What To Expect
Your first treatment and subsequent treatments
Prior to your initial visit, you’ll fill out a health questionnaire to describe your past medical history. During the first visit, I will take a full health history, asking about symptoms, health, and lifestyle. I will check your pulse on both wrists, scan your channel pathways on your arms and lower limbs, examine the color and coating of your tongue, and palpate the “hara” (abdomen). These observations provide information that I’ll use to make a comprehensive diagnosis. Subsequent treatments can range from once a week for five weeks (or until resolution of the condition) to once a month for preventative care, depending on your health goals and our progress toward them.
Using the five modalities to create your unique treatment plan
You and your state of health are unique, so I will use a personalized combination of the five modalities of Chinese medicine—with primary emphasis on acupuncture and herbal therapy—to respond to your needs. Select any of the modalities below to learn more.
A powerful system of treating illness that has been practiced in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years, acupuncture is the placement of very fine, thin, sterile needles at specific points on the body. These points have been mapped by the Chinese over a period of more than two thousand years. Acupuncture works by influencing the flow of your body’s qi, commonly defined as “vital energy,” which travels along specific pathways in the body called “channels.” The body contains 14 channels, and each is associated with a particular physiological system (such as digestion) and internal organ (stomach).
Your health is influenced by the quality, quantity, and balance of your qi. When your qi is abundant and of good quality, you are healthy and strong. If your qi is blocked or insufficient, it is unable to effectively nourish your channels and organs. This is when illness and pain occurs. There is a famous saying in Chinese medicine: “When the circulation of qi is blocked, pain arises; when the passage is open, pain disappears.” During your acupuncture treatment, the needles work to bring qi to places where there is not enough, to move it where it is stagnant, and to reduce unhealthy qualities. Modern science has been able to measure the electrical charge at these points, thereby corroborating the routes of the channels as mapped by ancient health practitioners.
Acupuncture needles vs. medical syringes
Acupuncture bears no resemblance to the feeling of receiving an injection from a medical syringe. Pain from an injection is due to the large diameter hollow needle and the fluids being forced into the tissue by pressure. An acupuncture needle is very fine and flexible, about the diameter of a human hair. Roughly 40 acupuncture needles can fit into one 18-gauge hypodermic needle. I use single-use, sterile, disposable needles.
Acupuncture techniques I might use in clinic include:
- Chinese acupuncture technique: this includes auricular acupuncture and scalp acupuncture
- Japanese Meridian Therapy: Shudo Denmai and Manaka methods
- Non-needle acupuncture methods: For those of you who are wary of needles, I offer non-needle acupuncture treatments such as acupressure and moxibustion (heat therapy). Other techniques, including tui na and cupping, also work well.
Sensation during an acupuncture treatment
When receiving an acupuncture treatment, you might experience a sense of heaviness, stimulation, or minor aching in the area of insertion. Most patients find treatments very relaxing, and many fall asleep during treatment.
2. Chinese Herbs
Chinese herbal medicine is a comprehensive form of medicine that effectively addresses many medical conditions. It has a long clinical history, a balancing effect on the body, and is usually gentler than pharmaceutical drugs. Chinese herbal medicine uses over 5,000 plant, mineral, and animal substances, although we refer to all these substances as “herbs” for convenience’s sake. Chinese medicine has developed a unique system of combining herbs into special formulas designed for particular medical uses. Herbs that supplement qi are classified as “Qi Tonics,” herbs that regulate blood are called “Regulate Blood” herbs, and so on. The effects of each individual herb are well understood, and herbal formulas create a synergistic energy, in which the actions of an individual herb are increased by its combination with others.
The traditional method of preparing herbs is to cook the raw herbs in water to form a decoction or tea. I prescribe herbs in powder form, which quickly dissolves in warm water to make a tea, and in tablet or capsule form, for convenient ingestion.
Guidance regarding herbs
- Do not add sweeteners to the herbs as this will change their properties.
- Take the herbs 30 minutes before or 30 minutes after a meal.
- Stop taking the herbs if you develop a cold or flu.
- Do not take any other medicines within one hour of taking the herbs.
- Stop the herbs if you have any unusual reactions or digestive upsets.
The power of ginger
Some herbs are also powerful taken alone, such as ginger. Rhizoma zingiberis officinalis has spicy properties, effectively warms the abdomen, and, most important, effectively resolves symptoms of nausea and vomiting. If you are experiencing symptoms of nausea, try the following tea:
- Slice one tablespoon of fresh ginger.
- Place the ginger in a cooking pan with two cups of water.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and then simmer for 15 minutes.
- Strain the ginger slices from the ginger tea.
- Add one teaspoon of brown sugar, stir, let cool slightly, and drink. (In this case, a little sugar is OK!)
3. Tui Na (Chinese Massage) and Cupping Therapy
Tui na, translated as “push-grasp,” is a form of therapeutic massage using fingers, hands, and elbows on acupuncture points rather than needles. It is an effective way to invigorate qi flow and reduce stagnation (and it works well for patients who are sensitive to needles). I also provide cupping therapy, a type of deep-tissue massage achieved by placing special cups on your skin to create suction. This technique may be as old as acupuncture itself.
4. Qi Gong (Exercise)
Qi is your “vital energy” and gong is translated as “work.” Qi gong is a form of gentle physical exercise practiced in China for centuries as a way to cultivate qi and relax the nervous and muscular systems simultaneously. This clears the body’s channels, renewing circulation of the body’s natural energy. When your body’s qi is strong and circulating well, you are less likely to become ill, and if you do become ill, the symptoms are not likely to last very long. Qi gong can be easily practiced for ten minutes each morning and is an effective part of health maintenance and prevention.
After your acupuncture treatment, I might recommend qi gong poses for you to practice. I also offer various stretches, especially for those patients experiencing pain as their main complaint.
5. The Energetics of Food
One way we generate qi in the body is by eating. (We also generate qi by sleeping and breathing.) Foods, just like herbs, have an impact on your body’s qi, sometimes good and sometimes bad. Some foods make your qi flow lightly and easily; other foods make it slow or stagnant. You might have noticed that you feel one way after eating a hamburger and ice cream and another after a vegetable stir fry dish. Dietary suggestions are an important component of your treatments, and I will make recommendations based on your current state of health.
Chinese medicine pays attention to the energetic attributes of foods. If there are not enough nutrients in the foods you eat, your body is not getting enough qi and your blood is not being appropriately nourished. Also, if the temperature of foods is too cold, it can directly affect your digestion. For example, if a person eats too many raw, cold foods, digestion can become “stagnant” (bloated feeling, loose stools, nausea). Or, if a person eats too many hot, spicy foods, the body will become depleted of appropriate fluids that aid in the digestive process. Keep in mind that the quality of the food you eat is as important as the energetic attributes of the food.
The importance of eating warm foods
Cooked, warm food is important for your digestion. It’s true that some nutrients are lost during the cooking process, but, because warm food promotes effective digestion, an overall net gain in nutrients is achieved. Also, eating cooked food rather than raw food requires less energy of the body for digestion. This can be important if your digestive qi is deficient.
Suggestions for aiding your digestion
- Chew your food. Count 30 chews per bite.
- Eat warm, cooked meals.
- Eat foods that are locally grown. Food grown locally contains the qi of the local environment, and this qi is healthiest for you.
- Make sure you are relaxed and in a relaxed environment while eating.
- Do not be distracted by reading or technology while eating.
- Eat your larger meals during the day. Do not eat large meals in the evening.
- Do not overeat. Stop when you are full.
- Do not drink a lot of cold fluids during your meal; they slow your digestion.
- A regular and firm bowel movement shortly after awakening indicates that your digestive system is functioning well.