Firefly Acupuncture and Wellness
Stress is the body's natural response to internal and external stressors. There are two types of stress, unhealthy stress and healthy stress. The difference between these two types of stress is how it affects the body. Unhealthy stress includes negative emotions and thinking, overexertion, poor eating habits, lack of sleep, and environmental pollutants. Conversely, healthy stress is what you use when are under pressure, whether on the job, during an athletic event, or needing to make a quick split decision in traffic.
Chronic stress can cause a plethora of physical and emotional problems. Those suffering with chronic stress can cause pain sensitivity, irritability, anxiety and digestive disorders. If the chronic stress is not relieved, more serious health conditions like high blood pressure, ulcers, depression and migraines can occur. These conditions may interfere with your quality of life compelling you to seek out interventions like pharmaceutical medications, which may cause serious adverse side effects.
Fortunately, you can relieve chronic stress without prescription medications using Traditional Chinese Medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine, also known as TCM, helps alleviate stress and teach you new techniques for dealing with the most common stressors.
In TCM, the emotions you experience can affect different areas of the body. The seven emotions are joy, grief, anxiety, anger, fear, fright and pensiveness. Joy, for instance, affects the heart, while grief and anxiety influences the lungs. The liver is affected by anger, while fear affects the kidneys and fright influences both the kidneys and the heart. Finally, worry has been shown to affect the spleen.
Emotions are a normal part of life. It is the physiological response to stimuli. However, when emotions become so powerful that they become uncontrollable and overwhelm or possess a person, then they can cause serious injury to the internal organs and open the door to disease.
When you are anxious, your Qi, which is controlled through breathing, does not move. Anxiousness can cause breathlessness, shallow breathing and irregular breath patterns. Anxiety can damage the Large Intestines and the Lungs. In fact, overly anxious people are prone to ulcerative colitis.
Grief causes disharmony in the Lungs. When grief is expressed, sobbing occurs. This sobbing originated deep within the Lungs. Grief causes the lungs to become weak and the Qi can become stagnant. Grief causes a weakened immune system, coughing and an increased chance of bronchitis to occur.
When one is excessively joyful, the spirit scatters and can no longer be stored," states the Lingshu (The Vital Axis). In Traditional Chinese Medicine, joy is more than a feeling of deep happiness. It is a state of agitation, overexcitement or mania, causing overstimulation of the emotions. Over-stimulation can lead to problems with such Heart symptoms as feelings of agitation, insomnia and palpitations.
Anger includes a full range of emotions, including irritability, frustration and resentment. When anger occurs, the Liver Qi stagnates, resulting in headaches, dizziness, high blood pressure and Stomach and Spleen issues. Additionally, those who have anger issues often have ruddy complexions and are more prone to have sudden fits of rage.
Worry occurs when you are excessively mentally or intellectually stimulated. Those who must have a lot of mental focus, such as students, parents and business owners, often experience worry. Spleen symptoms associated with worry include fatigue, lethargy, concentration difficulties and digestive disorders.
Fear is a healthy emotion that can protect you from danger; however, when it becomes chronic it can cause problems in the kidneys. Children who have had physical or emotional trauma in particular, often suffer from fear, which can lead to involuntary urination.
Fright is much like fear; however, fright happens suddenly and unexpectedly. Think back; have you ever said statements such as "You about scared me to death?" When you are frightened your Heart pounds, breathing increases and the body responds with a sudden urge to urinate. These symptoms are directly related to how fright can cause a disruption in the flow of your Qi.
Restoring Your Mental Health and Protecting Your Vital Organs
There are numerous things you can do to help protect yourself from these different emotions. Follow these tips to help protect your health and restore your well-being.
1. Chew your through thoroughly.
2. Avoid drugs, alcohol and caffeine.
3. Practice deep breathing techniques.
4. Exercise moderately.
5. Meditate to calm the mind.
6. Follow Chinese nutritional therapy and eat nourishing, unprocessed wholesome foods.
7. Acupuncture and other Chinese medical practices can also help restore your body's equilibrium.
How Acupuncture Can Help Relieve Stress
Most people report that after an acupuncture treatment they feel peaceful and relaxed. Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Endocrinology in March 2013 reported that rats treated with acupuncture exhibited lower stress hormone levels, including cortisol and ACTH, than rats that received no acupuncture.
During periods of stress, the adrenal glands increase the production of stress hormones. Over time, this increased stress can cause a plethora of symptoms including anxiety, sleep disorders, depression, fatigue and weight gain. Furthermore, many stressed out individuals report an increased occurrence of infections, pain and digestive disorders, such as acid reflux and IBS.
Additionally, a study conducted in 2013 by the University of York found that acupuncture is more effective than using antidepressant prescription medications in treating mild depression. The researchers reported that one-third of the patients who received counseling or acupuncture were no longer depressed. However, only one-fifth of the patients receiving antidepressants were no longer depressed.
What to Expect at Your Appointment
At your appointments, your health practitioner will discuss your day-to-day life, do a thorough medical exam and discuss how stress affects you both emotionally and physically. Then, using a variety of techniques such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, Chinese nutritional therapy, non-needle techniques, aromatherapy, stress relief practices and other lifestyle recommendations, the physician will work with you to restore any imbalances found in the body.
Know Why You Want to Quit
So you want to quit smoking, but do you know why? “Because it’s bad for you” isn’t good enough. To get motivated, you need a powerful, personal reason to quit. Maybe the thought of lung cancer and emphysema frighten you. Did you know that cigarettes have 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing compounds. Perhaps the increasing cost of cigarettes is making you broke. A pack-a-day smoker spends, on average, $250/month.
The good news is that quitting smoking at any time can greatly benefit you health. It can benefit your body even within a few minutes as your blood pressure normalizes and long-term benefits include a reduced risk for emphysema, coronary heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.
Conventional stop smoking aids such as nicotine replacement therapy include the nicotine patches, gums, lozenges, sprays and inhalers. Non-Nicotine smoking aids such as Zyban and Chantix are available. They help by decreasing the urge for smoking and also the pleasure one gets from smoking is reduced.
Alternative options that have been found to help keep you motivated and significantly reduce nicotine cravings are hypnotherapy, meditation and acupuncture. Always talk to your doctor first if you choose to quit smoking so that you can both come up with a treatment strategy that is most appropriate for you.
Power to You!
Tell your friends, family, and co-workers that you’re trying to quit. Their encouragement could make the difference. You may also want to join a support group or talk to a counselor. Avoid being in places that you used to smoke, and those activities that are psychologically linked to smoking.
One reason people smoke is that the nicotine helps them relax by managing your moods and feelings. Once you quit, you’ll need another way to cope with stress. Other options are to get regular massages, listen to relaxing music, or learn yoga. If possible, avoid stressful situations during the first few weeks after you stop smoking-use this time to pamper yourself.
Physical activity can help reduce nicotine cravings and ease some withdrawal symptoms such as reducing your stress and help you relax. The extra calories you burn will also ward off weight gain as you quit smoking.
In addition to the tremendous health benefits, one of the perks of giving up cigarettes is all the money you will save. Reward yourself by spending part of it on something fun.
Once you’ve smoked your last cigarette, toss all of your ashtrays and lighters. Wash any clothes that smell like smoke and clean your carpets, draperies, and upholstery. Use air fresheners and open the windows to help rid your home of that familiar scent. You don’t want to see or smell anything that reminds you of smoking.
Food for Life
Certain activities and foods may boost your urge to smoke or aggravate the nicotine withdrawal symptoms so, avoid these triggers such as alcohol, coffee, junk food and sugar. Drink plenty of water-it’s known that dryness causes cravings. Alternatively, sip green tea throughout day during the detox period to keep the tissues flooded with elements that discourage nicotine cravings. Eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables can help decrease cravings.
Try and Try Again
Many smokers try several times before giving up cigarettes for good. Examine the emotions and circumstances that lead to your relapse. Use it as an opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to quitting. As a way to remain nicotine-free, once you‘ve successfully quit, choose a maintenance program help you stay on track and resist any urges to light up.
Acupuncture Increases Recovery Rate from Injuries
Anyone who exercises challenges their body to go beyond their comfort zone. This healthy stress we put on our body is what makes us stronger and healthier but sometimes we push ourselves too far and injury results. Professional athletes, especially, who surrender to the demands of competition exercise excessively or perhaps don’t rest long enough between sporting events and consequently have wear and tear of their joints and reoccurring soft tissue injuries. Soft tissue injuries include: muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. In my acupuncture practice, I most commonly treat: muscle pull, neck pain, shoulder impingement, tennis elbow, lower back strain, groin gull, hamstring strain, runner's knee, shin splints, ankle sprain, Achilles tendonitis and arch foot pain. Many of these are due to trauma, overuse and re-injury, though knowing how to heal injuries completely, can help you avoid a long healing process.
Your Body’s Response to Injury
At the moment you realize your body has taken the brunt of physical force resulting in tissue damage, your body is calling upon its healing forces mainly: white blood cells and increased blood flow. Pain in the affected area, apart from the actual injury is also due to swelling and inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s healthy response to infection, tissue damage or both. By sending increased amounts of white blood cells to the injured area, the body is better able to repair any damage. Without the inflammation process, injuries would not heal. But with that inflammation come reduced range of motion and discomfort but it’s your body’s way of telling you to stop overexerting so you can heal.
Acupuncture Supports Your Body in Healing
This practice has helped billions of people over 5,000 years and it is a safe, natural, drug-free and an effective therapy. The goal of this dynamic and integrated health care system is to activate the natural, self-healing abilities of the body by engaging the body’s own natural healing ability to increase blood circulation which helps nourish damaged tissue and remove toxin build. Acupuncture can be used to help decrease swelling, spasms, inflammation and pain as well as increase range of motion all while promoting the healing process. The focus is not only to treat the injury but also to treat any underlying conditions that may predispose an individual to injuries. This is especially important when treating chronic or recurrent injuries that interfere with life activities or athletic performance. Fortunately, acupuncture can be used during any of the phases of injury and can be used to complement other modalities (physical therapy, massage, chiropractic, etc.) that you may be using to help heal. Getting acupuncture before your other healthcare appointments (such as physical therapy or massage) allows the other practitioners to work more effectively with your body.
• A study conducted at the Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine involved athletes running 5,000 meters, and then sitting for acupuncture treatments before they had a chance to catch their breath. The heart rates of the athletes who received the treatments recovered more quickly than those in the control group.
• A study published in the American Journal of Acupuncture found that healthy young men who had a acupuncture could exercise longer and had less blood lactate build up. The individuals that received acupuncture also had lower heart rates.
• A study published in the January, 2008 issue of the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine examined the effects of acupuncture on cyclists. The group that received acupuncture had a higher intensity work out score and they completed their cycling tests at a higher acceleration than the others.
• A 2008 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine discovered that participants who received acupuncture for muscle soreness 24 and 48 hours after they exercised to exhaustion reported significantly less pain than those who did not receive the treatment.
Cutting Edge Athletes
Athletes respond to acupuncture very well and because of their great physical condition, they can sometimes feel like they are healing overnight - making the results seem like magic. The 2010 Winter Olympics had an acupuncturist on their staff as do many professional sport teams. Athletes using acupuncture during their professional careers include: Joe Montana, Michael Strahan, Dwayne Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, Jason Kidd, Vladimir Radmonovic, Fred Couples, Gary Player, Kevin Johnson, Steve Nash, Charles Barkley, Hot Rod Williams, Jeff Hornacek and Grant Hill, NFL quarterback Matt Hasselbeck; Hockey superstar Jaromir Jagr; Olympic high-jumper Amy Acuff; Olympic Gold Gymnast Nastia Liukin
What Can You Do Between Acupuncture Appointments?
• Self-massage and stretching: Movement keeps blood moving through an injured area which keeps the flow of nutrients to the injured tissue.
• Heat vs. Cold: Use cold when the pain is sharp, like right after it happens. An ice pack works wonders in helping to prevent swelling and relieve pain. After a few days (or if it becomes a chronic site of discomfort), heat should be applied to encourage blood flow to nourish the damaged tissues.
• Arnica, turmeric, ginger and cayenne are excellent remedies that can help promote circulation, reduce swelling and bruising. Talk to your practitioner about use.
Acupuncture is effective in healing injuries but it also benefits the entire body. It improves sleep so your body can replenish its reserves. It eases stress and anxiety-no need to stress before the big game! And it strengthens your immune system-don’t lose out on precious training. It Increases awareness. Many people find that acupuncture helps them tune into their bodies, minds and emotions at deeper, subtler levels. Being mindful of yourself and your surroundings is a winning tool that is beneficial on and off the playing field.
With a little care, many soft tissue injury can be completely healed in a few days to a few weeks. Be careful though, just because an injury feels better doesn’t mean that it is fully healed, so give it an extra week or two. You can use that time to slowly build up strength in the area to help prevent future injuries which could take a lot longer to heal.
The Zen of Performance
Acupuncture can be part of comprehensive approach for athletes so they can cultivate and achieve balance between the mind-body-spirit in to promote optimal sports performance. Acupuncture can naturally boosts athletes’ energy levels, aid in post-workout recovery, and improve overall performance levels. Athletes who incorporate acupuncture as part of their regular training regimens notice better results and fewer injuries.
Inside of you is an intelligent, energetic system that maintains health and balance. Our body already knows how to restore itself but we just have to provide the tools it needs for repair. A progressive way to think about healing is how to nurture what’s good rather than destroying what’s bad. Nurturing the body’s innate healing abilities through lifestyle choices has long been a cornerstone of disciplines such as Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s not a single stressor that makes you sick-it’s the cumulative effect of many stressors on the body, mind, spirit that wear you down and make you vulnerable. Every moment of the day, we deal with insults to our emotional, physical, and spiritual selves. Those insults can come in the form of cuts, scrapes, viruses, allergens, junk food, muscle strains, anxiety, heartbreak, and more. As long as you’re living, you’re healing which is why it’s so important that you allow your body to function at its maximum potential through healthy choices. My conviction is that healing is less about battling illness and more about nourishing life.
Good quality food speeds wound healing. Why not create an inner healing environment by feeding your body the nutrients that boost immune function and lower inflammation. Healing happens all the time, it‘s happening all over the body which is why you can do more to aid the healing of a cut than slap on a band-aid.
Regular moderate exercise promotes circulation which helps detoxify the body, strengthens muscles (including the heart), and increases nutrient and oxygenation of cells-all of which are critical for healthy immune function. In Chinese medicine, exercise is considered an activation of qi, or energy flow, which can, in turn, improve one’s ability to fight disease and heal. Acupuncture can’t make you exercise but can address your achy back or nagging knee that is hindering you from exercising.
Relaxation and pleasure are healing states of mind and if we don’t visit them regularly we compromise the body’s ability to recover from its daily traumas. Admiring a work of art, listening to music, or tending a garden aren’t just fun but part of a comprehensive health insurance plan. Doing things you enjoy, triggers the brain to release feel-good chemicals. As a matter of fact, researchers have established that bio-chemicals, released from the brain during various mood states affect how well the body repairs itself. Negative feelings (such as anxiety, fear and loneliness) trigger stress hormones which inhibit the immune system, while positive feelings (like happiness, love, and peacefulness) can boost our immune system and thus our healing ability. Acupuncture helps to regulate the nervous systems which helps to relax.
Sleep is a vital link to good health. Many of the body’s major restorative functions-tissue repair and muscle growth, happen mostly or exclusively during sleep. Studies have linked sleep deprivation with lowered immune ability, increased obesity and inflammation, all of which are risk factors for heart disease, cancer and stroke. Adults need an average of 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Often when we’re worried about life, our sleep will be interrupted. Although acupuncture can’t take away the stress in your life, it can help keep calm you so that life’s emotional stressors don’t create havoc with your sleep.
Acupuncture to the Rescue
Acupuncture can help regulate your digestion, decrease inflammation and pain, promote sleep, and allow your mind and body to relax. If you provide your body with adequate food, exercise, rest and relaxation then you will avoid many illnesses and your quality of life will be at its optimum state. Acupuncture comes into the picture when your mind-body needs that extra help to metabolize your food better; exercise without pain; sleep better; and help relax your mind so that your body can go back to its extraordinary healing power and not get bogged down by imbalances.
Autumn is here with its shortened days, cooler temperatures and beautiful foliage. In Chinese medicine theory, humans are viewed as microcosms of the natural world that surrounds them. Weather and climate, particularly during the transition from one season to another, factor significantly into the prevalence of certain conditions we see at the clinic determining acupuncture diagnoses and treatment plans. Now that our environment has transitioned into a new season, it is an opportunity to assess our states of health and realign with nature’s rhythms.
According to Chinese medicine, the season of autumn is associated with the element of Metal associated with the Lung and Large Intestine systems which govern organization, order, communication, the mind, setting limits, and protecting boundaries. Therefore, the Lungs and Large intestine are the organs important to be kept in balance at this time of the year as they are most susceptible to imbalances during this time. Lung Qi (energy) gathers and maintains strength and the Large Intestines “let go” of what isn’t needed. Specific physiological responsibilities of the Lung system include maintaining the integrity of the skin, respiration, body fluids metabolism, blood circulation, immunity and melancholy (or grief) emotion. Fall typically has dryer weather which may affect the Lung and Large Intestine organs as they are the most vulnerable at this time. Signs and symptoms of imbalances within these organs manifest as an itchy throat, a dry nose, chapped lips, rough skin, hair loss and dry stools.
Here are Chinese medicine-themed tips for staying healthy this Fall.
Mentally Preparing: Make a List of Your Priorities
Fall is when we ought to embrace our Metal-esque qualities: strong, definitive, focused, discerning. It is time to get down to business, to gain clarity about what really matters to us. To access this energy, it might be helpful to make a list of priorities which deserve your attention. Write them down and glance at the list periodically throughout the season. Fall heightens our innate ability to get stuff done. Take advantage of it by reminding yourself where to focus.
Do Acupressure on Lung 7
One of the best points for strengthening the Lung organ is Lung 7. It is a great point for cough, shortness of breath and nasal congestion. Lung 7 is easy to access yourself. Make a thumbs-up sign. When you do that, you’ll see a depression at the base of your thumb (referred to as the anatomical snuffbox). From that depression, Lung 7 is located approximately two finger widths up your arm.
Dryness of all kinds is common in Fall. Since Lung is the organ that relates most closely to the skin, dry skin, itchy skin and even rashes tend to show up in Fall. Drink a lot of water, herbal tea and soup as well as keep your skin hydrated with a good quality moisturizer.
Another reason to stay hydrated is to regulate digestion. The Lung’s paired organ is Large Intestine, so sometimes digestive issues can flare up this time of year. Constipation, due to the dryness of the season, is most common, especially in people who struggle with the “letting go” aspect of transitioning into fall.
Dress in Layers
is considered by Chinese medicine to be the "tender organ." The Lungs
are most susceptible to cold and dryness. So, during the change in temperature,
be sure to dress for the weather! In northern Virginia we may have a frosty
start to the day and by afternoon the temperature is in the 70’s. Office buildings can be another challenge as
the central indoor temperature may not be suitable for everyone, leaving some
freezing and others feeling too warm.
So, dress in layers to keep your body comfortable for all the different
temperatures you may be experience, otherwise it is an open invitation for
coughs, sore throats and the common cold.
Choose Nourishing Foods to Support Lung and Large Intestine Health
Step away from the salad! The cool, raw, refreshing salads of summer will not do you any favors come Fall. Just as we need to start keeping our bodies warmer on the outside, we need to stay warm on the inside as well. In Fall, eat warm, cooked food. Instead of cold cereal with milk, choose oatmeal. Trade the salads for oven-roasted veggies over brown rice. When cooking, throw in some onions, ginger, garlic or mustard—these pungent foods are known to benefit the Lung organ. More pungent foods and herbs include: capers, cardamom, chives, cinnamon, cloves, dill, leek, oregano, nutmeg, rosemary, thyme, turmeric, wheat germ, watercress, cabbage, turnip, horseradish, pepper and chili peppers.
Veggie wise, root vegetables such as beets, turnips, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkin and squash are most nourishing during this season. Ideally, eat what’s in season and locally produced. If you go for out-of-season vegetables, make sure they are cooked. If you’re craving fruit, reach for something seasonal such as apples, pears, lemons, grapes, figs or persimmons. Other beneficial foods are lily bulb, white fungus, nuts or seeds, lotus root, honey and moderate amounts of soy milk and dairy products.
It is a Chinese tradition to eat porridge for breakfast and soup for dinner that is made with the above ingredients.
In Chinese medicine, every organ is associated with an organ and the emotion associated with Fall is grief (or sadness). It’s a natural shift in energy and it is the time of year to pull inward, to grieve let go and to reflect on any unresolved sadness. Grief that is expressed fully and resolved is strengthening both physically and psychologically. When the Lungs are out of balance or you are dealing with excessive personal grief, you may have difficulty coping with loss and change, a sense of alienation and experience a prolonged sense of sadness that doesn’t go away. However, the Lungs are also associated with clear thinking and communication, openness to new ideas, positive self-image and ability to relax, let go and be happy. Take this time to evaluate and assess your own situation and how you engage with life’s challenges.
Fall is about refinement. It’s time to pare down, to let go of the excesses we allowed ourselves in summer and focus on what’s necessary for winter. It is a time of organizing your life for the winter season ahead and coming more inside your body and mind to reflect on your life. It would be a good time now to finish projects that you began in spring and summer – harvesting the bounty of your hard work. Of course, it's also the perfect time to begin more introspective, indoor projects. Acupuncture can help balance your body to promote overall health. Wishing you a happy and healthy Fall.