Most people in the US do not know that much about Chinese medicine. But more and more people are taking an interest - for various reasons. Most of our regular patients take advantage of the healing abilities of Chinese medicine for many of their health issues. This includes things like the common cold, the flu, sinus or respiratory infections. Acupuncture and/or Chinese herbs can significantly help your body heal from these conditions quicker, usually without having to take regular antibiotics (which don't work anyway for viral infections which 90% of these infections are). There are some amazing formulas for colds, one of which called yin qaio can actually stop a cold dead in its tracks if taken early enough. Many of our long-time patients also report to us that they get sick much less than they did before acupuncture and Chinese medicine. This is because bringing balance to the body with regular visits makes or body more resilient. You can read about some of the many things that we treat on our conditions page.
Many new patients ask, 'does it hurt?' Of course they are asking about the needles. Many people are curious about acupuncture. But just as many people are not curious or don't even consider acupuncture, because of the needles. Almost everyone we see who is concerned about the pain involved breathes a sigh of relief after we insert the first needle and - they don't even feel it. So the answer to this question is that the needles are almost never an issue. Acupuncture is not painful, but it is very relaxing. After the needles are inserted the patient gets to relax for around 35 minutes. Many will fall asleep. Acupuncture causes a deep relaxation in most people beyond the normal state of relaxation. Some say acupuncture actually calms the sympathetic nervous system, the fight of flight response. For many people getting acupuncture does not even cross their minds until a friend or family member tells them of their great results, or a pet gets great results from it. Acupuncture is getting more and more popular more and more accepted and commonplace.
We are built to last, to survive. Mickey Mantle of the NY Yankees, one of the best players ever, is famous for saying, 'If I had known I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself.' But the Mick lived a bit too hard and his last years were not good ones. I am surprised at the wide ranges of health in my patients of similar ages. I see patients that are 40 and they are old. I had someone walk into the office who was 95 and his handshake nearly crushed my hand. Some of this of course is genetics. But much of this is how we take care of ourselves. I believe a holistic approach to health and lifestyle, as advanced by Chinese or Ayurvedic medicine, can be extremely helpful in maximizing our health at any age. Its never too late to start taking better care of yourself.
Many people believe that the acupuncture mainly treats pain. While it is true that acupuncture is great at treating pain, it important to know that is can treat an extremely wide range of issues. It is its own separate form of medicine. We see a lot of skin conditions in our practice and the important thing to know with these is that it's rarely the skins fault. Skin conditions are almost always caused by an internal condition manifesting itself on the skin. So the skin issue is a symptom of something going on much deeper. I think of it as something is trying to exit the body, and the easiest way to do this is through the skin (since the skin is on the outside and there is a great deal of surface area). So, of course you must treat the condition from the inside out. This can be done with select acupuncture points, Chinese herbs, and often dietary changes. Inflammation is often a factor and the cause of the inflammation is the root cause of the condition.
Inflammation seems to be at least a contributing factor in many health problems. So it's important to keep inflammation in check. Acupuncture and herbs is a natural, safe and effective way to do this without the adverse side effects of drugs such as prednisone. In Chinese medicine inflammation is called heat and there are many acupuncture points for clearing heat in the body. My favorite point for this (since you asked) is LI11 (Quchi). But that is just one of many. There are many Chinese herbs for cutting inflammation, in fact the popular tumeric, used by droves of people for this purpose, is actually a Chinese herb called jiang huang. And there are many others that actually work even better than tumeric. Cutting inflammation in the body is just one of the many health promoting benefits of adding acupuncture and herbs into your health regimen.
We see back pain cases essentially daily at the Acupuncture Center. One reason may be that there are just so many people out there with back pain. Its a vulnerable area or our body. In fact most of us will have some amount of back pain at some point in our lives. Another reason we feel like we are seeing more back pain is that acupuncture is becoming more accepted as a viable alternative to the usual western treatments which are pills, surgery, or physical therapy. Recent scientific studies have shown that it works very well for pain in general and back pain in particular. Also, the Olympics brought attention to cupping, a Chinese medicine staple, that has actually been popular there for over four thousand years. We almost always will do cupping after an acupuncture session for back pain. We treat back pain with more of a holistic approach, looking not at just the back but the body as a whole, to solve the problem and make the back less susceptible to injury.
People ask me about my opinion on exercise and here goes: I think the best exercise is the exercise that you enjoy enough to keep doing it. The main thing with exercise is that it is done often. Fifteen minutes a day is better than one hour twice a week. They say that interval training is the best, that you can do 15 minutes of interval and it is equivalent to 1 hour of say walking on a treadmill at a constant pace. The reason that interval training is better is that it keeps the body guessing. I always tell my patients that variety is good in exercise. This 'keeping the body guessing' leads to a stronger body. The body is above all else a survival machine, and if you change your exercise up, it will react by making you stronger, more able to take whatever you throw at it. I also recommend taking an Ayurvedic dosha (bodytype) test online, because certain body types are more suited for doing different types of exercise. But again, the main thing is that you find something that you enjoy doing and do it on a daily or semi-daily basis, and throw in some variety to approximate interval training. Too much exercise can actually break the body down. I don't recommend marathons or iron man triathlons - unless that is your passion. If something is your passion and it breaks down your body over time its most likely still worth it.
Many of us probably know someone whose condition is affected by the weather. The most common example might be someone whose knee or other body part will hurt when its about to rain. I have had patients who could very accurately predict the weather this way. So our environment does affect our body, sometimes in drastic ways. This occurs most strongly when the weather abruptly changes. The problem is that our body does not react to changes in weather nearly as quickly as the weather changes. Going from a fairly long period of dryness to sudden humid conditions seems to be the worst scenario for most of us. What can we do about this? Chinese medicine gives us many acupuncture points for helping any condition cause by sudden changes in weather (or to times when the heat or cold has been relentless which can also cause issues). Also, we can give you an appropriate Chinese herbal formulation to help your body get back in balance. After all, this problem is all about imbalance, about the body being thrown out of its delicate balance where we function at our best and feel well. And Chinese medicine is all about maintaining balance of yin and yang in the body.
My goal in treating pain is to get you better as quickly as possible. We offer the 3 treatment pain package because we believe that within 3 treatments you should be feeling significantly better. This usually is the case. Of course it is not always the case. Many factors are involved in how fast someone will get better or even if they will get better at all. Some of these factors are severity of the condition, how long you have had it, age of the patient, general health of the patient, and what you do to get better between treatments. I like to use acupuncture with moxibustion or heat therapy followed by cupping (if possible), followed by some sort of herbal formula taken orally or perhaps topically. I also use kinesio tape when warranted. Using these methods I feel like most of my patients are happy with their results. Of course the body has to in the end do the healing, we are only helping push it in that direction.
Monte Jackson, owner Acupuncture Center of Richmond