Stress Inflammation Pain, Part 1

I had just been to a Nutrition and Health Seminar at UCLA. This seminar inspired me to briefly talk about inflammation. But before we talk about inflammation, we must talk about stress.

Stress leads to inflammation. Now when most people think of stress, they think about emotional stress. But stress that leads to inflammation is not limited to emotional stress. For instance, when you drink too much, that is placing stress on your body. When you eat too much junk food, that is putting stress on your body. When you smoke, when you binge watch TV, when you sleep only two hours, etc. All of this, creates stress upon the body. And as stated before, stress leads to inflammation.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, inflammation is viewed as a heat issue. When one has inflammation, there is swelling, redness, and heat. This unmanaged heat tends to lead to pain. Why? Your body is working over time to make things better but because you’ve been taxing your body too much, it doesn’t know how to do it properly.

Have you ever been given too much to do at work with impossible deadlines? And when you thought that you were just managing it, work gives you another to add to the load. Anger is usually the first reaction. Anger is also a heat condition. Much like an angry, overworked employee, your body reacts in a similar fashion by way of inflammation.

Did you know that 117 million adults in the US suffer from one or more chronic conditions? Did you know that hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year to treat chronic diseases? Did you know that the majority of chronic diseases are preventable? And did you know that chronic diseases are essentially inflammation?

117 million people in the US suffer from inflammation in the body. And most suffering from inflammation could have prevented it. How could we let this happen? It’s simple. Though we as humans have evolved slowly, technology has evolved at an incalculable rate. We must get things now. Whether it’s news or food, we must get it now. Patience has become a lost virtue. And because of this, we have lost the patience for our bodies to naturally heal itself. We look to “quick fixes”. Overweight? Take a pill for that. Have pain? Take a pill for that. Insomnia? Take a pill for that. These pills, though they help relieve ailments temporarily, they will not cure. Whatever you suffer from, will come back.

What To Expect At Your First Acupuncture Visit

You have gone from doctor to doctor and have taken pill after pill for a long time. After all of these ordeals, you have finally decided to go for alternative medical care. You think about getting acupuncture. Why not? All the celebs are getting into it these days and you also know some friends who swear by it. But you’re still hesitant because you don’t know what to expect.

The following is a guide to what you can expect at your first acupuncture visit.

First, you want to know about the needles. You don’t like flu shots so why in the world would you want to get more than one needle into your body?

Acupuncture needles are hair thin.

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The above picture is of an acupuncture needle and a hair from my head. These needles will be placed on and around the body determined by a well thought out diagnosis and treatment plan. You may feel a tiny pinch at times but the feeling should not last. Most people do not feel needles go in at all.

Let the acupuncturist know when you have a sharp pain that lasts more than a couple of seconds. That is not a feeling that we would like for you to experience. But if you experience a dull and heavy ache, almost like a muscle soreness, that is something we would like you to feel. That sensation is what we like to call, “arrival of qi.”

“Arrival of qi” is when the needle has accessed the appropriate point in the body and the body’s energy (the body is essentially electricity, or energy, contained in a carbon-based container) is meeting the point of the needle to activate its healing properties. But this is all after you have been properly assessed by the acupuncturist.

To diagnose you, the acupuncturist will be asking you seemingly unrelated questions to your health concern but for acupuncturists, it is crucial that we know it all. For instance, we will ask about your bowel movements and stool… a lot. We want to know when you poop, how often you poop, what your poop looks like, if your poop floats or sinks, etc. The reason this is so important is because your poop tells us what is going on in your body and essentially your whole body’s constitution.

After we have asked you everything about your bodily functions, you will be asked to stick out your tongue. This is the one time we wouldn’t mind Miley Cyrus sticking out her tongue because we truly want to see it. Why the tongue? It is the only muscle in the entire body that is visible to us. The shape, color, and coating of your tongue tells us more of what’s going on inside your body. We use it to confirm or contradict what we thought during the interviewing process.

TONGUE-DIAGNOSIS

The last thing to expect, before you are needled, is to have your pulse taken. We are taking your pulse for many reasons. We want to know your heart rate. Is it too slow, too fast or normal? We also want to know the quality of the pulse. Yes, the pulse has a quality other than to thump against our fingers. There are many words to describe many different types of pulses but it comes down to wanting to know if you have an excess or deficiency condition (learn more about that from this blog) and to confirm or contradict every other diagnostic tool that we used. We, as acupuncturists, are very thorough.

So now that you know what to expect, go and see your local acupuncturist and experience the greatness that is Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Graceful Points

Medicine or Hocus Pocus

To most people, acupuncture is an unknowable thing. Is it medicine? Is it a placebo? Is it hocus pocus? Depending on who you ask, it is medicine, a placebo and quite possibly magical.

First, let us look at how much schooling is required for the average acupuncturist in the US. To be accepted into acupuncture school, one must already have a bachelor’s degree. Some schools do allow students in with an associate’s degree but these students will be required to take an extensive amount of prerequisites. For you see, to receive an acupuncture degree is to have your master’s degree.

Acupuncture programs are on average 4 years long. 4 years! While I was attending school, many people assumed that I was getting some sort of certificate. “Acupuncture school is only 6 months long, right?” Nope. It’s 4 years. And each quarter was on average 25+ units of courses. Makes me tired just thinking about it.

Now you’re wondering why so long and so much. As much as I would love to say that I went to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and learned how to levitate things with a flick of a wand, we had extensive training on western science and medicine, while learning a medicine that is over 2000 years old. We learn all this because acupuncture is medicine that treats actual diseases.

There it is. The elusive answer: ACUPUNCTURE IS MEDICINE! (WHO – World Health Organization – would back me up here.)

Acupuncturists do not necessarily see themselves as separate from the western medical community. We see ourselves as a very useful and often necessary medicine to be used WITH western medicine. For instance, when a cancer patient undergoes chemo, they are being treated for cancer. But what about the side effects of chemo that diminishes the quality of life for the patient because of nausea, weakness, dizziness, etc. That’s where acupuncture comes in. Acupuncture can treat the side effects of chemo so that the quality of life of the patient is of a human being and not that of a rag doll.

Acupuncture is indeed medicine. It can also be a placebo. But why is being a placebo so wrong? The western medical community use placebos all the time to treat some of their patients but they are not considered quacks. This is because placebos do have their place in medicine. When people go to see their doctor, they want to feel better. Sometimes their pain is mental and/or emotional and in these cases, placebos work wonders.

And is acupuncture magical? The results of acupuncture treatments are magical. With a hair-thin needle, acupuncture can relieve a person of a chronic illness, when no other pill or treatment could. That is magical. And when a patient leaves my office with a smile on their face, that is magical.

Graceful Points