I thought I would write some about cupping and gua sha, because until you have it most people don't know what it is. I usually use cupping for pain issues and I usually use gua sha for issues in which there is a great deal of inflammation. So cupping is just an actual suction cup applied to the skin and either left there or moved. I tend to move the cup more than just leave it there but from what I gather most other acupuncturists leave the cup in place. I prefer to move the cup, which is similar to a massage (except the motion of the skin and muscle is up instead of down). I feel I get better results from moving cupping. However if there is a specific point on the muscle you want to address, leaving the cup in place and on tighter is the way to go. Cupping is something I do every day at work, usually several times, so I get a lot of practice at it. Cupping should not hurt, at least not very much. If cupping hurts a lot than the cup is too tight. It doesn't have to hurt to be effective. Cupping is excellent for pain, anywhere really that a cup can be applied. OK, this is not so exciting a discussion, so I will wrap it up by saying that acupuncture and cupping together is a great 1-2 punch for treating pain. I use gua sha less but in the right situation that is what is needed instead of cupping. So any highly inflamed tissue will probably benefit from gua sha. Gua sha is simply scraping the skin. Traditionally the scraping is done with the side of a bone, but nowadays we usually do it with the side of a gua sha tool, which is usually made of stone. The surface is dull so it doesn't cut at all but gently scrapes at the skin until it turns red and releases heat (inflammation) through small red marks called sha marks. This (as well as cupping) is most likely just as old as acupuncture, so at least 4000 years. So I always say that these ancient methods, if they didn't work would most likely have been tossed out - I don't know - maybe 3500 years ago.
One of my heroes is Jack LaLanne. For one thing Jack has been dead since 2011 and he still maintains a thriving web site. That is impressive. I'm surprised he is not still blogging! What I like about Jack was that he was committed to health, and to helping others stay healthy. It was his business but it was also his passion. If you go on his site www.jacklanne.com and watch his videos from the 50's and 60's, you will see that he was so far ahead of his time. He was talking about exercise when no one really exercised. He was talking about eating whole foods before there was a Whole Foods. In the 50's and 60's obesity was rare, not like today. But Jack, I think, saw it coming. What brought Jack around was that he was a sickly teen who was addicted to sugar. He realized it and wanted to be strong and gave up sugar for life. He worked out with weights the day he died at 96. His mind was as sharp as a 20 year old. We don't all have to be as over the top as Jack LaLanne was about our health, but we can all learn a few things from him. Check out his videos, also on youtube.
Rheumatoid arthritis is the fasting growing autoimmune disease in our country. I suspected this because it seems like half of the commercials on television are drug commercials to treat RA. So I looked it up and sure enough it's the fastest growing segment of autoimmune disease. RA generally occurs in women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. This makes sense to me because I have never seen a male with RA in my practice. I have treated this condition many times in my practice and in general it responds well to acupuncture, especially if some simple Chinese herbs are included, such and the one they nickname 'the women's herb' or dang gui in Chinese pinyin. Some of the women I have treated have responded well enough that they have come off their RA drugs, or they never had to start them. It is interesting that this illness usually starts at about the same time that women go through menopause. Menopause in our medicine is due to a natural imbalance that occurs during this hormonal change. This change called menopause brings on more heat or inflammation in the body and this can cause a tipping point into a number of named diseases, one of them being RA. So the menopause factor must be addressed in order to treat the root of the condition, to cure it instead of just medicate the symptoms.
I want to cover in today's entry a question that I get asked often by patients or prospective patients. I get asked if I think acupuncture will help a certain condition and if so how many treatments it will take. This is a valid question because everyone wants to know what their prognosis is. I would really like to answer their question well. The problem is that it is really tough to give an accurate prognosis. There are so many factors involved: how long they have had the condition, how old they are, how good their general health is, how well they respond to acupuncture, how severe the condition is, what medications they are taking, how often they can come in, what other treatments they are doing concurrently, even their attitude. So I generally will say that I do not know and I suggest we do a few treatments and see how things go. This is why we offer the 3 treatment package because I have found that 3 treatments is a good test as to how things will go. If you are 0% better after 3 treatments, it's not that it will not ever fix the problem, but it might take a while. However, I have seen patients that 1 more treatment really moves things. If you are much better after 3, then we are on the right track and you might need no more treatments or just a couple more. Most people seem OK with this answer, because I am sincere about it, it's really the way it is. I also contend that no one can really give an accurate prognosis. A doctor doesn't ever 100 percent know how a procedure will turn out for any single patient. I think it is unethical to tell someone that this will fix you, 100 percent of the time. No one can accurately say that, so I think they shouldn't.
Monte Jackson, owner Acupuncture Center of Richmond