances. LV-3 is an excellent point for treating irritability and grouchiness, particularly if it’s due to hormonal issues like PMS.

LV-3 – “The grouchy point” – will also soothe the lower back.

When used in combination with LI-4, these points are called the Four Gates and can really blast out some stuck Qi. DO NOT use any of these points if there is any possibility of pregnancy, since they can induce a miscarriage. In fact, they are some of my favorites for evicting overdue babies. It will also increase menstrual flow if the patient is having her period.

Press firmly for 10-30 seconds.

The Shoulder

Front view of the bones of the shoulder joint.

We can do amazing things with our arms. Lift them overhead, cross our chests, even link our hands at our spines. In fact, the shoulder is the most mobile joint in our bodies, thanks to its “ball and socket” configuration. See how the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) fits into the scapula (that triangular bone in your upper back) like a baseball into a glove? It can spin on the smooth, round surface to provide a spectacular range of motion.

The posterior (back) view of the shoulder.

Just as with national politics, there’s a trade-off between freedom and stability. The complexity of this joint makes it prone to a variety of injuries. Cartilage lines the articulating joint surfaces to create a smooth track for movement. If torn, it takes a long time to heal and may require surgery. There’s the bursa, a fluid-filled sac that provides cushioning. Inflammation here, called bursitis, can be very painful. Rest, ice, anti-inflammatory drugs, and acupuncture are the best treatments (of course an anti-inflammatory diet will help, too). The well-known rotator cuff is actually a set of four deep muscles that stabilize the joint and work to rotate the humerus. Three (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor) can be seen in the drawing of the back view of the shoulder. The fourth, subscapularis, attaches to the front of the scapula and goes to the front of the humerus and the joint capsule. If torn, they will require rest and then specialized exercises to repair.

Overtop the rotator cuff is a layer of larger muscles, such as the latissimus dorsi & teres major (back), and the pectoralis muscles (front), and the deltoid (that roundy bit at the corner). These are your heavy duty movers. Ironically, since the lats and pecs both attach to the front of the humerus, unbalanced exercising can lead to an internally rotated (palms towards the back) shoulder, or “ape” posture. This is a great example of the importance of an intelligent, balanced workout plan. Then of course there are all the muscles that continue down the arm to control the elbow, including the triceps and biceps.*

If any of these muscles are dysfunctional, the bursa is irritated, or the cartilage is torn, you can have shoulder pain and loss of range of motion. Connective tissue can adhere, and scar tissue builds up over time. In extreme cases, you can develop Frozen Shoulder, which is exactly what it sounds like. It just won’t move. There are other causes of shoulder pain, too, ranging from nerves being pinched at the neck to gallbladder disease, but these musculoskeletal problems are the most common.
Acupuncture can reduce inflammation, increase bloodflow, relax tight muscles, and speed healing. I can also perform Osteopathic medical massage to break up scar tissue, release myofascial adhesions, and retrain the neurological system. This allows chronically tight muscles to return to normal. In most cases, therapeutic exercise is important for complete healing.

*Please note that I’m simplifying the anatomy quite a bit  for the purposes of this article. If you’re interested in all the marvelous details of our bodies, I highly recommend Netter’s Atlas.

The Knee

Let’s talk about the knee joint. It’s not quite as complicated as the shoulder, because it doesn’t move in as many directions. Having that kind of mobility with all of our body weight on top of it… well, that would be a recipe for disaster.  Instead, we have a modified hinge joint. The knee folds, but it also twists a little bit. The trick is keeping this twist under control.

Front view of the knee joint.

Collateral ligaments run along each side, and the cruciate ligaments (named so because they form a cross) inside the joint create stability. Strong quadriceps (a set of 4 muscles on the front of thigh), hamstrings (three muscles in back of thigh), adductors (inside) and abductors (outside) also support the knee. Slick cartilage lines the surfaces where bones meet. The meniscus, a pair of special horseshoe-shaped cartilage structures, help absorb shock and guide the movement of the femur. And there’s a bursa on top of the patella (kneecap) to provide some extra cushioning. Pretty neat design, huh?

Sp-9 treats the knee, and drains Damp (a concept in Traditional Chinese Medicine).

If your gait is off, it can affect your knees and eventually your hips and back. Good shoes are important for knee health. Avoid heels as much as possible. If you have flat feet, use shoes with good arch support. To prevent injury, frequent light workouts are best. If you are a bigger person or have joint issues, try to reduce impact: walking or using an elliptical trainer is better than running, and staying on grass or a rubber track is better than concrete.

 

 
    Did you know that babies are born without kneecaps? They have a cartilage wedge but it doesn’t ossify (turn to bone) until about 3 yrs old. Lucky for them – It makes crawling around on a hard floor much more comfortable.
Acupuncture can reduce inflammation, increase blood flow, relax tight muscles, and speed healing. I can also do Osteopathic medical massage to break up scar tissue, release myofascial adhesions, and retrain the neurological system. This allows chronically tight muscles to return to normal. In most cases, therapeutic exercise is important for complete healing.

Acupressure you can do at home: LV-3

*Please note that I’m simplifying the anatomy quite a bit  for the purposes of this newsletter. If you’re interested in all the marvelous details of our bodies, I highly recommend Netter’s Atlas.

Winter health tips – avoiding colds, SAD, cracked heels, & weight gain

Winter is coming!

In Chinese medical philosophy, infectious illnesses are considered to enter the body at the nape of the neck, so scarves are an important defensive weapon against getting sick. Although I think it has more to do with insulating the carotid arteries at the side of the neck, I am a big encourager of scarf wearing. In addition to preventing infections, a toasty cover will keep your neck muscles warm and relaxed. Pick out a soft, colorful one and give yourself a woolly hug. You can also give your immune system a boost by stimulating TB-5, and including garlic and ginger in your diet along with lots of hearty vegetables.

Don’t be S.A.D.!

If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, the shorter days can sap your energy and leave you feeling depressed. You need to stimulate your pituitary gland, and the best way to do that is to get some time in front of a full-spectrum light, particularly in the morning. You can just pick up some full-spectrum light bulbs at the grocery store, or you can go in for a fancy “light box.” Soak up some photons at close range for about 15 minutes first thing in the morning, while having breakfast or catching up on Facebook.

Cracked Heel remedies

Winter health tip: keep your heels smooth and pain-free by treating cracks early, before they get out of control!

Winter health tip: keep your heels smooth and pain-free by treating cracks early, before they get out of control!

If your feet have suffered this winter, try this: Before bed, apply a high-quality lotion or wax (I like Waxelene, available at New Seasons. No nasty chemicals!) and put on some clean socks. This will keep the moisturizer on your feet rather than your sheets. I hate the restrictive sensation of wearing socks to bed, so I cut the toes off an old pair, which works beautifully. In the morning, before you shower, use a pumice stone or even a broad nail file to remove the dead skin. If you have painful, deep cracks, use some SuperGlue (or better yet Dermabond) to hold them closed and continue with the routine above.

Holiday stuffing

Ah, parties and recipes and comfort food… it’s all fun and games until your pants don’t fit, isn’t it?

Think ahead about making good choices. Have a nutritious snack before a party if you suspect the goodies won’t be good for you.

Potluck? Bring something healthy instead of a dessert!

Focus on quality, not quantity. Save your calories for when they count: Skip the storebought cookies so you can splurge a bit on Aunt Susan’s homemade toffee.

Don’t use the “it’s the holidays” excuse from mid-November to the end of the year! ON the actual holiday, of course, allow yourself to indulge a little, but not everyday! That’s a big chunk of the year!

Winter Heath tip: Get some exercise! Peacock Lane (at 40th and SE Belmont) is annual festival of electricity and inflatable animals in human clothes, and makes for a fun walk.

Winter Heath tip: Get some exercise! Peacock Lane (at 40th and SE Belmont) is annual festival of electricity and inflatable animals in human clothes, and makes for a fun walk.

Bundle up and go for a stroll in a winter wonderland! Check out the lights wherever you live. Some light exercise will aid your digestion, mood, and keep your muscles and joints in good shape. Don’t forget your scarf! :)

If you do overeat, use St-36 to promote digestion. This point is great for nearly all stomach complaints, but be aware that it generates more gastric acid. If you’re having heartburn / reflux, use PC-6 instead. To help speed up peristalsis (the movement of food through your intestines), rub your belly clockwise circle (up on the right side of your abdomen, across the top, down on the left). This is good for painful gas retention, too. For small children, just use a few fingers.

I hope you find these Winter health tips useful. Stay warm! :)

ST-36 (energy boost, improve digestion)

Zu San Li, “Leg Three Miles”, is on the outside of the shin, just a few inches below the knee. Slide your fingertip up the outside edge of the tibia (shinbone) until you fall into a hole. It’s a large point, so trust your instincts. St-36 is deep: Press firmly!

ST-36: Zu San Li will give you wings!

St-36 builds energy in the body: After activating it, you supposedly “can walk another three miles.” I find it useful for treating chronic fatigue or for when you need a temporary boost on a rough day. Since it’s on the Stomach channel, it also helps aid poor digestion.

It nourishes your Yin and activates your Yang. St-36 is the Ruler of the Abdomen, so it’s good for most digestive complaints. Use it to treat indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, gas, malabsorption, diabetes, etc. Note: Stimulation can increase stomach acid, so it’s great for an overfull belly, but bad for ulcers or heartburn / acid reflux.

 

Digestive health (and roasted cauliflower!)

I’ve been seeing an increase in people coming in with digestive problems, and it correlates interestingly with a  little revolution in my personal dietary habits.

Acupuncture for digestive upset – in this case nausea and “grumbling” intestines.

Last month I gave you a recipe for steel cut oats. They are far healthier than regular cereal for breakfast, but ironically, I am longer eating those oats… I’m off grains for the time being. A high-carb/low fat diet is not consistent with our hunter-gatherer evolution, and for some people it causes all sorts of problems, from weight gain to heartburn. I’m reading an amazing book called “Primal Body, Primal Mind.” The author cites a satisfying glut of scientific sources. The information in it resonates strongly with everything I know about physiology, and everything I’ve experienced in my personal struggles with weight. I’ve known for ages that bread is bad for me (very bad for me personally – your metabolism may differ), but it took reading this book to get up the motivation to quit. Working out and eating a “healthy diet” wasn’t doing it… but this seems to be doing the trick. It’s too early to say for sure, but I *am* losing weight and feeling good. My clothes are finally getting looser!

The old-fashioned “food pyramid” (built by lobbyists for Big Food Business) and the emphasis on low-fat, high carb has built a nation of obesity… myself included. It’s time to recognize that science demands a shift in thinking. I want to be clear here that I am not prescribing a ban on grains for everyone. You need to figure out what works for YOUR body. There are a few basic concepts, though, that I think everyone who’s reading the latest research can agree on:

1) Processed food is no substitute for actual, human-made food. If the majority of your meals are coming in bags and boxes, you need to reevaluate.

2) Empty calories (white bread, pasta, and other starches) and sugars lead to chronic inflammation, fat storage, and blood sugar problems. Put down that soda and have some water instead.

3) Fats are not the enemy. We need fats for brain function, neural insulation, and padding for organs, among other things. The trick is to get them from good sources like extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, fish, and grass-fed meats, rather than chemically-altered trans-fats.

Delicious and nutritious! Cauliflower fights cancer and has a surprising amount of Vitamins C and K (important for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory function). Of course it’s also a great source of fiber.

So here’s my new “popcorn” – Cut up cauliflower florets (about the size of a quarter or slightly bigger) and spread them on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil if you like, but it’s good without, too! Add a little sea salt, and roast at 350 degree for 45 minutes. Seriously – even my red-blooded, dedicated-to-his-American-diet boyfriend loved it. Super yummy. Big thanks to personal trainer extraordinaire Brandie Sylfae. :)

Don’t worry – this isn’t going to turn into a food blog. I’ll be back to more acupuncture-oriented discussions next month! :)

 

 

PC-6 (digestive & emotional issues)

PC-6, Nei Guan (Inner Pass)

Nei Guan is one of my favorite acupressure points. It’s perfectly safe (no contraindications), easy to find (2 finger widths from your wrist crease), and easily available, even in public while dressed. It’s wonderful for pretty much ANY stomach complaint.

PC-6 is found on the palm side of your forearm, about two inches from the wrist, between the tendons. It’s often used to treat gastritis (stomach pain), seasickness, nausea and reflux, but Nei Guan settles more than just the digestion. It soothes and grounds the spirit, too, with a gentle calming effect. For this reason, it’s perfect to treat an upset stomach due to emotional upheaval. Press firmly (both sides!) for 10-20 seconds with a healing intention. You can also use an acupressure “sea band” bracelet – just position the hard plastic bead on top of PC-6. They can be found at travel stores, some drugstores, and of course I have them at the office.

PC-6, excellent for nausea, heartburn, gastritis, or emotional upheaval causing stomach distress.

 

 

LI-4 (headache, arm or facial pain, infection, hot flashes)

LI-4: Hegu. This point is astonishingly useful for a wide variety of complaints, but don’t use it if your patient is pregnant!

Large Intestine 4 is the acupoint most well-known by the general public. I first had it taught to me by a riding instructor when I was a kid living in rural Virginia. The name for this point is Hegu, “Joining Valley,” which is a reference to its anatomical location on the back of your hand, in that fleshy area between the thumb and forefinger. Feel around – it’ll be tender if you need it – but the easiest way to find it is to squeeze your thumb against your hand. The highest point of the muscle is where you want to press. Use firm, gentle pressure for 10-20 seconds with a healing intention. Try both sides.

Hegu, or Joining Valley, is a tremendously useful point. It moves stagnation, so you can use it to clear pain and stiffness anywhere in the upper body. Hegu will be particularly effective along the LI channel, which runs from the nail of the forefinger, along the forearm to the lateral (outside) elbow, up the arm and across the shoulder, eventually crossing the upper lip to end at the opposite side of the nose. Shoulder and elbow pain, carpal tunnel, and (of course) headaches are common uses. It’s specifically the Ruler of the Face, so it’s doubly powerful for frontal headaches, eye pain, sinus blockage, and tooth pain. It also releases heat and is part of a point combination for fighting viral or bacterial infections. If  you are prone to hot flashes, this point could be your new best friend. Also use LI-11, pictured here, to clear heat.

And by the way… the leading cause of headache is dehydration. Drink a glass of water!

WARNING: Because Hegu is a moving point, DO NOT use it if you are pregnant or bleeding. It can induce a miscarriage or increase blood loss. On the other hand, if you are overdue and want to evict your baby, this is a great way to do so, along with some other points (assuming everyone is healthy and it’s not a complicated pregnancy!). It will usually increase menstrual flow if the patient is having her period. If you have a severe headache paired with sudden loss of motor control or speech, get to a hospital immediately. DO NOT use LI-4 until you are sure you are not having a hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding inside the brain). This goes for head injuries, too!