Heal Low Back Pain with Acupuncture

I have been using acupuncture to treat a lot of low back pain lately.  Acute “threw my back out” type of pain, chronic daily achiness type of pain, sciatic pain shooting down my legs and “when I move this way I get stuck” type of pain. 

Low back pain affects millions of people each year and is the single leading cause of disability worldwide.  The most common Western Medicine treatment for low back pain is to prescribe pain medication and perhaps a course of physical therapy.  Many of my patients went this route and found that they still had pain and their physical activity was still limited.  They came in for acupuncture because they wanted to live a pain-free, medication-free life.  Who doesn’t? 

Acupuncture is effective for back pain due to disk herniation, sprained/strained muscles, arthritis, failed back surgery and other causes.  Research has shown acupuncture to be more effective than NSAIDs in relieving pain.  A meta-analysis (fancy word for systematic review of high quality research trials) published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found acupuncture was found effective for reducing pain associated with osteoarthritis, chronic headache, shoulder pain, nonspecific musculoskeletal pain, neck pain and back pain (Vickers AJ, Linde K. Acupuncture for Chronic Pain. JAMA. 2014;311(9):955-956. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.285478).

What I find in my clinic is that acupuncture provides lasting results.  Patients typically leave in much less pain than when they arrived.  For the first time they feel hope.  Hope that they can get back to doing what they love, hope that they can sleep through the night without pain, hope that they can crawl around on the floor with their kids/grandkids, hope that they can just get back to feeling like themselves again. That pain relief?  It’s real.  However acupuncture is not magic; it is medicine.  Just like antibiotics or physical therapy there is a course of treatment that should be followed.  Acupuncture gently moves your body back into a state of balance.  With treatment, I find that patients’ hopes become reality. 

Want to get back to living the life you love?  Call and schedule your first appointment today. 

Broken or Broken Open?

We all have had or will have experiences that break us, at least a little.  Heartbreak.  The loss of a loved one.  Illness.  We can allow these experiences to be a stopping point and get stuck there or be a learning point and a catalyst for growth. 

When we are deep in the pain it can be hard to see the learning, the opportunity for growth and change.  Sometimes we get stuck there for years.  We may yearn for the past or spend our time fantasizing about the future.  Either way we are not able to fully live in the present.  We may allow ourselves to get so bound up by heartbreak we cannot open to new love.  Or maybe we are paralyzed by the fear that what killed our mother/father will befall us as well. 

What on earth does all of this have to do with acupuncture?  Acupuncture can have a powerful effect on an emotional and spiritual level.  According to Daoist traditions different acupuncture points and channel systems influence the psyche on a deep level.  If you are stuck in emotional pain acupuncture can help open you up to a new way of seeing, instigating a shift in perspective that allows you to become unstuck.  A shift from being broken to be broken open.  As the great Sufi mystic Rumi said “The wound is the place where the light enters you.”  When you are broken open you can heal, you can grow, you can gain a level of insight that may have previously been unavailable. 

If you are ready to move from feeling broken to the experience of being broken open give me a call today!

P.S. Thanks to Reverend David Ault (www.davidault.com) for the inspiration for this blog post!

Eliminating PMS Naturally With Acupuncture

I think we women have been sold a bill of goods.  We have been taught that PMS is inevitable and unavoidable.  Told that at least some degree of cramping or breast tenderness or mood swings (or all of the above and more!) just comes with the territory of having a menstrual cycle.  Not true. 

In Chinese Medicine PMS is a sign that something is out of balance in our bodies…which means that PMS is not a natural state of being.  It also means that we can find our own natural state of being that is pain-free. 

PMS symptoms range from mild to severe.  Cramping can feel like some downward pulling or pressure all the way to stabbing pain that has you doubled over.  PMS can also include breast tenderness, nausea, vomiting, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, appetite changes, fatigue, headaches, sleep disturbances, mood swings (from crying to anger and back again), anxiety and depression.  For some women, the few days before, during and/or after their menstrual cycle border on disabling.

The good news is this is not inevitable and you can experience pain free menstrual cycles without resorting to painkillers or birth control pills.  Chinese Medicine views PMS, or dysmenorrhea, through two general lenses: excess or deficiency and I tailor acupuncture treatments and dietary recommendations accordingly.  In general, I find that I can greatly reduce or completely eliminate PMS within a few menstrual cycles with regular acupuncture and dietary changes. 

Some things you can try at home to relieve PMS:

·      Exercise.  Many women who experience PMS have some degree of Liver Qi Stagnation.  Going for a walk, doing yoga, lifting weights or some other exercise that you enjoy gets your Liver Qi moving and reduces PMS. 

·      Eliminate or greatly reduce caffeine, alcohol and sugar.  Sorry.  I know.  But these things exacerbate PMS (among other things).   You’ll feel better all month long by reducing or eliminating your intake of these.  

·      Castor Oil packs.  Castor Oil is a wonderful pain reliever!  It is excellent for many gynecological issues, including fibroids and menstrual cramps.  Take a piece of flannel cloth folded three times, saturate one layer of the flannel with the castor oil and put that layer against your skin on your lower abdomen, cover with plastic wrap, place a heating pad on top and relax for 30-60 minutes.  Just be aware that Castor Oil can be messy and stain.  Use it when you have cramps or try doing this a one or two days before your period begins, it may relieve the intensity or duration at the outset. 

Tired of dreading the “time of the month”?  Give me a call to get started on making your entire month feel great.  

5 Reasons to Try Acupuncture in the New Year

1.  Acupuncture Relieves Stress.  As humans, our bodies are built to handle stressful situations through our “fight or flight” response. In our distant past, this was useful for evading large predators and defending our families. However, in modern times, we face prolonged stress that causes our bodies to be in a constant state of “fight or flight,” which can have very damaging effects. Some common symptoms of stress are anger, anxiety, digestive disorders, headaches, heart disease, high blood pressure and weight problems. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to help people manage the effects of their stress and stay healthy.

2.  Acupuncture prevents and treats the cold and flu.  This time of year colds, flues and respiratory infections are making the rounds.   Regular acupuncture can prevent you from getting sick in the first place by strengthening your immune system.  I have many patients who would get some sort of respiratory infection every winter for years that no longer have that happen.  If you do happen to catch the current bug going around come on in for a treatment at the first sign (e.g. stuffy nose, watery eyes, sore throat) and we can often boot out the invader and keep you from a week of misery. 

3.  Acupuncture relieves pain.  Many of us walk around with chronic back pain, neck pain, you-name-it-pain believing that it is just part of getting older or nothing can be done to help it.  Not true.  Acupuncture is great for relieving pain.  Often patients get significant pain relief in the first session!  For many of my patients it feels like a miracle.  I never get tired of seeing eyes go wide and hearing “the pain is almost gone!”

4.  Acupuncture supports emotional balance.  This goes hand in hand with stress response.  Many of us live lives where we feel constantly on the go and pulled in a million different directions.  We may swing from irritability to worry to guilt and back to irritability.  Acupuncture smoothes out the rough edges and provides a sense of general well-being, contentment and peace.  Patients report that co-workers, family members and friends notice the change and want to know what they started “taking.”

5.  Acupuncture supports better digestion.  Bloating, gas, reflux, constipation and diarrhea are signs your digestive system needs a tune up.  Your diet may need a tune up as well!  Acupuncture and diet changes can get your digestive system running properly so you are not running to the bathroom or sitting and reading the paper in there either. 

You can make 2016 the happiest and healthiest yet!

Relieve Your Anxiety With Acupuncture

Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences at different times.  We may become anxious before a test, when faced with a problem at work or driving on 285 in rush hour.   However, for some people, anxiety occurs with such frequency and/or intensity that it interferes with their daily well-being.  

People experience anxiety differently but common symptoms include feelings of panic, fear, or general unease; difficulty sleeping; heart palpitations; racing thoughts; inability to be still; muscle tension; nausea; dizziness and dry mouth.  In my experience, it is common for people who experience anxiety to also ruminate.  They may get stuck reliving a specific conversation or interaction or have mental arguments with another person.  They worry about everyday life situations with no obvious reason for worry.  All of this is exhausting and they long for peace. The good news is that acupuncture is extremely effective in relieving anxiety and there are no negative side effects.  In a recent study of the effect of acupuncture on Generalized Anxiety Disorder researchers note that “a number of Meta analysis and system evaluations point out that acupuncture treatment has more advantages than drugs in the treatment of anxiety disorders….”.

In my clinic in Dunwoody, Georgia I treat anxiety frequently.  Unlike pharmaceuticals, patients often experience a reduction in anxiety in one treatment with continued and sustained improvement with follow-up treatments.  Patients have told me that they feel like their old self again; that they feel positive and full of energy.  Other patients have found a sense of peace and self-love they never experienced before.  My favorite thing is to see patients bouncing in the door with a new sense of lightness and joy. 

In addition to acupuncture I recommend specific lifestyle changes to my patients.  Taiji, Qigong and yoga all enhance a mind-body connection and can help quiet the mind.  By studying some form of meditation patients learn to control and relax the mind.  One quick, in the moment, breathing exercise you can try is to close your eyes, take a deep breath through your nose, hold it for a few moments and release your breath slowly through your mouth.  Repeat a few times.  Open your eyes and check in with how you are feeling. 

Ready to experience a renewed sense of peace and lightness?  Give me a call at 404.695.0905 to schedule your first appointment! 

Heal Injuries and Improve Sports Performance with Acupuncture!

Acupuncture has been practiced for centuries.  Some of the earliest uses of acupuncture were to heal injuries and increase stamina of Chinese warriors and soldiers.  It has survived for 2000 years because it works! 

Today many professional sports and Olympic teams have acupuncturists on staff.  From 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali of Team Asana to Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rogers athletes are looking for ways to shorten recovery time and boost performance.

Acupuncture is highly effective for both acute and chronic injuries.  In fact, the World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture as a safe and effective treatment for injuries, orthopedic conditions, and acute and chronic pain. 

Acupuncture can accelerate the healing time of acute injuries such as strains, sprains and even broken bone by increasing blood flow to the area and decreasing swelling and bruising.  Increased blood flow allows cells responsible for tissue repair and remodeling to get to the area of injury and start working.  Acupuncture is especially useful when tendons and ligaments are involved as they have less blood flow by nature; acupuncture creates microcirculation thus increasing blood flow. 

Acupuncture is also very effective for chronic pain related to common sports injuries such as IT Band Syndrome, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, tennis and golfers elbow and shoulder pain.  These common injuries can cause athletes to reduce training or stop altogether.  Left untreated they can snowball into a variety of compensation injuries as athletes try to continue training and unintentionally change their movement patterns to protect the injured area.  Similarly to acute injuries, acupuncture increases blood flow allowing for tissue repair and remodeling.  Additionally, acupuncture points are frequently located at trigger points in muscles and get great relief when needled.  Other acupuncture points are located at muscle motor points or at nerve rich tendons thus having both a nervous system and muscular system effect. 

Another common area of concern for athletes is overtraining.  Having multiple workouts in a row with fatigue and tired and/or heavy legs can be a sign of overtraining.  Rest, good nutrition and acupuncture can help you climb out of that hole before it gets too deep! 

While it is great for athletes that acupuncture relieves pain and resolves injuries but it is even more beneficial before those things surface.  Acupuncture naturally boosts energy levels, aids recovery from hard training and races and improves overall performance.  Studies have shown that athletes who received acupuncture for muscle soreness 24 to 48 hour exercising to exhaustion reported significantly less pain then those who did not receive acupuncture.  Several athletes that I treat for issues unrelated to performance have posted PRs with less effort and quicker recovery. 

Looking to heal and injury or improve performance?  Call Karen at 404.695.0905 today to schedule and appointment!

The 7 Dwarfs of Menopause... And What to Do About Them

If you are reading this I am guessing you already know the 7 dwarfs of menopause:

So-Hot-I-Want-To-Rip-My-Cloths-Off Dwarf

Cranky Dwarf

Lethargic Dwarf

Unable-to-Stay-Asleep Dwarf

Forgetfulness Dwarf

Weight Gain Dwarf

Low Libido Dwarf

Sound familiar?  Worried this might be your experience in the future?  You are not alone.  About 75-85% of women experience hot flashes in menopause or even before they are officially in menopause (as defined by the cessation of menstrual cycles for one year).  Other common symptoms of menopause are lethargy, weight gain, poor memory, vaginal dryness and low libido.  Sleep is commonly impacted with difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking early and not being able to go back to sleep.  And mood swings…let’s talk about the mood swings.  Crying one minute, wanting to scream at everyone in your household the next minute and then crying again.  Women in menopause often feel like they no longer have control over their emotional life. 

Despite all these uncomfortable symptoms menopause can also be a time of great change for women.  It is a time in many women’s lives when they move away from a focus on caring for others to caring for themselves.  It can be a time of immense personal power, creativity, and expansiveness.  Many women find a new voice or direction during this time in their life. 

In Chinese Medicine menopause is related to the natural decline of prenatal essence that comes with aging.  When a baby is conceived it receives a certain type of essence from its parents called prenatal essence.  It is our constitutional inheritance and its quantity is finite.  When our supply of prenatal essence is used up in the process of living we transition out of this life.  We can slow down the use of our prenatal essence by supplying our body with good postnatal essence through healthy eating and living (more on that in another blog post).  A woman loses some of this vital essence each month when she menstruates.  Menopause is the body’s wise homeostatic mechanism to slow the loss of essence.  While it may not feel like it, menopause actually slows the aging process.      

Unfortunately many of us enter into menopause with prenatal essence already depleted due to lifestyle and dietary habits.  Anxiety, depression, stress, poor diet, overwork, smoking and alcohol all impact our store of prenatal essence and thus influence the severity of menopause symptoms. 

But all is not doom and gloom.  There are many things women can do to set themselves up for a smooth transition into menopause or bring relief to a menopause experience that is less than smooth.  See below for a few suggestions!

3 Ways to Get the Menopause Dwarfs Under Control:

1.     Dietary changes.  Avoid spicy foods, greasy foods, coffee and alcohol as these can all aggravate menopausal symptoms.  Instead go for dark leafy greens, seaweed, whole grains (such as rice, spelt, oats) and deep colored fruit.  It is best to eat cooked rather than raw foods (more on the why behind this in another blog post!).   

2.     Reduce emotional stress.  Easier said than done, I know!  We live in a hectic society where we eat irregularly, work long hours and take care of everyone and everything but ourselves.  Commit to a daily or weekly practice of yoga, taiqi, qi gong and/or meditation.  These practices all help to reduce stress and preserve vital essence.  Also do whatever cardiovascular and strength training exercise that you enjoy.  Exercise is a great stress reliever (and helps if you are struggling with weight gain in menopause). 

3.     Get regular acupuncture.  Acupuncture works to relieve menopause symptoms by restoring homeostasis and addressing the root cause of a woman’s unique constellation of symptoms.  Each woman going through menopause will have a different experience.  Chinese Medicine is a holistic approach that looks at the whole person and crafts a treatment plan that is individualized to the patterns and symptoms of that particular person.  Regardless of what set of symptoms you are currently experiencing acupuncture can provide lasting relief! 

Do you know someone struggling with menopause?  Please share this post with them today!

Be Fearless: An Antidote to Stress

Be fearless.  This one [not small but life changing] act is a major antidote to stress.  So much of our stress comes from fear:  fear of making the wrong decision, fear of disappointing others, fear of failing. 

Be fearless.  Pick a path and follow it with all your heart.  Change your mind.  Pick a new path and follow that one with all your heart.  I’m not saying to be rash or impetuous, although sometimes those things can be good too.  You can carefully consider your path…the danger is when we never move beyond careful consideration.  We can spend years carefully considering career changes or letting go of unfulfilling relationships (trust me on this one, I have firsthand experience).  Heck, I know someone who spent a year considering a hairstyle change!  When was the last time you were fearless? 

In Chinese Medicine we say that fear descends Qi.  In my experience, fear in the form of chronic anxiety also causes Qi to rise and results in heart palpitations, insomnia or racing thoughts.  In Chinese Medicine fear is the province of the Kidneys and a sudden fright can impact the Kidneys.  We see this in our Western understanding of the body as well.  When we experience fear the adrenal glands (which sit on top of the kidneys) secrete cortisol, a steroid hormone that, among other things, causes your heart rate to increase.  More insidious is chronic anxiety, which, in Chinese Medicine is often a disconnection between the Heart and the Kidneys.  

So, how can you become more fearless? 

·      Meditate.  A host of studies have demonstrated that meditation reduces the body’s release of the stress hormone cortisol.  More importantly though, meditation gives us the opportunity to stop running away, to sit with how we are feeling and let it go.  So often we are afraid to feel our fear so we disconnect and distract ourselves.  Most people find that their resistance to feeling caused more stress and anxiety than just sitting with the feelings.  Even meditating 10 minutes a day can have a positive impact on your life.  Start today.  You don’t need fancy cushions and chimes.  Just sit in the quiet for 10 minutes and pay attention to your breath.  That’s it. 

·      Start small.  You don’t have to move across the country or quit your job.  Although you could do that if your heart is calling you to do this very thing!  Pick one fearless act to do today.  Tell your real deal feelings to someone you trust.  Sign up for that weekend retreat your braver self fantasized about doing.  Say no.  Say yes.  Do one fearless act each day.  It gets easier.

·      Get acupuncture!  If you are stuck in fear, in indecision, or in a near constant state of low-grade anxiety acupuncture can unstick you.  It is quite amazing actually.  Like a car stuck in overdrive, our bodies can get stuck in fear and our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) never turns off resulting in chronically high levels of cortisol.  Acupuncture works to return the body to its natural state of balance (sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems working together).  You’ll feel less anxious, less fearful, and less stressed.  Sound good?  Call 404.695.0905 today to schedule a free consultation! 

What act of fearlessness are you going to do today?