Returning Veterans Project

I just submitted my Returning Veterans Project stats for the year (they get government funding based on our hours). I treat vets suffering from PTSD, TBI, and other mental and physical injuries that prevent them from returning to a happy, productive life. This is a free service provided by healthcare practitioners like me in WA and OR who feel we need to do more to support out troops *after* they come home. Honestly, the VA isn’t equipped to help these kids and I feel like somebody has to!

This year I donated 76.5 hours, for a total of 359 since I started in 2011. That makes me really happy. If you want to help, too, contact them directly or use the donation box in my waiting room. :)

Daith piercings

I’m getting a lot of questions about daith piercings that supposedly help you lose weight or stop migraines. These are a bad idea.

1) Piercers are NOT licensed to practice medicine. There is a reason we go to school for all those years, have to pass national tests, and maintain state licenses. They don’t know how much they don’t know.

2) They are using the WRONG points! Here’s an actual map of the ear:

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. Millimeters matter  – sloppy “daith piercing” placement by an inexperienced piercer is asking for trouble!

Here’s that migraine article again. It contains a better set of acupressure points you can use yourself.

3) Obliterating the point can give temporary relief to some, but metal piercings will cause more stagnation and problems long term. You’re setting yourself up for more pain down the road. Read this.

This is why you’ll see articles online talking about mixed results with daith piercings. The problem isn’t with acupuncture…. it’s that they aren’t using acupuncture! Even professional piercers admit they are not a legitimate treatment method.

Free Class: Acupressure for Digestive Health

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

PC-6 – excellent for nausea, heartburn, gastritis, or emotional upheaval causing stomach distress – one of the many points we’ll be learning about in the free class.

I’ll be teaching a free class on self-care – Acupressure for Digestive Health – Saturday, Oct 3rd at the Natural Grocers at 12155 SW Broadway St, Beaverton, OR 97005. The class is 11-12:30. Come join us!

“Learn about digestion from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine. We’ll discuss some handy acupressure points you can use at home to deal with reflux/ heartburn, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, Crohn’s disease, gastroparesis, gastritis, and blood sugar variations.”

 

New location!

The office is moving on September 7th to the Cascade West building:

12655 SW Center Street, 
Suite 530
Beaverton, OR 97005 
The new space has generous parking, is air conditioned and ADA accessible, close to bus and MAX lines… it even has a gorgeous view, and I don’t just mean the lovely massage therapist, Sally Leonard, who will be working with me!

Until the construction is finished, I will be seeing patients as usual in my SE office (3806 SE Belmont St). 

Heartburn / Acid Reflux

What causes heartburn?

What causes heartburn?

Heartburn can be terrible. My patients often come in complaining of a string of miserable nights when nothing can calm the burning in their chests. The ache can extend to the throat and jaw.* Acid reflux is more than just annoying. If left untreated for years, you can develop Barret’s Esophagus and eventually cancer. Soothing the pain has become a mega-industry, but your reflux is not a symptom of a Prilosec deficiency, and in fact long term use may cause Vitamin B12 deficiencies** or heart attacks.

 

Basic reflux defense:

Avoid alcohol, spicy or greasy foods, tomatoes, citrus, chocolate, and mint.

Sleep with an extra pillow to keep your esophagus above your stomach.

Don’t eat large meals or late in the evening.

Some people report a big reduction in symptoms when they cut down on carbs & sugar. It’s worth trying.

Stimulate PC-6. You can do acupressure on yourself.

Use apple cider vinegar.

It seems counter-intuitive to drink vinegar (acetic acid) when your throat is on fire, but it works. Here’s why: Often, the stomach isn’t making *enough* stomach acid. The sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach is signalled to close tight by the presence of acid. If it doesn’t cinch up, the weak acid you do have will escape upwards.

I can’t vouch for all the claimed “miracles” of apple cider vinegar (ACV), but it’s a powerful tool for fighting heartburn. In addition to providing the acidic signal, high quality ACV also contains probiotics that make your gut healthier. This is why you want the cloudy stuff in a glass bottle (Bragg’s) not the cheap clear supermarket brand in the plastic bottle.

Bragg-Organic-Apple-CIder-VinegarShake the bottle until the gross-looking glop becomes a uniform cloudiness. Pour a finger or two of the ACV into a glass, then dilute it to about 3-4 inches with water. Chug it down and follow with tooth brushing or at least a serious rinsing to protect your tooth enamel. Within seconds your heartburn should dissipate. Some just use it as needed – when symptoms appear. More diligent people drink it every day.

* Heart attack symptoms are sometimes confused for heartburn, which is why it’s important to get checked out by a doctor, especially if you are at risk or have heart disease in your family history.

**Vitamin B12 deficiency causes serious health consequences including anemia, osteoporosis, depression, memory loss, dementia, neuropathy and cardiovascular disease.

The Science of Acupuncture

I get asked all the time… “How does acupuncture work?” Modern science is catching up with 10,000 year old acupuncture. I’ve said for years that we just don’t have the method for seeing the structures yet – just as we didn’t understand the minute complexities of the human body – or imagine MRIs! – 200 years ago. It looks like we are slowly figuring it out! Here are a handful of recent articles exploring the science of acupuncture. These are just the ones that I stumbled across. If I had to time to do an exhaustive search this would be a much longer blog post. :)

From the first article below: Oxygen pressure is higher at acupuncture points!

p6oxygen

 Acupuncture Biochemically Reduces Pain and Inflammation

Acupuncture remaps the primary somatosensory cortex of the brain

MRI Reveals Acupuncture Modulates Brain Activity

CT Scans Reveal Acupuncture Points

New Brain Study – Acupuncture Fights Depression

Acupuncture Holds Promise for Treating Inflammatory Disease

Acupuncture Beats Gabapentin for Hot Flashes in RCT

Acupuncture as effective as drugs in treating pain, trial shows

Biological Evidence for the Existence of Acupuncture Meridians inside lymphatic vessels

Curtin researchers unlock the scientific reasons why acupuncture works – C fibers (nerve branches)

But what about “all those studies” that show it’s not effective?

First of all, there are plenty of studies that prove it works. Insurance companies (even the conservative ones) now cover needles for neck and back pain, because studies have specifically proved it, although some deny claims for, say, shoulder pain, because it hasn’t specifically been studied. Makes me want to roll my eyes. Ug.

Secondly, many of the studies that “prove” it doesn’t work are deeply flawed. They have doctors doing a few recipe points they learned in a 20 – 300hr class, rather than an actual acupuncturist. Sometimes the points they choose are completely mystifying to me – not only do they leave out important ones, but there are always one or two just make no sense at all.

Thirdly, TCM differentiates the cause of disease, but lots of studies don’t. You can have a headache due to Yang rising, or Heart xu (deficiency). When a study gives the same treatment to everyone with a headache, of course it’s not effective! The western medical equivalent is putting people with viruses, bacterial infections, and allergies in one group, giving them all an antibiotic, then declaring that drugs don’t work for runny noses.

There are other problems too, like “sham” acupuncture doing “too well” so there isn’t a statistically significant difference. In one study I read back in school, they basically compared acupressure to acupuncture… then declared nothing worked since they both did. That’s just bad study design. There should have been a third control group with no treatment.
equine acupuncture

Equine acupuncture points from the Bagyuiho (Chinese horse and cow acupuncture text), 1399

And that whole placebo thing? It may play a part, as it does with every medical procedure, but it’s not the whole story. In other states (where it was legal without a vet supervising) I have successfully treated animals – there’s no placebo effect there! When a dog, lying limply on the floor and moaning, after 15 min of needles is bouncing up and down, jumping to kiss her owner’s face… that’s not a placebo. Neither is a rabbit regaining bladder and bowel control after a spinal injury. Of course those are anecdotal evidence, but they’re pretty compelling when they repeatedly happen in front of you. Googling for animal studies quickly gave me a whole new batch of data: Horses are studied most often because they have money-making “careers.”

I’ll be perfectly honest – I’m not sold on some of the more esoteric aspects of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). I don’t twirl my needles in a specific direction, for example. Thousands of years ago, when it was developed, there was philosophy as well as medicine involved, and like all ancient sciences, it could use a little update. But acupuncture itself is amazing. It stimulates neuromuscular junctions, which resets neurons (nerves control muscles, which in turn pull on bones). This helps break the cycle of spasms, or activate a non-firing muscle bundle. It reduces inflammation. It distracts nerve receptors and blocks transmission of pain signals. It helps break up fascial adhesions. With older, chronic problems it creates a microtrauma and alerts the body to a “cold case,” which restarts healing. It’s tremendous for nerve repair – check out my paper on stroke recovery. I’ve seen some truly stunning results from people who were locked inside their bodies, long after Western medical science said there would be no more improvement.

“Yang rising headaches,” is just a term for a diagnosis. It’s no more mysterious than “orthostatic hypotension’” for example, if you understand the language of TCM. The articles above show that we are just starting to understand how points work anatomically. I am confident that science will catch up and we’ll have a clear understanding of this system within my lifetime.

The good news is that it doesn’t really matter whether you believe acupuncture works… because it’s medicine, not voodoo, and it will anyway. :) The science of acupuncture is still evolving, but its effectiveness is clear.

Easy Advanced Massage class 2/21: NO exp req


Saturday, Feb 21st, 10am-1pm and 2-5pm (two identical classes – pick one), I’m holding another session of my intensive, 3 hr hands-on medical massage class. The concepts are easy to understand, but you’ll get advanced results. Learn how to ease tight muscles and relax your loved ones with a gentle, intelligent touch. NO massage or anatomy experience required! I’ll show you how to use the neurological system into tricking muscles into behaving, and how to erase scar tissue.

This 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.

The class is 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, or $130 for a pair. Please call 503-964-3422 if you have any questions! I hold this massage class once or twice a year. You can always swing by the office, or I take Paypal (sharon@rosecityacupuncture.com), using the friends & family option is best. You can also mail a check or I can send you a credit card invoice email. :)

This will be the last time I can hold this class until I get into a new venue, so I encourage you to come if you can!

NOTE: as of 1/29 I have 3 spaces left for 10-1, and one left for 2-5.

Welcome to the Rose City Acupuncture blog!

Featured

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.”

3) Use the SEARCH bar (upper left) to seek for something you’re curious about.

4) Please feel free to leave comments/questions!

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 gives me a monstrous migraine headache! I keep them away by getting care for my neck, and using the acupressure points below when one threatens to attack…

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 there are 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. Definitely read this if you’re considering a Daith piercing. 

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!