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Anxiety and the Spleen

I LOVE when Western Medicine “discovers” something that our ancestors knew thousands of years ago! Today I came across a study from Ohio State University (OH.. !) that shows how the spleen is affected by long term stress. (Study reveals role of spleen in prolonged anxiety after stress). According to researchers, “the spleen becomes a reservoir of inflammatory cells” following repeated episodes of stress, which then leads to further anxiety symptoms.

If you’ve seen an acupuncturist for stress or anxiety, you’ve probably heard all about your spleen!

Cat's TCM Notes

Cat’s TCM Notes

Essentially, we view stress as an irritant to the Liver System, which binds the energy in your body. “Stagnant Liver Qi,” as we call it, causes everything from tightness in your chest to sighing to headache (think of all the familiar symptoms of stress). Over time, this stuck energy eventually weakens your Spleen System, which lowers your immune system and makes you more prone to digestive discomfort like irritable bowel syndrome and gas or bloating. We call this diagnosis “Liver overacting on the Spleen (or Middle Jiao),” which is essentially “Stress affecting the Spleen,” just like the researchers found! Strengthening the Spleen system- which could potentially correlate to decreasing the inflammatory cells in the anatomical spleen- is an important part in mitigating stress and anxiety symptoms.

If you need help managing stress or anxiety, call us today for a free consultation!

2017 News and Updates

It’s been awhile since I’ve had time to post here! Having a busy practice and a busy toddler will do that, eh?

January 28th, 2017 starts the Chinese lunar year of the Fire Rooster. It will be a year to focus your intentions and move forward on any projects or goals. Dedication, perseverance, and determination are all important Rooster traits!

I am alert
Ready to take action
The first on the scene
The last to leave
I take chances
But I am precise
I know where things belong
I am orderly and fastidious
Nothing escapes me
I am always prepared
I never give up or in

Here at the office, we are no strangers to taking action! 2017 will be a very busy year for Sustaining Health Acupuncture. As many of you know, we have welcomed our newest acupuncturist, Jordan Burk, with open arms. He brings a wonderfully positive energy to the practice and helps balance out the yin Natasha and I carry. Jordan will be seeing patients Tuesday through Saturday. Starting in February, all new patients will be scheduled with Jordan so as not to interrupt continuity of care while I am on maternity leave.

As for updates on myself, baby boy #2 is due to arrive on 3/29/17. My goal is to work up until my due date, but everyone knows babies sometimes have their own plans. I will be in close contact with everyone scheduled in March to let them know if anything changes. In addition, I am now a doctoral candidate! I began classes toward my Doctor of Acupuncture degree in January 2017, with an expected completion date of May 2018. I will be taking to heart the advice I give many of you about balance as I learn to navigate these next several busy months!

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions, concerns, or comments. No matter how busy we get, we are never too busy to communicate with you. After all, you are the reason we do what we do!

You are the Author of Your World

A close friend shared the e-mail below with me this weekend because she said “it sounded like me.” Indeed, the author did a wonderful job explaining what I believe to be true about our lives- that we are always in complete control.

I am like anyone else, acupuncturist or not. Some days I wake up in a horrible mood and all I want to do is crawl back in bed. Years ago, I would have done just that. After all, “I’m sick.” I have a chronic pain condition and have collected various other diagnoses over my short 30 years on this earth. Who could blame me for wanting to shut the world out? Life isn’t fair and I just can’t handle it today!

That thinking- and that’s all it was, thinking– is part of what kept me ill for so long. One day, I simply decided I’d had enough. Yes, I was in pain. Yes, I was tired. But I was more tired of being sad and angry. There comes a time in life when “the risk to remain tight in a bud is more painful than the risk it takes to blossom.” I was comfortable shifting all blame for my unhappiness and discomfort onto my illnesses. It was a freedom from responsibility. Suddenly, I was deciding to become ultimately responsible for my wellbeing. Me, myself. Only I could control how I felt– my pain, physical and emotional, could only affect me as much as I chose to let it. This was perhaps one of the heaviest burdens I’d ever felt- to realize not only that I had that much power, but that I had been running from it, ultimately allowing myself to suffer.

That day was a changing point in my life. It was around the same time that I decided to study acupuncture. Yes, I was familiar with the pain relief acupuncture could provide, but I knew I wanted to do more than help people feel less physical pain. I wanted to help open their eyes and their minds to the beauty of acceptance, to the power we all hold within us to affect our destiny.

These days, when I wake up on the wrong side of the metaphorical bed, I allow myself to briefly feel whatever emotions are creeping in. I close my eyes and let them flow through me. And then I ask myself how they can serve me (remember, there are no inherently “bad” or “good” emotions- we label them as such ourselves). If they can’t, I choose not to feel them. What used to feel like a burden now gives me a sense of lightness that I cannot adequately describe. To know that you are the sole creator of your mood and happiness is freeing. I hope you too will learn to experience it.


Your brothers and sisters actions are, in the end, not what truly affects you, what truly affects you is your interpretation of and reaction to them. They are really not to blame for how you feel, it is you who must, if you desire true peace, start taking personal responsibility for how you interpret and view this world. Today notice how when you are in a good mood, your day seems to be smoother and the people in it seem to be more pleasant. Also notice that when you are in a bad mood the day seems to drag more and those you interact with seem to be less jolly. Notice how when you are in a bad mood your patience with others seems to fade, yet when you are in a good mood your patience with others seems to be more resilient. And so you see, the world itself is not really changing, what is changing is your mood, your interpretation of the world, the way you unconsciously or consciously choose to react to it and then participate in it.

Today let us awaken to our true power by remembering that we are the authors of our dream, and thus have the ultimate say of how we choose to act, react, interact, interpret, and participate in our world. It is we who have authored, and are authoring, in every moment, our world. It is we who are writing each page of our story. It is we, who decide how much compassion, kindness, love, generosity, charity, understanding and love we will express and thus experience. How much time we spend in the states of emotional pain or peace, is in the end, up to us. It is we, who through our minds, interpret the world we see. It is we who choose how to react to our own interpretations. It is we, who decide, how much time and energy we will spend on our emotional reactions to our experience. Let us today awaken and remember that it is we who are the true authors of our dream.

-James Blanchard Cisneros (via




NFL Player Prefers Acupuncture to Dry Needling

Well, guys, I may just have to become a Jets fan (sorry Steelers)! From ESPN:


FLORHAM PARK, N.J. –- Chris Ivory is on pace to shatter his career high in carries, and the running back’s physical running style can take its toll.

That is one reason why the New York Jets‘ workhorse has taken to acupuncture as part of his weekly rehab regimen. Twice a week, the bruising 6-foot 222-pound back has needles stuck into him in an effort to help him feel fresh, pain free and recover.

“If you know a little bit about it, it does (seem like something that works),” Ivory said when asked about if the treatment works. “It is something that gets deeper in the muscle than your normal deep-tissue massage. So far that has worked for me.”

The Mayo Clinic describes acupuncture as a treatment that “involves the insertion of extremely thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. A key component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain… many Western practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. Some believe that this stimulation boosts your body’s natural painkillers and increases blood flow.”

Ivory first started using acupuncture when he joined the Jets in 2013. He says he usually undergoes the treatment on Monday and Friday each week.

The Jets want to do all they can to keep their bruiser fresh. Ivory has already carried the ball 156 times for 643 yards and six touchdowns through eight games. Last season, Ivory had a career-high 198 carries for 821 yards and six touchdowns in 16 games.

Ivory exploded for 166 and 146 yards against the Dolphins and Redskins, respectively, in Weeks 4 and 6 (the Jets had a bye in Week 5). But in the Jets’ following three games, Ivory gained a total of 84 yards and two touchdowns. He rebounded with 99 yards against Buffalo last Thursday, but the Jets are cautious about wearing their bell cow out.

“You go into a game with a specific number,” head coach Todd Bowles said of Ivory’s carries. “But if he’s rolling and he’s having a good day and you like what he’s doing, you keep feeding him. Obviously, if we got to throw the ball more, his carries will drop a little bit.”

Ivory is averaging 19.5 carries per game. While he averages 4.1 yards per carry this season, he averaged just 1.1 yards per carry in the Jets’ two games against Oakland and Jacksonville prior to his 99-yard game against Buffalo.

“I feel good,” Ivory said. “Just have to continue to stay doing the things that have been helping me and just continue my rehab program and see how far it takes me.”

That program has consisted of cold tub, hot tub, maintenance exercises and treatments, acupuncture, massage and daily hydration. Ivory said he tried dry needling treatment before giving acupuncture a try.

“I tried dry needling before and that didn’t work so well with me,” Ivory said. “It just depends on the person and technique. (Dry needling) is more like targeting one area, and the needs in that muscle versus acupuncture.

“It is very similar but acupuncture I guess they hit a few different main muscle trigger points in the body. Let’s say one main muscle, they follow all the muscles that follow that main muscle and everything around it, which brings in new blood within the area.”

Even the muscular Ivory admits to feeling the pain of the needles being poked into him.

“It is painful,” Ivory said. “But after a while, well for me, I’ve gotten a little, I don’t want to say used to the pain but I am able to deal with the pain better than I was before.”

Cornerback Darrelle Revis says he also uses acupuncture as a treatment.

“It is fine,” Revis said of acupuncture. “It has its upside and downside to it. But that’s something I use in the offseason.”

Ivory admits he was initially skeptical of acupuncture when he first tried it, but not anymore.

“Like I said, it has helped me so far,” he said.

TIME Magazine: Acupuncture Effective for Neck Pain

Acupuncture helps neck pain

Two alternative therapies get a boost of scientific legitimacy in a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Acupuncture, the ancient practice of needle insertion, and the Alexander Technique, a program that teaches people how to avoid unnecessary muscle tension throughout the day and improve posture, coordination, balance and stress, are two complementary therapies often used to help treat neck pain. Treating it is often difficult, and it’s common for people to seek out alternative therapies.

The researchers wanted to see how well two of these worked. They assigned 517 people, all of whom had neck pain for at least three months (and sometimes many years), to the standard care for neck pain, which involves prescription medications and physical therapy. Some of the patients were assigned to also receive one of two extra treatments: a dozen 50-minute acupuncture sessions or 20 private Alexander Technique lessons—which focus on teaching people how to move their body to avoid or correct muscular pain.

A year after the start of the study, people in the groups doing acupuncture and the Alexander Technique had significant reductions in neck pain—pain was assessed by questionnaire—compared to those who just got usual care. Both groups reported about 32% less pain than they had at the start of the study, which is far greater than the 9% typically associated with physical therapy and exercise. The interventions also gave people in the groups more self-efficacy, which were linked to better pain outcomes.

The study adds to growing evidence suggesting that acupuncture is effective against pain; a landmark review in 2012 involving almost 18,000 people with chronic pain concluded that acupuncture was better than standard care and sham acupuncture (which proved the effect is not due to placebo of simply sticking needles in the body.)

“You get a two-fold effect with acupuncture for pain: a natural pain-relieving effect and an anti-inflammatory effect,” says Jamie Starkey, lead acupuncturist at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine, who was not involved in the new study.

Acupuncture manipulates the nervous system, she says, activating the release of pain-relieving endorphins. “With neck pain patients, a lot will get steroid injections or take a non-steroidal anti inflammatory, like ibuprofen or a prescription medication,” says Starkey. “Those medications or injections have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, but the acupuncture needles can do that naturally.”

The influx of new research has helped legitimize alternative therapies like acupuncture, says Starkey. “That’s really brought acupuncture to the forefront of people’s minds and attention, and physicians are a lot more willing to refer their patients to an acupuncturist.”

-From Time Magazine

Acupuncture and Dry Needling- What’s the Big Deal?

I have held off on speaking publicly about “dry needling” because, to be honest, until recently I hadn’t yet formulated a concrete opinion. This week, however, I came across some disturbing new information that has led to an uneasy feeling that I can’t seem to shake. While I support the idea of dry needling by other well trained professionals, I can no longer stand back and watch while patients are put at risk and my profession is demeaned. With this blog post, I hope to educate the general public about what is going on behind the scenes with the “dry needling” epidemic. Forewarning: this will be long.

First, some background:

What is Dry Needling?

It depends on who you ask. Technically, “dry needling” is a term that dates back to the mid 1900s. Janet Travell, MD, found that inserting empty hypodermic needles into trigger points could help release those points (empty meaning without liquid like one would get in a shot, hence the “dry”). These days, physical therapists and other “dry needlers” use acupuncture needles. If you ask an acupuncturist, you’ll likely hear that “dry needling” is, in fact, acupuncture. We have been palpating and needling trigger points to relieve pain for thousands of years. Patients may have heard their acupuncturist talk about trigger points as “Ashi” points- “Ashi” means “ah, yes!” as this is the sound we often hear when we find the sweet spot. The World Health Organization agrees with the acupuncturists on this one. In the 2007 WHO International Standard Terminologies, the WHO defines “trigger point needling” as “a type of acupuncture in which the trigger points are needled for therapeutic purposes.” (Note: the American Physical Therapy Association states that “trigger point needling” is another name for “dry needling” here.)

The educational requirements for dry needling certification and acupuncture certification or licensure are also very different, with acupuncturists having a minimum of 660-870 hours of hands-on, supervised training (in addition to 1245-1755 hours of training in diagnosis, biomedicine, ethics, and other topics). Acupuncturists must also maintain continuing education. Dry needling certification courses for PTs often require only 27-72 hours of training, with no universal requirement for supervised patient treatments.

With that out of the way, let’s delve into the issues behind “dry needling” by PTs and other providers.

Potential Risks- Incorrect Insertion

I will be the first person to tell you that physical therapists know their anatomy. Their high level of study in to the body’s musculature is the main reason that I disagree with some of my colleagues who argue that PTs should be required to undergo the several thousand hours of training in acupuncture that a Licensed Acupuncturist does. However, understanding the body’s anatomy and understanding how to safely needle into that anatomy are two completely different things.

Physical therapists learn anatomy from a manual therapy framework, whereas acupuncturists learn it with an eye on potential risks for needle insertion. For example, back in my first semester of graduate school, we learned not only to trace the trapezius muscle along its origin and insertion points, but also exactly how the trapezius overlies the lung and pleural (chest) cavity. We learned where the lung was closest to the muscle and also where it curved away, making it safer to needle a little deeper.

Now, I’m not saying that physical therapists and other medical professionals aren’t aware of the trapezius overlying the lung. Even someone without training in anatomy would probably be able to see the relationship there. However, the context in which acupuncturists learn anatomy is always with the idea of inserting a needle into that part of the body. Every time I look at a certain muscle, I cannot help but think of the underlying organs and exactly how the muscle overlies them. This is an incredibly important skill for my job, as I am inserting needles all over the body on any given day. This is also not a way of looking at the body that can be taught in a weekend course. Learning and viewing the body from a manual therapy standpoint and then trying to go back and look at it from the perspective of someone inserting needles can lead to errors in the way needles are inserted, as demonstrated below.

All of these photographs were retrieved off of Instagram in the last week by searching for the tag “#dryneedling.” I have removed the identifying information on each of them to protect the posters’ privacy. The red circles on each picture indicate where the needle appears to have been inserted at the wrong angle. (I say “appears to” here because I cannot speak with 100% certainty unless I were to see the needle angle in person. However, it’s pretty clear that something is incorrect when a needle is supposed to be going straight up and down but the photo shows it at an angle, or when the needle should be pointed toward the spine but is pointed away from it in the photo.) Inserting a needle at the incorrect angle could lead to potential organ or nerve puncture.

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In the third photo above, not only do some of the needles appear to be inserted at an incorrect angle, but even more importantly, they are also inserted to the hilt. This is a no-no as an acupuncturist because the hilt is considered the weakest spot of the needle. Pressure on the hilt increases the risk of the needle shaft breaking off inside the body.


In this photo,  needles are inserted through clothing. This goes against Clean Needle Technique, which states that clothes should be removed and the point swabbed with alcohol before needle insertion.

Potential Risks- Contraindications

Improper needle insertion is not the only risk with “dry needling” by someone with too little training. In an effort to differentiate their tactics from acupuncture, most “dry needling” courses do not discuss the non-neuromuscular actions of the acupoints. This is problematic, as any acupuncturist worth their salt knows that some points should not be needled on particular patients. For example, several acupoints are known to cause uterine contractions and therefore contraindicated on pregnant patients (unless the patient is seeking help with labor induction). I recently spoke to a PT friend of mine who is certified in dry needling, and she was unable to tell me which points should not be utilized in pregnancy.

Even more alarming is that these points are, in fact, being “dry needled” on pregnant patients right here in my city. I saw a new patient last week with pain in her trapezius muscle. She had undergone dry needling the month prior and reported that it helped “a little.” Upon further questioning, it became clear that her PT had inserted a needle into and stimulated the point Gallbladder 21 (GB 21 for short). GB 21 is one of the points on the body that is both an acupoint and a trigger point. It is also a point that is KNOWN TO CAUSE UTERINE CONTRACTIONS. This patient is very fortunate that she did not experience any negative side effects.

Other points on the body are considered contraindicated in certain cases including low blood pressure, diarrhea, or in the elderly. Again, judging from the outlines provided by multiple courses, these contraindications appear to be rarely (if ever) taught in a typical “dry needling” certification course.

The Politics- Scope of Practice and Beyond

This is where the heart of the matter lies. For any medical profession, the scope of that profession’s providers can vary by state and is ultimately determined by the state’s legislating bodies. This can turn into a “behind the scenes” turf war that the public often knows nothing about. When physical therapists began practicing “dry needling” in greater numbers, acupuncture boards in many states challenged their right to do so, essentially arguing that “dry needling” is, in fact, just acupuncture with a new name. Lobbyists were brought in on both sides and the fight played out differently in various states. Currently, physical therapists are NOT ALLOWED to practice dry needling in the following states: California, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, and Hawaii. In all other states, legislative bodies have determined that “dry needling” is within the scope of physical therapists, or they have not yet made a ruling on the matter.

So, what’s the big deal with PTs being allowed to dry needle? Other than the safety issues stated above, I don’t personally take issue with it. Acupuncture (and therefore “dry needling”) is an extremely effective tool for relieving pain and the more practitioners that utilize it, the better. I do wish that further education was required for PTs and other practitioners who want to perform “dry needling”, again due to the safety issues mentioned previously. However, assuming practitioners are properly trained in trigger point needling, I think it’s great that more people will have access to this wonderful modality.

Notice how I highlighted the term “trigger point needling” above. This is important. According to the American Physical Therapy Association,

Dry needling is a technique physical therapists use (where allowed by state law) to treat myofascial pain. The technique uses a “dry” needle, one without medication or injection, inserted through the skin into areas of the muscle, known as trigger points. Other terms commonly used to describe dry needling, include trigger point dry needling, and intramuscular manual therapy.

Dry needling is not acupuncture, a practice based on traditionalChinese medicine and performed by acupuncturists. Dry needling is a part of modern Western medicine principles, and supported by research.

There are two issues I have with this definition. First and foremost, it seeks to diminish the validity of acupuncture by insinuating that acupuncture is not a part of Western medicine principles and is not supported by research. This is a common theme amongst dry needling proponents. Our own Kentucky One Health system states the following on their website:

The only similarity between this technique and acupuncture is the type of needle used. Dry Needling evaluations include a subjective and objective examination of the neuromuscular system. Needle insertion points are based on assessment and knowledge of neuroanatomy to deactivate hyperirritable spots within the muscle with a goal of decreasing pain and restoring function. This technique is just one small part of the treatment session. It enhances the patient’s ability to perform corrective exercises and/or the therapist’s ability to perform other manual therapy techniques to restore normal function.

Acupuncture evaluates the tongue and pulses. Needle insertion is along Meridians to balance energy.

Do you see the problem here? These statements show an utter lack of understanding about what a modern acupuncturist does. I have been trained at a graduate level on various orthopedic tests and utilize them on a daily basis to determine which muscles or parts of the body are responsible for a given symptom. Western neuroanatomy is also an important part of my training and influences the points I choose. Yes, we do utilize energy and meridians, but that is only a part of our medicine. Our understanding of the science behind acupuncture grows every year, and negating that growing area of research is both unsound and irresponsible. In fact, even the tongue and pulse have their place in western medicine. I recently had a pregnant patient who complained of back pain. During her intake, I noticed that her pulse was not forceful and her tongue was paler than it should have been, indicating what acupuncturists call a blood deficiency. After treating her for pain, I gave her a dietary handout based on blood deficiency that included multiple iron rich foods. Two weeks later she was diagnosed with low iron by her OB.

The second issue I have with the APTA’s definition of “dry needling” is that it is hypocritical. Here is an excerpt from the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy Dry Needling Resource Paper:

PTs using dry needling:

  • do not and cannot claim to practice acupuncture,
  • do not use acupuncture traditional Chinese medicine theories, meridian acupoints and terminology,
  • do not use acupuncture diagnosis like tongue and pulse

And here’s where the hypocrisy comes in:


The photo above, again from Instagram but substantiated by a PT I know who underwent “dry needling” certification, shows drawings of the Chinese Meridians and even labeled acupoints.

Also, remember that “trigger point needling” definition I highlighted above? That’s been thrown out the window by many PTs. PTs across the country are now offering “dry needling” for non muscular conditions. Here is a link to “Cosmetic Dry Needling” by a physical therapist in Colorado.  And here we have a PT treating sinus congestion:


This is not “dry needling.”

Finally, much of the research supporting dry needling is actually research supporting acupuncture. From the website of one of the certification programs for dry needling

Brain imaging studies have demonstrated that needling of “key” distal points (not trigger points), that are not “onsite” with the patient’s symptoms, stimulates the descending pain inhibitory systems or cortical areas of the brain that are involved in pain control. Furthermore, much of the literature that “dry needling” draws from uses the term “acupuncture” in its title, and many of these studies have used both traditional acupuncture points and myofascial trigger points in their treatment regimes. Thus, a foundational knowledge of the nomenclature and the location of several key traditional acupuncture points will be discussed on this course to help the clinician understand and interpret the existing biomedical acupuncture and dry needling literature within the context of neuromusculoskeletal conditions.

This indicates that not only are they utilizing acupuncture studies to support dry needling while stating that acupuncture and dry needling are different, but they are also using points OUTSIDE OF TRIGGER POINTS. Again, hypocritical.

In Conclusion

As you can see, my medicine, my profession, is being pulled out from under me. To add insult to injury, these same people are devaluing what I do and describing it only in terms of “energy” and “meridians.” Some of them are also potentially putting their patients at risk. I can no longer stand by and watch this happen. In sharing this post, my goal is not to start a turf war or demean the field of physical therapy, a field I often refer my own patients to. Instead, my goal is to inform you, the public, about what “dry needling” really is and the impact it is having on our profession. If you value acupuncture, please share this with your friends. Change can only come if we educate the public.

Negative Thoughts and Your Health

If a stranger asked you if you were a negative or a positive person, what would you say?  More importantly, WHY would you say you are positive or negative?

There is an epidemic of chronic illness in our world today. We have become so used to feeling or hearing about fatigue, back pain, high blood pressure, etc., that we no longer look at these symptoms as real signs of disease. We blame our discomforts on “getting older” or staying “busy” without feeling any urgency to actually fix the problem. This blasé attitude is only reinforced by a medical community that is often happy to hand out medication to “control” symptoms without actually treating them.

Our acceptance of disease and discomfort as a normal part of life deserves an article all to itself. What I would like to focus on here is how our own negativity can play an important role in our overall wellbeing. Going back to the question at the beginning of this post- what was your answer? Are you a negative or a positive person? It seems like a straightforward question, but I believe there is actually a third option that is often overlooked. I call these people “quietly negative.”

So, what is a “quietly negative” person? This is someone who sees themselves, and who generally comes across, as positive. However, this same person is also pessimistic and dismissive in their own minds. They talk down to themselves and downplay their strengths. They dislike what they see in the mirror and wish they could be a better [insert job title/parent/spouse here]. All day long, while they go about smiling at the outer world, the inner track in their mind is worrying and questioning and nagging.

acupuncture pain

Imagine what a constant stream of negative thoughts, no matter how mild and innocuous they may seem, can do to the human body. We know and accept that feeding our bodies “bad” food like that found at fast food restaurants is damaging to our health. If we saw someone with pain and anger issues who ate McDonald’s every single day for a year, we would be quick to point out that their poor health could probably be helped by changing their diet. However, for some reason we do not look at how feeding our bodies “bad” thoughts can have the exact same effects.

The thought processes of a “quietly negative” person are further reinforced by our culture. The majority of our news coverage is on negative events. We don’t often talk about how great we are feeling, but commiserate with friends and loved ones by sharing our woes and pains. (This is not to say that sharing our problems isn’t a good idea, because it absolutely is. However, in my experience people are much more willing to engage in conversations about problems than conversations about happiness and peacefulness.) Even our medical system is set up to reinforce negativity- the idea of preventative medicine is reserved for catastrophic illnesses and does nothing to promote wellness on a day to day basis. Our diagnoses are final and often leave patients with little hope of ever feeling “better.” It’s no wonder small negative thoughts creep into our minds over and over again throughout the day.

positive, acupuncture, painNow, what if I told you that you have the power to change your thoughts? This may sound obvious and silly, but it’s amazing how many of us give up that power every day. Whether we are tired, angry, bitter, defeated, or just sad, we have the power to say “no, I choose not to feel this way right now.” This is much easier said than done, and not everyone is in a space where they are ready or able to do it. However, even changing one negative thought per day can have a huge impact on our health. If you feel that you are a negative or a “quietly negative” person, I challenge you to begin to change the way you interact with the world and with yourself. Together, we can lead you to a path of wellness.

Acupuncture Alleviates Chemotherapy Peripheral Neuropathy

Deqi arrival at the acupoint.

Deqi arrival at the acupoint.

I’ve had great success treating CIPN for patients with different types of cancers. The study below, originally posted here, focuses on the mechanism behind that success.


Researchers find acupuncture effective for alleviating chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) for patients with colon cancer. Neurotoxicity from chemotherapy may damage nerve fibers and lead to symptoms including pain, burning sensations, tingling, muscle weakness, balance disorders, paresthesia, dysesthesia, cold or heat sensitivity in the hands and feet, and a “glove and stocking” distribution of symptoms. The paresthesia is often experienced as a bilateral pins and needles sensation. Severity ranges from mild to debilitating. The researchers summarize their findings into three main benefits of acupuncture for patients with CIPN:

  • Acupuncture administered prior to chemotherapy prevents CIPN.
  • Use of acupuncture during chemotherapy inhibits the progression of CIPN.
  • Administration of acupuncture after completion of chemotherapy eliminates or reduces persistent symptoms.

The research was conducted at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America at the Southwestern Regional Medical Center located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The investigators applied Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) style acupuncture to 10 patients with chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy. They note that “all of the patients reported or had improvement in their CIPN grades after starting acupuncture.”

The researchers note that using customized acupuncture point prescriptions in the TCM style produces superior patient outcomes when the use of distal acupuncture points are employed. The researchers emphasize the need for customization of the acupoint prescriptions per each patient’s differential diagnostics for maximum clinical efficacy. In addition, they emphasize that distal acupoints “increase blood flow” and therefore have an especially important role in the treatment of CIPN.

The researchers note that CIPN symptoms are “typically dose-dependent”. As a result, CIPN may limit the amount of chemotherapy a patient can tolerate thereby interfering with the efficacy of anticancer therapy. This is particularly prevalent with drugs containing platinum including oxaliplatin, an important drug in the treatment of colorectal cancer.

Platinum based medications often have both acute and chronic adverse CIPN effects because they “produce direct damage to dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons.” The researchers add, “Cisplatin, taxanes, and vinca alkaloids have also been shown to exert damage to microtubules resulting in the disruption of axonal transport and thereby signal transduction in these nerve fibers.” The researchers note that “acupuncture for the treatment of CIPN has several advantages.” They note that “side-effects are minimal and it has been shown to be safe and effective in preliminary studies.” An additional benefit to antitumor therapy, they add that studies indicate that acupuncture regulates the immune system.

Full body acupoints on a doll.

Acupuncture Treatment
The researchers note that the data indicates that “TCM-based acupuncture, prescribed frequently and aggressively, and focused on the distal extremities may be effective for preventing and treating CIPN.” They add that an aggressive treatment would, at a minimum, employ the following acupoints:

  • 5 NP (Five Point Ear Acupuncture Protocol)
  • Ba Feng
  • Ba Xie
  • LI4
  • LR3
  • GB41
  • GB34
  • SP6

Supplementary acupoints include:

  • Sheng Ba Feng
  • Sheng Ba Xie
  • Jing-well acupoints
  • ST36
  • LU7
  • LI10
  • Yin Tang
  • LU9
  • ST40
  • LR5
  • KI6
  • GB41
  • HT3
  • KI3
  • UB62
  • SP9
  • UB60
  • GB20
  • SP4
  • GB4
  • PC6

The researchers note that aggressive acupoint therapy was not always needed to produce clinical results and some patients are too weak to receive aggressive therapy. All acupuncture needles used were between 1/2” to 1” in length and were between 36 – 38 gauge. For this investigation, DongBang brand acupuncture needles were used. For the Ba Feng, Ba Xie, and Jing-well acupoints only guide tube insertion of the needles was employed. Needle retention ranged between 10 – 45 minutes per acupuncture treatment session with an average of 20 minutes per session. Electroacupuncture was not administered.

The research indicates that an integrative medicine approach to chemotherapy for colon cancer patients has several benefits. Patients experience an improvement in the quality of life including better functionality and comfort. In addition, reduction or elimination of CIPN reduces symptomatic interference with the quantity and frequency of chemotherapy treatments. The researchers note, “In the current authors’ treatments, the goal is to combine Eastern and Western practices in order to best provide for the patient.”

Acupuncture Theory
The investigators provide TCM theory as it relates to CIPN. According to TCM principles, CIPN is caused by qi and blood flow abnormalities. They note that blood nourishes tissues and qi moves blood to the tissues. The researchers note, “CIPN results from the body lacking nourishment to the muscles (Blood) and the body not directing the Blood to the limbs (Qi).”

The authors provide TCM theory as it relates to colon cancer. Tumors are often a form of stagnation resulting from disruption of circulation. Heat stagnation is also common with colon cancer patients and is indicated by “an area that feels hot to the patient, red tongue, rapid pulse, dry stool, and constipation.” Toxin stagnation is also common and is often produced by exposure to chemotherapy. Phlegm or damp stagnation is common with fatty tumors and is often concomitant with the following symptoms: mucus in the stool, loose stool, slippery pulse, puffy tongue, a feeling of heaviness. Qi stagnation may occur and is characterized by: flatulence, bloating, irritability, moving pain, purple tongue. Blood stasis is indicated by sharp or stabbing pain, an immovable tumor, dark stools, and difficulty with defecation.

The authors note that their overall clinical impression of cancer patients is that they have a deficient constitution. They note, “the body is not strong enough to move energy to all of the tissues. Therefore, the energy stagnates. This is often the case with CIPN.” They add, “Acupuncture is an effective treatment option for CIPN because acupuncture not only stimulates the body to send blood flow to the site of the needle but also helps strengthen the underlying condition of Deficiency.” The authors note that by applying acupuncture to the extremities “it will act as a local therapy bringing Blood and nourishment to help treat the damage caused by chemotherapy.” Moreover, the authors note that “by strengthening the body against its underlying Deficiency, acupuncture helps restore balance to the body.”
Valentine-Davis, Brandy, and Laurence H. Altshuler. “Acupuncture for Oxaliplatin Chemotherapy–Induced Peripheral Neuropathy in Colon Cancer: A Retrospective Case Series.” Medical Acupuncture 27, no. 3 (2015): 216-223.

Tagliaferri M, Cohen I, Tripathy D. Complementary and alternative medicine in early-stage breast cancer. Semin Oncol. 2001;28(1):121–134.

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Acupressure Guide for Labor

“I’m really nervous about seeing her in so much pain.  Are there any points we can do at home to help take the edge off?”

I was asked this question recently by a concerned father-to-be at his wife’s 39 week appointment.  It was not the first time I’ve been asked such a question, nor will it be the last.  In the interest of helping mamas everywhere, I’ve put together a handy list of points that can be used both to stimulate labor and to help alleviate pain.  For a printable version you can take to the hospital or birthing center with you, click the button below.

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I want to caution that these points are not meant to be used to attempt to “induce” labor before the woman’s body is ready.  While acupressure is a much more natural method than pitocin or cervical dilating medications, it still causes physical changes in the body.  These acupressure points are intended to be utilized to help regulate contractions once early labor has started, or to speed up the labor process if a woman’s water has broken but her cervix is not progressing as needed.  If you are facing a medical induction and would like to consider natural options first, please contact your local acupuncturist to talk about how acupuncture and/or certain foods may potentially be used in place of medication.


Acupressure Points to Regulate or Stimulate Labor

The points below all have the effects of aiding cervical dilation, stimulating uterine contractions (most likely by increasing oxytocin levels), and/or helping to promote the baby to descend into the birth canal.  Firm pressure may be used on each point for 5 minutes every 1-2 hours during early or active labor.  Please note that by “firm pressure,” I mean constant, consistent pressure- not massage or rubbing.  However, if the mom finds rubbing or massage to be more comfortable, it is ok to alternate that motion along with consistent pressure.

Note: The points below should not be stimulated during most of pregnancy.  It is fine to practice locating them before 39/40 weeks, but do not actually apply pressure to the points.

1. Large Intestine 4

Large Intestine 4 is a point that many people are familiar with as a quick fix for headaches.  It is located on the hand, between the thumb and pointer finger.  To locate it, have the mother squeeze her thumb and pointer finger together.  LI 4 is at the highest point of the muscle between the two fingers.  When the point is located correctly, firm pressure will cause a dull ache in the area.

2. Spleen 6

Spleen 6 is located on the inner leg, four of the mother’s finger width’s above the inner ankle bone (medial malleolus).  It is just behind the tibia bone of the lower leg.



3. Bladder 60

Bladder 60 is located on the outside of the ankle, halfway between the tip of the outer ankle bone (lateral malleolus) and the back of the ankle.

4. Gallbladder 21

Gallbladder 21 is located at the highest point of the shoulder muscle.  If an imaginary line is drawn from the bony prominence on the neck (C7) to the highest point of the shoulder joint (acromion process), GB 21 is halfway between them.  This is approximately in line with the nipple.



Acupressure Points to Help Relieve Pain During Labor

The following points may be used to help alleviate pain during labor either by increasing endorphins or helping to counteract pressure caused by contractions.  These points may be used throughout labor, only during contractions, or whenever else the mother would like.

1. Gallbladder 21

See above for location.

Gallbladder 21 is often used to relieve stress and tension in the upper body by people who have no idea they are actually doing acupressure!  Firm, consistent pressure on this point not only encourages regular contractions, but also promotes relaxation of the muscles in the neck and shoulders.  If the upper body is kept loose, the lower body (read- cervix) will also be more relaxed and labor will be less painful.

2. Kidney 1

Kidney 1 is located on the center of the sole of the foot, 1/3 of the way between the bottom of the toes and the end of the heel.

Kidney 1 is used as a stress reduction point in acupuncture.  It is thought to bring energy down out of the head, which promotes relaxation and focus.  It is especially useful for fear or anxiety during labor.

3. Bladder 32

Bladder 32 is located on the sacrum, approximately one index finger length above the buttocks crease and one thumb width to the side of the spine. There is a small indentation at this point called a sacral foramen.  The sacral foramina are holes in the sacrum that roughly form a “V” shape above the top of the buttocks crease. As labor progresses, many women find they like pressure applied not only at Bladder 32, but also Bladder 33 and 34, which are also shown in the picture below.

Bladder 32 is wonderful for counter pressure during contractions.  It is easiest to use your knuckle to apply pressure to this and any other sacral points.

4. Large Intestine 4

See above for location.

While also used to promote contractions, Large Intestine 4 has a generalized pain relieving effect on the entire body.

5. Ear Shen Men

Ear Shen Men is located in the upper ear, inside the upper edge of the tip of the triangular fossa (the triangular shaped indentation near the top of the ear).  To stimulate this point, squeeze both sides of the ear with either the thumb or the thumb nail pressed against Ear Shen Men.

Ear Shen Men is used as a general relaxation and pain relieving point.


And there you have it!  A handy list of points that you can use at home or at the hospital to help manage labor.
Good luck guys- you’ve got this!!

Acupuncture for Pregnancy and Fertility

I was recently asked to do a guest post on acupuncture for pregnancy/fertility for the website  Are you wondering how acupuncture helps improve fertility or why so many pregnant women use it as an alternative to prescription drugs?  Then this post is for you!


When many people hear the word “acupuncture,” they automatically think of treating pain. Most people know at least one person who has seen an acupuncturist for effective relief of back pain or arthritis. After all, that’s what we generally use it for, right? Not necessarily! At my practice, over 75% of the patients I see are seeking help for something other than pain control. Two of the most common issues that bring men and women in are infertility and pregnancy symptoms. Acupuncture is so effective at addressing these complaints that I’ve built an entire practice on helping couples achieve happy and healthy pregnancies. The list below details many of the most common pregnancy-related issues that acupuncture has been shown to help.

CLICK HERE to go to and read the rest of the post!