What We Treat

Sprains and Strains

We’ve all heard of and maybe even experienced a sprain or a strain. But do you really know the difference? A sprain is defined as a stretch or tear of a ligament. A strain, on the other hand, is defined as an injury to a muscle or tendon. Sprains can result from a fall, a sudden twist or a blow to the body that forces a joint out of place, while a strain can happen from twisting or pulling a muscle or tendon. continue reading »

Go Beyond Skin Deep with TCM

by Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

“The qi of the five zang organs manifests in the face. . .if we see green like jade, red like the crown of a rooster, yellow like the underside of a crab, white like the lard of a pig, or black like the feathers of a black chicken, these are the colors of life.”
– The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine

A practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine can tell a lot about your health from your face and your skin. In TCM, each of the organ systems corresponds to one of the sense organs; so the appearance and function of the eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and eyes can give the doctor information about what might be going on in the liver, heart, intestines, and other major organs. Conversely, problems in the liver, etc., will show on your face. The skin is considered the “opening” of the lungs; this is why problems with environmental toxins often display themselves through skin conditions such as eczema, rashes, psoriasis, hair loss, acne, dullness or roughness.

In other words, we know that health, and beauty, are not only “skin-deep.” The skin’s surface and the life of the facial features give us clues as to what is going on underneath. The skin reflects imbalances of the internal landscape of the body. Stress and strong emotions, hormone imbalances, inappropriate dietary habits and environmental influences all will be represented on the skin, our largest organ. We must treat the underlying conditions deep within the body first, then we will see the skin bloom with health. Any skin condition is like a red flag showing that there are some impurities or toxins building up inside. Normally, our bodies can self-clean; our liver and kidney filter all impurities out. But if there are too many toxins, or the body is under a lot of stress –eg., not enough sleep, or lacking in regular “tune-ups,” just as a car needs maintenance at regular intervals–, then the problems build up and break outs occur.

For example, conditions such as scaling psoriasis and rosacea are often caused by excess internal heat, especially that which we call Stomach Fire, so our acupuncture and herbal treatments will be designed to clear the heat, along with dietary changes, such as avoidance of alcohol, coffee, sugar, and red meat (all of which we recommend avoiding, anyway). Western medicine will often treat these conditions with cortisone, which may suppress the some of the symptoms for the duration of use, but it will not address the root cause. Long-term use of cortisone can have very detrimental effects on your overall health.

Hives – itchy, red patches that come and go – are considered by Western medicine to be caused by histamine reactions, and are almost always treated with antihistamines. In TCM, they are considered a “wind rash;” like wind, they can be cold or hot, and can move from one place to another quickly. This signals a weakness in the exterior immune barrier that your skin provides, and that you are extra susceptible to stress and/or allergens in your environment. Balancing the excess heat or cold in the body with acupuncture treatment, discovering where the irritants are coming from and altering your diet, hygiene regimens, etc. can alleviate the hives, and also strengthen your overall immunity.

Eczema, or dermatitis, can show up in many forms, but they are all due to imbalances in the body caused by toxic buildup from both external and internal sources. Again, stress and hormones play a role, as do the plethora of artificial toxins in our environment. The body’s own immune response to this constant bombardment of toxins can cause skin irritations. Our strategy might include building up deficient blood with more nutrients, clearing dampness, and prescribing cleansing herbs and foods.

Acne – pimples or lesions that break out on the skin’s surface – is not a superficial problem. It is always related to things that are going on internally, often with the digestive system. Improper diet or imbalances in hormones lead to inflammation that is “overflowing,” and, having nowhere else to go, erupts out of the body through the skin. Making appropriate modifications to your food program and balancing hormones will clear the acne for good, where topical solutions and birth control pills provide only temporary improvement.

If aging is your concern, we are able to choose specific points for an acupuncture facial, which tightens and tones the skin and boosts the production of collagen. This treatment will help smooth fine wrinkles, improve circulation, and hasten healing of any acne, rosacea, and other skin irritations. Acupuncture also releases endorphins, which make you feel more relaxed and positive. Most people find acupuncture treatment painless and relaxing. You can see a difference after just one or two treatments, but the benefits keep growing, as the results are cumulative.

Why choose acupuncture over modern dermatological procedures? If you are looking for treatment that is natural,with natural-looking results and no or minimal negative side effects, it is worth a try. If you come with a skin condition, we will conduct a full consultation to determine which organ system has an imbalance and offer acupuncture treatment to improve Qi flow, cupping to get rid of deep tissue toxins and activate the lymphatic system to clean the internal organs, herbal therapy to clear heat, and dietary suggestions to prevent the skin condition from coming back.

TCM for Common Injuries: Ankle Sprain

by Qineng Tan, L.Ac., PhD., O.M.D.
A sprained ankle is one of the most common injuries. It can happen to kids and adults of all ages. It can happen when you’re actively playing a sport, or just walking around in your own home.
A sprain can be one of three severity levels:
Grade I
A minor sprain can occur when you are just walking. The ankle turns in sharply, causing the muscles and ligaments to pull and tear slightly.
Grade II
A moderate sprain might happen when running, or because of a fall. In this case, the ankle is twisted further in, causing a partial tear of the ligament.
Grade III
A severe sprain happens because of significant impact—such as a fall at great speed or from a height, or a fall compounded by someone’s else weight, such as might happen while playing a sport like football, soccer or baseball. In this case, the ligament might be torn completely. In very severe cases, it may also cause some fracturing of the ankle and/or even dislocation.
The ankle is a wonder of design; it is a very stable joint that not only carries your body weight, but withstands a lot of pressure and impact when you run and jump. It is really made up of two joints; the true ankle joint is formed by the meeting of three bones–the tibia, fibia and talus—and works like a hinge to create the up and down movement of the ankle. The subtalar joint is formed by the talus and the calcaenus, and allows for the side-to-side motion of the ankle. Ligaments are the soft tissues that connect bones to bones, while tendons are the soft tissues that connect muscles to bones; both are made up of small fibers of collagen. Cartilage is the tough yet soft, slippery tissue that creates cushioning and slip between the bones. A sprained ankle can result in torn tissues in the muscles, tendons or ligaments, damage the cartilage, and in severe cases, may involve fractures in the bones.
The pathology of a sprain begins in the acute stage—the first 1-2 days–with internal bleeding at the injury site. Fluid builds up in the tissues of the joint, which leads to swelling. After a few days, the active bleeding stops and inflammation begins to exert pressure around the area, compressing the blood vessels and slowing down the flow of fresh blood. This results in blood stagnation.
When blood has built up in the joint and stopped moving freely, it has a negative effect on the healing process. Incomplete healing can mean that the ankle loses some of both its stability and flexibility. The tendons and ligaments can become fragile, which means the joint is now more susceptible to re-injury.
For immediate home care of a sprain, follow the Universal Rule of RICE. (see box below) Do not massage the area during the first week of recovery. After that, gentle self-massage between the knee and ankle, focusing on releasing tightness in the shin and calf, is best. Don’t walk or put any weight on the foot for 3-7 days, depending on the severity of the injury. When you are ready to being exercising the ankle, begin with gentle, non-weight-bearing movements.
A good exercise to try is the “A to Z Exercise”:
Lift the injured leg, or cross it over the other leg so the ankle and foot can move freely. Using the big toe as the point of your “pencil,” draw the letters of the alphabet in the air, using at first very small, circular movements of the ankle joint. Gradually, work up to making the letters larger.
After 2-3 weeks, you may be ready begin engaging in activities that increase the range of motion, yet still keep most of your weight off the ankle, doing exercises such as pedaling a bike, swimming, or walking through water.
Gradually, after 4-5 weeks, you will be able to resume walking on a flat surface.
It is good to see your acupuncturist as soon as possible after spraining an ankle. The treatment will focus on stopping the internal bleeding and reducing the swelling of the joint. Minimizing inflammation and maximizing the constant circulation of blood will speed healing and help to ensure that the injury does not become a chronic one.

Addiction

Addiction is defined as the compulsive physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance, which means addiction can come in a lot of different forms.  People can be addicted to illicit drugs like heroin just as easily as they can be addicted to sugar. But for the purpose of this article, let’s stick to illicit drugs and alcohol.

According to the Health Services Administration, 23.5 million people ages 12 or older have needed treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. And the treatments provided aren’t guaranteed, nor are they always easy. Luckily, there are alternative treatment options that can help. continue reading »