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Acupuncture for Willpower – The Kidneys and Zhi

Acupuncture for Willpower – The Kidneys and Zhi

Have you ever wondered, “Why can’t I drag myself out of bed this morning?” Or perhaps there are things you know you should do (perhaps things that you really want to do) but you just can’t seem to make yourself take action? On the flip side there may be something you know is bad for you (food, cigarettes, sugar, alcohol, etc.) but you can’t stop yourself from partaking?

Welcome to part four of my series introducing the “jing-shen”- the mental aspect and relationships of the body-mind.

The Chinese word for the will is “zhi” and Chinese Medicine identifies it an aspect of “water” energetics. The water system is a poetic label that does not literally mean H2O in the body; it refers to the idea, attributes, and relationships of water in nature. The water system includes the kidneys, bladder, hair, bones, and brain.

Will is the determination of the mind. It bends the mindset in a certain direction and controls its activity. The will aims at a goal, whether personal ambition or noble ideal. By means of the will, one is disposed to do or not to do something, inclined to like or dislike something. The will is a deep and strong aspiration of the whole being.

I get a lot of practice treating the willpower and the “water” system in my patients as it is one area where Americans almost universally struggle. This is simply a consequence of our high-stress lifestyles.

If you live a high-stress life your health is surely to be impacted now or “down the line”. Acupuncture provides a natural way to combat the effects of stress as well as restore the willpower. Give us a call at 919-228-8448 or use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation to see if acupuncture might be right for you.

Acupuncture for Sensitivity – The Lungs and Po

If you have ever noticed that some days you feel far more sensitive than others? You may find yourself easily irritated physically or emotionally. Other days you may even feel dull and numb, even for things that would normally excite, anger, hurt, or otherwise have an impact on you physically or emotionally. What you are experiencing is a shift in your “po”, or sensitivity.

Even though some people are more sensitive than others, that’s not what I’m talking about. Because everyone is sensitive in some ways.

I’ve been working on a blog series. This is the third installment of five in the series. In this post we’re introducing the “jing-shen”- the mental aspect of the body-mind.

It is through the po that we are able to have a healthy interaction with the outside world. If we are unaware of, or alternately hyper-aware of that which is outside of us we lose that healthy connection. Po refers to our physical sensitivity as well as our emotional sensitivity.

As the po connects us to the outside world it should be no surprise that it is dependent on the bodily organs that have the closest physical contact with the outside world. These are the organs of “metal” energy and include the lungs, large intestine, nose, sinuses, and skin.

Changes in your sensitivity may be more than simply your moods, personality, or natural hormone fluctuations. Even if your sensitivity isn’t causing you problems now it can be an indication of an underlying energetic imbalance. To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Acupuncture for a Clear Mind – The Spleen and Yi

Acupuncture for a worried, scattered mindAcupuncture for a clear mind is not usually a way that people think about when then think about having acupuncture treatments.

Imagine lying down for bed, but your brain won’t seem to shut off. The more quiet you try to create in your mind the more your mind revolts. It reminds you of all the things in your life you have on your “To Do List”. It tells you of all the things you have to worry about tomorrow and in the days ahead. It may seem like your mind is stuck on the “ruminate” setting!

This situation is all too familiar for many of us.

My last post looked at “shen” and acupuncture for mental alertness. The shen or “awakeness” is just one aspect of the mind. Today we look at “yi” – the cognition, or the intellect.

The health of the spleen (and also the pancreas) are critical for a healthy mind. These are the organs of the “earth” energy in the body. When the “earth” system is weakened it can result in a disturbance in the thought process. Often this manifests as over-rumination, but it can also show up as an unclear, foggy mind.

What is over ruminating? When people ruminate, they over-think or obsess about situations or life events, such as work or relationships. Research has shown that rumination is associated with a variety of negative consequences, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, binge-drinking and binge-eating.

Acupuncture may be able to help you re-establish clear thought. To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Acupuncture for Mental Alertness- The Heart and Shen

Mental Alertness

Have you ever been awake, but just not quite mentally there? Maybe someone noticed you being “spaced out”. It’s not that you were daydreaming so much as “nobody was home”- you weren’t thinking of anything in particular. When this happens it feels like not being fully conscious.

The word we use for what is missing here in the mental state is “shen”. Shen is sometimes loosely translated as “spirit”, but that’s a bit of a loaded word in our culture with it’s religious overtones. A less exciting, but more accurate definition in the context of acupuncture might be “awakeness” or “mental presence”.

The heart is the organ that is said to generate or have dominion over the shen. When sleeping it is said that the shen retires into the heart. What this statement means from a practical standpoint is that when someone is having a hard time finding peaceful sleep it implies that somehow the heart is being energetically disturbed.

Acupuncture treats the body and the mind. I’ve spoken about the body-mind connection in a previous blog post. If you’ve read that post you know that it is actually impossible to treat the mind without the body and vice versa.

If you are experience issues with mental alertness or problems with sleep, you are experiencing an imbalanced shen. Acupuncture may be able to help.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Acupuncture and Religion

Acupuncture and Religion

Acupuncture comes to us from the foundation of Taoist philosophy. Since Taoism is also a religion, this has led some people to ask me (and others) if acupuncture is compatible with their particular religious beliefs.

I am not a clergy member of any religion: I’m just an acupuncturist. As such I can not speak authoritatively for any particular religion. I can make some observations that I hope will put some people’s minds at ease, however.

The first observation is that while the foundation of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is Taoist philosophy, the foundation of “western medicine” is Greek philosophy. I have yet to hear of anyone concerned about going to a medical doctor and being asked to worship Zeus or other ancient Greek gods. Both the eastern and western systems of medicine have been secular for centuries. No particular belief systems are required.

The second observation is that acupuncture is practiced on billions of people around the world on people of many different faiths. Even in China people of diverse faiths receive acupuncture.

As for my practice, I don’t ask my patients about their religion. Still, I am fairly certain I have treated people who were Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other religions. I even have treated a Christian minister. In the Durham area, many people have deep religious conviction which is a wonderful principal to live by. Acupuncture does not go against that ideology.

If you have doubts, ask your clergy member if acupuncture is okay. I think it is important that you feel comfortable with whatever health care you are receiving.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Navel Piercings – Bad Idea

Navel piercings inhibit the flow of qi and jing in the conception vessel.

Conception Vessel Blockage – Not a good thing

A navel piercing may seem like a benign adornment, but acupuncture theory strongly suggests that this is not a healthy or safe practice.

The problem is that the piercing is creating a semi-permanent obstruction in the flow of a very important energy channel known as the Conception Vessel (or Ren Mai in Chinese). The conception runs from between the legs up the front of the body, ending below the mouth. Here’s a diagram of the Conception Vessel, for the curious. If you do look at the diagram, notice that the navel is an acupuncture point on the Conception Vessel- CV-8. You may also notice CV-8 is a point that one is specifically forbidden to needle.

When an obstruction like a navel piercing is placed in a channel it creates a physical blockage to the flow of the channel. The piercing represents a constant interruption in the energetic field of the body. As you might gather from its name in English, the Conception Vessel is a very important channel in the energetics of the reproductive system.

Consequently the blockage created by the piercing can possibly lead to problems down the road, particularly with the reproductive system:

  • Infertility
  • Amenorrhea (no menstrual periods)
  • Cervical Dysplasia (abnormal cells of the cervix which may lead to cancer)
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Endometriosis

When a woman comes to me for treatment with menstrual complaints or infertility it is very common for her to have either a navel piercing or surgical scar along or across the Conception Vessel. It is also pretty rare that I talk to someone who has had a navel piercing for more than five years who doesn’t have some sort of menstrual or cervical abnormality.

Some people can do okay with navel piercings for a few years, but problems may develop down the line. I’m sure it is possible that most people will never develop symptoms from a navel piercing. Is it worth the risk? You’ll need to decide for yourself.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

The Acupuncture Meridian Myth

The Acupuncture Meridian Myth

I am an acupuncturist who says that acupuncture “meridians” are a myth! Do I have your attention? Read on…

Acupuncture Defined

I often see acupuncture defined in terms similar to this:

Acupuncture is a system of healing using the insertion of thin needles at 365 specific points on the body to supposedly “balances the flow” of a kind of mystical bio-energy, called qi (pronounced chee), along invisible lines on the body called “meridians”.

To which, I say hogwash! This statement is just plain wrong! The statement contains multiple incorrect assertions about acupuncture. Here I’m going to focus on the part about “meridians”. The others will be addressed in future articles.

Meridians vs. Channels

Acupuncture chart of the xin bao luo "meridian"A meridian is infinitely thin imaginary line on the surface of a body. It is a term taken from geography and cartography. It is a good description of what the first westerners saw when they first observed an acupuncture chart. It looks like a map. Consider the chart on the right. But, as Alfred Korzybski famously noted, “the map is not the territory.”

The human body contains no meridians. What it contains are channels. Channels have width and are located at different depths in along their path through the body.

That the channels run deep to the surface of the skin is pretty obvious when you stop to think about how acupuncture is performed. If the acupuncture points and channels were on the surface there would be no reason to puncture the skin with a needle! You could just lightly touch the point to get the same effect.

So please, let’s use the word “channel” for paths of energy in the body. “Channel” provides a much more accurate and specific term for what actually runs beneath the surface of the skin in our bodies.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Is Acupuncture “Energy Medicine?”

Is Man Experiencing Energy Medicine - AcupunctureAcupuncture Energy Medicine

More and more these days I’ve noticed people advertising or discussing various forms of “energy medicine”. It seems like every few weeks I learn of some “amazing” new form of energy healing that involves fancy devices, laying on of hands, crystals, sounds, colors, smells, elixirs and so forth. As many of us find ourselves frustrated with what is missing from modern “western medicine” new alternative therapies continue to appear to meet those needs. The latest and greatest energy medicine modality can sound very attractive.

Crystals and Incense and Auras… Oh My!

Sadly there are many charlatans out there willing to take advantage of the sick and desperate. I would go so far as to say that most of the “latest and greatest” energy medicine modalities out there amount nothing more than a simple placebo. It is a strange and amazing universe in which we live, of course. Simply being different, strange, unconventional, or difficult to explain does not rule out effectiveness or truth. Likewise, simply falling under the label “energy medicine” does not make a particular healing practice a sham.

Mainstream Energy Medicine

One could certainly call electronic defibrillation a form of energy medicine, for instance. This therapy works time and time again and is as central to conventional western medicine as it gets. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), cancer radiotherapy, electrocardiograms (ECG), phototherapy, laser vision correction (LASIK), nerve conduction studies, deep brain stimulation (DBS), among many others are all very mainstream therapies yet could all rightly be labeled as energy medicine. Indeed most of these would be considered science fiction or fantasy just a few decades ago.

Acupuncture – Energy Medicine or not?

So where does acupuncture fall? Is it energy medicine or something else?

Acupuncture relies on needles and heat (moxibustion) to cause various therapeutic effects on the body and/or mind. The foundation of acupuncture (or at least the kind of acupuncture I do – Classical Chinese Medicine) is the homeostatic functional balance between the various organ systems of the body. Acupuncture points are locations on the body that over thousands of years of observations have been empirically shown to cause a certain effect on the body and/or mind when stimulated. The relationships observed between these points ultimately lead to the theory of channels of energy or information linking these points.

It is pretty clear to me that acupuncture, as it is most commonly practiced, is a form of energy medicine. The functional and energetic effects on the body/mind are considered when selecting acupuncture points. Furthermore, moxibustion is a form of energy medicine involving the application of infrared energy to stimulate acupuncture points.

However you label it, energy medicine or not, acupuncture is a form of healing that has truly stood the test of time.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Insomnia: What to Avoid Before Bedtime

Insomnia – What to Avoid Before Bedtime

Man suffering from insomnia- needs acupunctureAvoid insomnia for many reasons! I’ve written on the topic of sleep before, including some tips for sleep and insomnia before. There are many things that can be done to deal with insomnia besides medication. Acupuncture can make a huge difference in your ability to fall asleep when it is time for bed and it can help you achieve truly restful quality sleep without drugs or herbs.

Acupuncture is just one technique of many available for dealing with insomnia. When you are lying in bed, wide awake at 3 A.M., it is a small consolation that you can make an appointment tomorrow, or the next day for acupuncture. You want to sleep that very night!

Don’t Bring Technology to Bed

A recent Bank of America consumer trends report found that roughly 71% of survey respondents sleep with their smartphones and 23% actually fall asleep with their tech tool in their hand. It’s time to break free from the dependence and reclaim your bed.

Don’t Drink Coffee

A cup of coffee contains anywhere from 80 to 120 milligrams of caffeine per cup, and you probably already know you should avoid it right before bed. Even though you might like the idea of a hot drink after dinner, did you know that although bedtime might still be several hours away, this could disturb your sleep. Why? Because caffeine can stay in the body for up to 12 hours.

Don’t Eat Spicy or Fatty Foods

You should have dinner at least two hours before going to sleep to give your body enough time to begin digesting it. If you’re used to eating something right before bed, stick with sleep-promoting foods like simple carbs or a glass of milk but stay away from spicy food.

Oh, and do go ahead and make that acupuncture appointment or set up a free face-to-face consultation. Sleep does not need to be hard to come by.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Acupuncture for Menopause

Acupuncture for Menopause

Every once and a while a study of acupuncture comes out that has me take notice. This time it was a study on post-menopausal women who were experiencing symptoms such as hot flashes, irritability, depression, and decreased libido.

First I want to point out that I am not big on studies of acupuncture. Almost never are these studies well designed or conducted by people who understand that acupuncture is a science of the particular. In real acupuncture each person needs to be diagnosed treated independently and given a treatment appropriate for their exact condition. This doesn’t match well with western-style studies which usually involve attempting to test a single variable.

So it is with some surprise that I’m sharing a study that Consumer Reports Health (of all places!) brought to my attention. The poor doctor who wrote the Consumer Reports article couldn’t even spell “yin” right, but at least he found this fascinating study.

The study, published in BMJ, studied the effect of acupuncture on postmenopausal symptoms and reproductive hormones. They made sure to pick experienced acupuncturists for the study, which impressed me. But what I really like here is that they measured both improvements in symptoms and in the hormone levels of the participants.

Acupuncture has always been a great substance-free choice to treat health concerns related to menopause. In perimenopause- the years of transition into menopause the body is looking to find a new kind of balance as it adjusts to changing hormone levels. Helping the body find a homeostatic balance is what I feel that acupuncture does best. This is exactly why I called my practice Balanced Being Acupuncture.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.