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How Does Moxibustion Work Really?

October 18, 2011 2 comments

Using a form of direct moxa for a chronic shoulder injury

One of the most useful modalities in Chinese Medicine is the herb known as Moxibustion.  Otherwise known as Mugwort, Artemisia Vulgaris, or Ai Ye (chinese pinyin); it can be used in a number of different ways.  It can be taken internally, decocted as a tea, applied as a tincture, burned directly on the skin or indirectly just off the skin.

For the purposes of this article we will primarily be discussing the use of Moxibustion directly on or indirectly above the skin.  Generally moxibustion and Acupuncture go hand in hand, it is an extremely useful modality for a wide range of disorders, stages of trauma and disease as well as all ages, constitutional types and individual persons, all of which add to its intrigue.  How can one simple herb be so beneficial to just about everyone?

Mugwort (the type that we ‘burn’) is cultivated from the underside of the mugwort leaf and is packaged up looking like a spongy cotton ball-like material.  This type is generally used ‘directly’; i.e. on the skin, or placed upon the end of an acupuncture needle.  Indirect moxibustion looks more like a large black piece of chalk.  This type is much more functional in the sense that it is ‘smokeless’ and is held just off the skin to create heat and healing, and lowers the risk of getting burned.

So how does it work, and what can you expect from a Moxa treatment?  I have been using moxa a lot lately, 1) because the weather is transitioning toward winter and moxa is a warming modality and 2) because it is extremely useful in reducing inflammation, promoting healthy tissue regeneration and lately I have been surrounded by chronic unhealed injuries lately.

Many people ask how it works, and my tried and true answer is that it’s like using infra-red radiation to mellow out inflammation.  Unlike using heat just on the surface, Moxibustion, like infra-red, penetrates deep into the tissue, muscle or joint affected and though it’s warm to the feel, has the ability to flush out inflammation and essentially cool off the area.  In addition to just treating inflammatory disorders, Moxa is used to:

  • Reduce pain:  acting somewhat like an analgesic
  • Promotes healthy Immunity: when used at specific acupuncture points
  • Promotes kidney Function
  • Treat ulcers & other gastro-intestinal disorders
  • Fertility and menstrual disorders

Following is a great article, written in Acupuncture Today describing in more detail the how’s, why’s & what’s of using Moxibustion.  This article is especially great because there is some really good research to back it all up which is nice for all of us scientific brains out there who like to know how things work!

Article taken directly from Acupuncture Today:

How Does Moxibustion Work Scientifically?

By Yin Lo, PhD

Moxibustion and acupuncture have always gone together as one compound name in the Chinese classics on treatment of illness. We have explained in previous articles in Acupuncture Today how acupuncture works in terms of modern science.

 How does moxibustion work in terms of modern science? The simple answer is that meridians are like optical fibers that transmit infrared radiation.

Fudan University conducted an experiment on meridians and found the following: A high transparency (76 percent) at a wavelength of 2.66 microns has been measured along the axis direction of the collagenous fiber at the Gallbladder meridian on one lower limb in a human body. Along the fiber axis of the Stomach meridian, the transparency is 62 percent at wavelengths of 9-20 microns. The transparency vertical to the axis is 0.4 percent. There is a difference in transparency of more than 240 times between infrared light along the axis and infrared light vertical to the axis of the meridians.

The most interesting thing I have found out on moxibustion is that although it uses heat, it cools down the problem area, so the healing mechanism of moxibustion is the same as needle acupuncture. It is through qi that moxibustion does the work, not the direct incoherent heat that we associate with burning.

Moxibustion can also lower hot spots in painful areas. Please see the following infrared pictures. The color code for the images is as follows: the highest temperature is in white, followed by red, yellow, green, blue, and black.

Infrared image of back, before treatment. Infrared image of back, before treatment. The validity of moxibustion has been confirmed by many recent scientific studies.* It has effects on the immune system, analgesia, the kidneys, colitis, ulcers, neurons, and gene expression. Let us briefly describe them.

The Immune System

Moxibustion at acupoints qi hai (Ren 6) and tian shu (ST 25) inhibited the expression of IL-1 (beta) and IL-a6m RNA in experiments on rats with ulcerative colitis.

Infrared image of back, immediately after moxibustion. Infrared image of back, immediately after moxibustion at BL 23, BL 25, BL 18, DU 3 and DU 4. The back warms up as shown. A. Moxibustion at acupoint guan yuan (Ren 4) on sarcoma S180 ascitic mice increases the decreased erythrocytic C3b receptor rosette-forming rate, decreases the raised immunocomplex rosette-forming rate, and increases activity of erythrocytic immunosuppressive factor in tumor-bearing mice. Hence, moxibustion strengthens erythrocytic immunity.

B. On tumor-bearing mice, there is an instant elevation of serum ACTH and beta-EP from moxibustion at guan yuan.

C. Moxibustion at guan yuan on tumor-bearing mice promotes hyperplasia of the pituitary and adrenal glands, stimulates the secretion of beta END from the pituitary and adrenal glands, and increases the level of serum beta-END significantly.

Infrared image of back, two minutes after treatment. Two minutes after treatment, the heat due to the warming effect of moxibustion has gone and the back starts to cool off. D. In arthritic rats, moxibustion at acupoint shen shu (BL 23) could lighten local inflammatory reaction, eliminate swelling, prevent or reduce polyarthritises, maintain weight and shorten the course of the disease. It could help with recovery and promote the effects of concanavalin, inducing splenic lymphocyte proliferation in rates. It could also promote interleukin-2 production, and decrease IL-1 contents.

Analgesia

A. Moxibustion-induced analgesia was studied in rats, which were urethane-anesthetized. Single-unit extracellular recordings from neurons in the trigeminal nucleus caudalis were obtained from a micropipette. Suppression was observed on both wide dynamic range and nociceptive-specific, but not on low-threshold mechanoreceptive units. Moxibustion-induced moderate suppression with a long induction time. It suggested that noxious inhibitory controls may be involved in the analgesic mechanism.

B. The analgesic effect of moxibustion was measured by the latency of tail flinch threshold (LTH) in rats. When the surface temperature was modulated within 38-390 Celsius and 43-440 Celsius, LTH increased 17.7 +/- 2.1 percent and 22.2 +/-2.5 percent, respectively, after 5 minutes (p<0.05).

Renal Function, Colitis, Ulcers, Neurons and Gene Expression

A. The effects of moxibustion at acupoints BL 15 and BL 27 were studied on spontaneously hypertensive rats. Urinary volume was increased for BL 15, but decreased for BL 27. Urinary secretion of Na+ was decreased for BL 15 and BL 27. Systolic blood pressure was decreased for BL 15, but not for BL 27. Plasma levels of aldosterone and renin activity were increased, and atrial natriuretic peptide was decreased for BL 15. Plasma levels of aldosterone and atrial naturiuretic peptide were increased for BL 27.

B. The effect of moxibustion at acupoint Ren 4 on the function of MDR gene product P-glycoprotein P-170 in mice with S-180R adriamycin-resistant tumor cells was studied. A weak inhibition was found when moxibustion was performed at Ren 4 alone, and a very significant inhibition was observed in the presence of low dosage of verapamil, but not at high dosage.

C. Moxibustion at shen shu on experimentally induced gastric ulcerated rats was found to reduce the ulcer area significantly (p<0.05), and increase the zinc content in serum significantly. Pre-treatment by moxibustion had a protective effect on the gastric mucosa.

D. Stimulating acupoint zu san li (ST 36) on rats with a moxa stick can increase the activity of cholinesterase (p<0.05), and inhibit hyperactive gastrointestinal motility (p<0.05).

E. The effect of moxibustion on primary sensory neurons in the skin of rats was studied with immunocytochemistry combined with a fluorescent retrograde tracer dye. Moxibustion was found to induce galanin expression by primary sensory neurons containing substance P.

F. Pre-treatment with moxibustion at BL 23 significantly prevented the formation of gastric ulcer in rats.

It is quite clear from the above studies that the heat, or infrared radiation, from moxibustion preferentially transmits through meridians from acupoints to internal organs. Meridians act like a light pipe. This is consistent with our hypothesis that meridians are made up of water clusters (Lo, 2005).

Ask your Acupuncturist about using Moxibustion at your next visit; it is one of the most relaxing and comfortable experiences you will have in the treatment room!

If you’ve had Moxibustion in the past, what do you think of it?  How has it helped you?  Share your stories as they are usually the most helpful for people when understanding the elusive practice of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine!

Until next time ~

Erin

Sources: 

Lo, Y. (2005). How does moxibustion work scientifically. Acupuncture Today, 06(02), Retrieved from http://acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=30023

Moxafrica

February 7, 2011 2 comments

'Mugwort' By, Barry Cornelius @flickr.com

While Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV are not two diseases that we consider epidemic in industrialized countries (the US); they have reached epidemic proportions in other, less developed countries.  In the US, we are fortunate enough to have access to health care, sanitary conditions, education, vaccines & nutrition; and due to our high stress lives we are much more likely to get completely preventable diseases like heart disease & type II diabetes.  So, while we get carried away dealing with the stresses and strains of our busy, overworked lives, there is a huge contingent of people suffering & dying from diseases that can be treated & possibly prevented; but don’t have the means or access to any of it.  Fortunately there are people out there using ‘new’, or in this case, very old treatment modalities to help those in impoverished areas to ease their suffering.

One modality we use in Chinese Medicine is Moxibustion; Moxa for short.  It’s an herb by the name of Mugwort or Artemisia Vulgaris, you may know of it or even see it growing in your yard.  It is a particularly powerful herb and can be used in a number of different ways.  You can take it internally, or topically as a plaster, salve or rub; but most commonly this herb is burned either directly on the skin, just above the skin or on an acupuncture needle.  There are many different kinds of moxa as well, they are generally processed differently; some more pure than others, some more smoky than others.  Like anything, it depends on where you get it, who you get it from and what your intention is for using the herb.  Like most things in Chinese Medicine, I find myself talking about it and think to myself, this sounds a little crazy and weird and possibly barbaric.  Yes, we do burn this herb on your skin, however, it isn’t a burning sensation you feel but a calming & very relaxing warmth over an area of the body or a specific point.  It’s really quite nice and therapeutic in more ways than one.  Some common uses include the treatment of digestive disorders, musculoskeletal disorders (acute trauma and chronic pain), asthma & chronic immune compromising infections to name a few.  In general it has a warming effect on the body and works very well to bring blood supply to the area, increase the healing capacity of the tissue, as well as emit a systemic improvement in your bodies natural immunity.  The power of Moxa (or mugwort ) is much more than a sensation of warmth on the skin (which in itself is nice), it goes much deeper than that and causes a plethora of positive reactions deep to the tissue effecting the whole body and not just one area.  For more information on Moxa and its different uses complete with pictures and video; check out this Facebook page:  Moxibustion:  The Power of Mugwort.

Moxa therapy has been shown to increase immune function, specifically increase white blood cell counts, anti-inflammatory cytokines & anti-body production.  In addition to just improving your immunity and helping when you are simply feeling a bit down, it has proven to be particularly helpful in treating (you guessed it) TB and HIV.  Ever wonder how we treated disease before there were vaccines and pharmaceuticals?   When TB swept the country of Japan back in the 1930’s their primary treatment method was Moxa therapy.  It proved especially helpful in improving life expectancy (of both the sick and the healthy), decreasing the symptoms associated with TB and raising the spirits of those who were afflicted by the disease as well as those who weren’t.

Presently moxa is still used in China & Japan as well as by Acupuncturists and Chinese Medicine practitioners across the United States and the world.  In Japan it is so ‘popular’ that there are many who practice only Moxibustion therapy, (Moxibustionists) and there are many different levels of licensing for practicing Moxa.  In addition to its therapeutic relevance, Moxa therapy is also cost-effective and easy to access; two very important aspects that a developing country, stricken by large numbers of TB and HIV could benefit from.  One organization recognized the benefits of Moxa and is bringing this wealth of knowledge to Africa to help treat those suffering from both TB and HIV.  The organization is called Moxafrica & originated in 2008:

It arose directly from a feasability and fact finding trip last December to Lyantonde, a truck stop town four hours from Kampala on the main route connecting Rwanda and the Eastern Congo to the whole of East Africa. Lyantonde has an unfortunate reputation as a focus for prostitution and HIV/AIDS, the town being home to the first ever officially recorded case of AIDS in Africa.

Our aim was to assess how they would feel about the idea of burning something on the skin, and whether they would consider it an acceptable therapy to try out in their own work places. Additionally we wanted to assess how easy it might be to teach African health workers basic moxa skills.  We soon had them all rolling moxa, both making and burning tiny cones with impressive dexterity.

The following day we were invited to demonstrate moxa treatments on two patients, one of them a very sick man co-infected with TB and HIV. He was terribly wasted by the two diseases, cared for by his sister who was vainly trying to administer his daily medication. After we had finished treating him, using the minimum possible stimulation of moxa because of his dreadful condition, we used a trainee to help us explain to his sister how to use moxa and how to locate a treatment point, leaving her clear instructions on a simple protocol to follow every day, building up dosage if he strengthened.

What we suspect we witnessed at this moment was something we had not even considered previously – that teaching the carer of such a sick person a simple moxa protocol fundamentally offered her something meaningful to do for her brother, and was offering her something maybe even more important as well – hope.  We’re not sure yet how significant this might turn out to be.

To our knowledge this was the first time that a moxa protocol for TB from the 1930’s has ever been used to treat anyone co-infected both with TB and AIDS anywhere in the world. Two weeks after we got back we got the following extraordinary feedback:  “Frank’s response was truly fantastic. I wish you had seen the joy in his sister/attendant as she explained to us how he had improved. I think everyone was just so excited, as he seemed so ill.”

Two days after the treatment began, it transpired that Frank was out of bed, walking tentatively in the ward, and eating.

Cautiously, we found ourselves asking whether this simple treatment might really be able to make the sort of difference we hope it might (www.moxafrica.org, Feb. 6, 2011).

And thus, the project began and continues to inspire those afflicted by disease in an impoverished community.  To continue reading about the program & additional studies regarding Moxa, please check out their website and if you feel so inclined, please donate to the cause.

Link:  Moxafrica.org

In addition to this organization there are a number of others up and running in Africa as well as other countries including our own (the US) that I’ve written of in previous posts:

The Flying Needle: An organization also based in South Africa, helping those with HIV/AIDS

Acupuncturists Without Borders: An organization set up to help with traumatic events; i.e. Katrina and the 911 incidence

The Acupuncture Relief Project:  A project stationed out of Nepal which was founded by a fellow OCOM graduate

Until next time, ask your Acupuncturist about Moxa treatment & as always…

~Be well~

Erin

Sources:

Moxibustion: the power of mugwort fire. (2010, February 6). Retrieved from http://www.facebook.com/pages/Moxibustion-The-Power-of-Mugwort-Fire/127985768455?v=wall

Moxafrica. (2010, February 6). Retrieved from http://www.moxafrica.org/index.html

Wilson, Carla, Breaking the Silence in South Africa, www.acupuncturetoday.com, Dec. 1st, 2009The Flying Needle Project, Dec. 1st 2009




Placebo Or No?

September 17, 2010 Leave a comment

There is much debate about Acupuncture and its effects are often compared to that of a placebo.  So what’s the word?  Well, first let’s remind ourselves, what is a placebo and how it works.  According to Wikipedia, “a placebo is a “sham” that creates a placebo effect”… which is “the tendency of any medication or treatment, even an inert or ineffective one, to exhibit results simply because the recipient believes that it will work”.

So really, this begs the question, is Acupuncture simply playing a supersensory magic trick on our nervous systems & making us believe that we are getting better when in fact the treatment is “inert”?  As a student of the medicine, I obviously “believe” that it works, however this really isn’t the point at all.  Turns out a placebo is only as effective as long as it is being administered… and research would have it, that Acupuncture does indeed work long after it’s been administered; from weeks to even years down the road in follow-up studies.   This lasting effect is one of the things I find very interesting in all this research. 

Why am I writing about this?  Well, it’s a very pertinent question that I feel is important to answer and understand.  It is a common topic of conversation that patients & friends bring up when the topic of Acupuncture is mentioned.   Also, I am of the mind that the word “belief” should not be used in the same sentence as Acupuncture; it belongs next to words like Santa Claus & The Easter Bunny.  The mounting research and the personal accounts should be enough for us to know that Acupuncture works; but being of an analytical mind myself I can see the benefit in finding the data to back up an argument.  However, like I’ve said before, Acupuncture may be beyond our capable minds to understand at the moment but that certainly doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work & can’t be used as a health modality. 

The following article was printed up in the New York Times about a month ago.  The bottom line in this article is that Acupuncture works but maybe the research is focusing on the wrong questions.  I highly recommend reading it yourself, it brings up some really great points about how the research design we use with western pharmaceutical drugs just doesn’t work quite the same for studying acupuncture.

“Rather than proving that acupuncture does not work, in other words, the study may suggest that it works even when administered poorly. But the real lesson, acupuncture supporters say, is how difficult it can be to apply Western research standards to an ancient healing art”

Articles like this also lead me to question why Acupuncture is given so much trouble & its efficacy is constantly questioned simply because we don’t have an understanding of its exact mechanism of action.  In fact,  many of the pharmaceutical drugs on the market work by… you guessed it,  “mechanisms of unknown action”; and a few of the antidepressants currently on the market work just as well as Placebo, (meaning; a sugar pill will get you the same results as that antidepressant except you get the added bonus of all the nasty side effects).  

So, you tell me…  placebo or no? 

Sources:

Parker Pope, T. (2010, August 23). Studying acupuncture one needle prick at a time. New York Times, Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/23/studying-acupuncture-one-needle-prick-at-a-time/?scp=3&sq=Acupuncture&st=cse

Placebo Effect. (2010). Wikipedia foundation, inc.. Retrieved (2010, September 16) from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placebo_effect_(disambiguation)

Exercise Tolerance, Acupuncture & the Heart

July 31, 2010 1 comment

By, kyuen13 @flickr.com

Part of the purpose of this blog is to share with you all the bits of information I come across during my studies in Acupuncture & Oriental Medical School.  Personally, I love the medicine and have seen and learned its value in treating diseases of all kinds.  One of the most popular (in the news) uses of Acupuncture right now is in the treatment of pain; there are many positive studies coming out currently promoting its success in pain management & bringing to light (to you, the public) the benefits we may receive from Acupuncture treatments.  From my point of view, pain management is just touching the surface… YES, Acupuncture is wonderful for this; but it can do SO many other things especially when used as an adjunctive therapy with other modalities like chiropractic, body work, herbs, changes in lifestyle etc…. Acupuncture is used to treat a plethora of common ailments as well as rare diseases; a short list includes; allergies, asthma,  adrenal fatigue, fibromyalgia, auto-immune diseases including various forms of arthritis, the common cold, eczema, pain, it’s even been incredibly useful for post-trauma and drug rehab.  In addition, it can shorten post-surgery healing time, improve your immune function, lessen the amount of time you spend with a cold or flu & assist in balancing hormones…  I think I could go on and on all day, but I will get back to my point.   

I was just perusing this website while I’m finishing up work here at the gym (I work at a Kettlebell gym called Spinach, in downtown Portland as a trainer/coach), and looking up news regarding exercise etc… My initial intention was to find something about Exercise and improving our ability to adapt through movement with the help of Acupuncture as an adjunct and possible performance enhancer, which is a topic I will write about sometime soon I promise…     

So, I found this article Exercise Improves Exercise Tolerance in Heart Patients.   They point out an important idea that we can translate into our lives no matter what our condition.  In this particular study, however, the patients had Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), a disease where the heart as a muscle essentially starts to lose its ability to pump blood properly throughout the body.  This leads to a decrease in cardiac output and a general decline in oxygenation to the rest of the body as well as fluid imbalance in the peripheral body (edema), & a back-up of blood in the heart and pulmonary system (pulmonary edema, or hypertension).  Another aspect that plays a large part in the progression of the disease is the nervous system; ultimately, neurotransmitters released by the nervous system regulate the blood pumping effectiveness of the heart and patients with CHF may have an imbalance or miscommunication going on here.     

Participants in the study were broken up into two groups, one group received 10 sessions of Acupuncture and were treated on a individual basis according to a particular TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) diagnosis.  The other group was given ‘placebo acupuncture’.     

They found that participants who received Acupuncture   

“could cover a greater walk distance in the time allowed than the placebo patients. They recovered more quickly and tended to feel subjectively less exhausted” (ScienceDaily, 2010).   

Well, we know that Acupuncture has the ability to release endorphins, regulate inflammatory markers, neurotransmitters & balance hormones; we aren’t sure how, but really… does it matter?  When we achieve the desired effect (or a positive effect that we didn’t know we needed)  do we need to understand the exact biochemical pathway from needle insertion to neurotransmitter/hormone release?  The desired effect here seems to be working for these patients!    

Furthermore, the scientists in this study theorize that Acupuncture had an effect on the skeletal muscle, and not necessarily on the cardiac output of the patient; either way, it seems the body became more effective at utilizes the blood that was pumped from the heart.  So, what does this tell us?  Well, good news,  Acupuncture could definitely be helpful with CHF patients, it could help shorten the length of time spent recovering post-surgery (particularly heart surgery), enabling patients to get more out of their rehab and be able to do the things they want to do more easily and in less time…   

In addition, if you wanted to think of this in terms of an otherwise healthy individual who is getting regular Acupuncture, they may be improving neurotransmitter function, regulating imbalances within the nervous system and possibly improving their ability to oxygenate the tissues (ever heard of blood doping?)… Which brings me to another good point I should make regarding Acupuncture.  As far as blood goes, it has been shown to increase white blood cell counts and therefore improve immune function, so why couldn’t it improve the function of our red blood cells, those cells that deliver oxygen to the tissues?!  Sounds good to me… I wouldn’t mind capitalizing on a few more red blood cells to help me chase my boyfriend around on a mountain bike at altitude!  It’s almost like cheating, but not!  You’re just optimizing your body in its most natural state.    

So, take what you will from this, but, Acupuncture is a wonderful tool for the sick and the healthy, and when used in addition to other modalities could increase the quality of your life exponentially!    

    

Sources:    

University Hospital Heidelberg (2010, July 1). Acupuncture improves exercise tolerance in heart patients, German study finds. ScienceDaily.   

Grossman, S., M.D, M.S., & Brown, D., M.D. (2010). Congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema.  Retrieved from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/757999-overview   

 

Rites of Passage…

June 12, 2010 3 comments

By, Bahman Farzad @flickr

Here we are… coming up on a major crossroads (at least me and the rest of the 2nd of 3 year students at OCOM).  Finals started up this week and continue pretty heavily into next week.  Then after that’s all said and done, just to really drive it in, we have our Clinic Entrance Exams (I like to refer to them as the mini boards), which are as ominous as they sound.  They mark the seperation of where you are a student in a classroom & where you’ve become an actual practicing intern in the OCOM clinic.  It all happens so fast and I’m convinced all these tests are merely a lesson in stress management.  The big test is two weeks from today and I’m trying to take a light-hearted stress free approach.  I have the information, the spreadsheets & the notes.  I’ve put in the time & I’ve studied my butt off for the past two years, so come Fall, I will be wearing my white coat treating people all on my own; with a supervisor of course!  I absolutely can’t wait! 

In the meantime to take my mind off of things I have been taking some extra hours working at the gym; which I LOVE and wish I had more time in every day to come play with KettleBells and offer my guidance and knowledge to our clients (www.spinachyou.com… Check it out!).  They are in the process of filming a promo video for a Kettle-Bell workout DVD which is going to be rad, so be on the lookout for a sweet video with all our clients; me and the other trainers included snatching (it’s a kettlebell move 🙂 ) away.  More word on that to come! 

It’s easy to find other things to do when your list of things to do and to study is so long you don’t know where to start; I just found an awesome website that my mom sent me; Ode Magazine which is sure to make my list of favorites as well as a great way to procrastinate!

Until next time, wish me luck and be well!

Erin

Myofascial Meridians, Trigger Points & Mobility

June 2, 2010 Leave a comment

By, aibres @ flickr

I recently have been reading a lot about fascia, stretching, exercise and trigger points… As a side job while I’m in school I’ve taken up personal training at a Kettle-Bell Gym here in Portland and Tigard Oregon. (It’s called Spinach if you want to check it out!) I figure training and athletics are as much a part of my life as Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine will be and why not integrate the two! As a practitioner, what better way to reach out to a certain population of people than to put yourself right in the mix and learn the facets of exercise, diet & nutrition as well as Acupuncture, body work and other training & treating modalities for healthy living.

It’s taught me a lot more about how the body works and has led me to start researching some pretty cool stuff. Lately I’ve been having some shoulder issues, to which I contribute structural misalignment, tense muscles, stress (liver qi stagnation), and sitting in a chair hunched over a notebook most hours of the day; not to mention throwing around heavy kettlebells almost every day. At the same time I’ve been really into this book one of my clients lent me, Stretch To Win by Ann & Chris Frederick. It’s a super awesome book about flexibility assessment and stretching techniques based on the fascial lines and your movement (i.e. the sport you play). As an acupuncturist, we treat the body as a whole system interconnected by meridians or channels, which correspond to different systems in the body, by using needles, moxa (mugwort) and other modalities. Part of this interconnectedness is seen in the way the muscles and the fascia is connected as a whole system, which is what this book is all about… and which led me to another book, Anatomy Trains, that is surely going to be one of my favorites… if I ever find the extra time in my schedule to read it. This book immediately drew me in as on the cover it conveys a body with the myofascial meridians drawn upon it… very similar to the Acupuncture meridians. Though I know I still have so much to learn, I love that these two have so much overlap. As far as I know this system of working with the fascia using manipulations and massage is what we term Structural Integration or Rolfing.  Just today I had an appointment with a Neuromuscular LMT, which was a similar technique.   The most useful treatments (which includes the one I had this morning) incorporate a wide array of different techniques intermixed into one treatment depending on the client, the problem and how the patient responds to different techniques.  What works wonders for one person isn’t necessarily going to help everyone.  If there is one thing I take away from school it’s that there is no one way to do anything, it’s always best to have a whole bag of tricks to draw from.  To me this is what Integrative Medicine is all about, combining a plethora of treatment techniques and working together to do what’s best for the patient.  Every body is different and therefore every treatment shoudl be different.

Back to the point I was getting at about mobility and in particular shoulder mobility.   I just did a bunch of range of motion tests on my own shoulder mobility and failed close to all of them. For whole body health, our bodies need movement and more importantly, movement without pain. Mark’s Daily Apple has started a new series of articles on mobility of certain joints in the body and they are worth checking into.  This is where I found my exercises; he has some great links on there for shoulder exercises and stretches for improving flexibility and mobility.

In addition to my realization that I have crappy alignment in my shoulder, upper back and neck, it helps me to realize that I have to be just as cognizant of my own body health, alignment, flexibility, mobility and strength as I “preach to my clients”.  It also gets me to research more treatment protocols from all angles of health care, using Acupuncture, herbs (ointments & plasters), massage etc. to rehab a somewhat dysfunctional aspect of my body before it becomes a real problem down the road. The good thing is, is there is always something to learn more than you already know and usually we learn the most from our own idiosyncracies; and in this particular case I’m learning a whole lot about muscular interactions, sports injuries, shoulder mobility and stretching just to name a few.

In addition to my new stretching techniques I’m learning from the Stretch to Win system, I’ve also just been introduced to another form of stretching that’s working wonders on my shoulder, traps and neck.  It’s called AIS; Active Isolated Stretching and works on actively lengthening the muscle and releasing the fascial tissues.

Well enough out of me… until next time…  stay limber, be mobile, pain-free and well!

Erin

Now That’s Spooky Action At A Distance!

May 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Check out this extraordinary image of the supernova (from Reuters):

In this ultraviolet image (upper L), several weeks-old Supernova 2007uy is seen in galaxy NGC2770, taken on January 7, 2008, with a close-up, X-ray image of that supernova beneath. New Supernova 2008D (R) appears onto the scene in these images taken January 9, 2008, giving scientists the unique opportunity to witness the birth of a supernova. Thanks to a fortunate observation with NASA’s Swift satellite, astronomers, for the first time, have caught a normal supernova at the moment of its birth–the first instant when an exploding star begins spewing its energy into space, transforming into a supernova that during its brief lifetime will shine brighter than billions of stars combined (ScienceDaily.com, 2010)

 

Recently I have been listening to Sirius Radio, thanks to my dad for loaning me his fancy truck for a month, and have twice listened to Deepak Chopra’s channel.  At first I thought, man, I don’t know if I can listen to this guy, he’s so monotone… but then I realized how awesome the topic was and couldn’t stop listening let alone stop thinking about it since. Two times I turned on the station and both times was the same professor talking about Quantum Mechanics and how it relates to our physical and spiritual/emotional bodies in the universe.  Without bending your brain too much, he mentioned the phenomenon, “spooky action at a distance” which Einstein originally introduced, he came across this spooky phenomenon when studying the action of two molecules of the same entity, the interesting thing about it was that no matter the distance these two molecules were pulled apart, whatever actions one expressed in one place, the other did the exact same (but opposite; meaning they spin in different directions, one left & one right) at a distance.  Simultaneous action and reaction without direct contact!  So what is it that connects the two and delivers the call to action?  To the naked eye, there is no connection, no communication… there isn’t even a variable of time during which to illicit a response.  This idea brings to question a whole plethora of ideas, going against basically everything science can directly explain, which is in a sense mind-blowing!  Still there is no explanation for this phenomenon, but there right in front of our (these quantum mechanic’s) eyes, the molecules are acting and reacting, every time as if they are of the same ‘mind’.  The reason it is so interesting to me is because I am studying the enigmatic medicine of Acupuncture.  Currently there are researchers studying in great detail the mechanisms by which acupuncture works, but have yet to pin point an exact action.  There are theories, for example, the fascia theory: in short, this is the idea that every cell in our body is connected by fascial membranes (connective tissue) and we can access certain pathways (meridians) through the use of needles; affecting different parts of the whole body through the use of specific acupuncture points.

Even though we don’t understand the exact mechanism of Acupuncture, or why one molecule of a cell in one place will simultaneously affect another miles away without contact or means of communication (at least as far as we can perceive); this doesn’t change the fact that it is indeed happening or affecting the body and our own cells on a level that we just can not understand (at least presently). 

On this same note, I recently just watched a great TED talk in my Pathology class about a woman, Jill Bolte Taylor who had a Hemorrhagic Stroke in her left temporal lobe and lived to talk about her experience.  It is a remarkable video and leaves you emotional and inspired to make a difference in your attitude and your relationship with humanity.  Talk about ‘spooky action’!  She has an experience wherein the left hemisphere of her brain is completely shut off.  Her ability to communicate and use her physical body shuts down little by little yet she remains conscious the entire time, perceiving a reality that is unbeknownst to you and me.  I know, it sounds crazy right… but don’t take my word for it, listen to her story & I guarantee it will change your perception of reality, or at least leave you in wonderment! 

Jill Bolte Taylor: A Stroke of Insight  TEDtalks.com

Chinese Medicine is largely based on the idea that we are a part of nature, and we change as nature does.  We are made up of the same particles as the atmosphere and the earth around us, nitrogen, oxygen, water, iron, etc.  I just recently attended a talk by an Astrologist who is currently writing a book on Chinese Medicine and Astrology.  She’s spent a lot of time researching Astrology, Astronomy and has been studying a bit with a well renown Acupuncturist here in Portland.  One bit of information that goes along with my topic for the day was a discussion on the death of a Supernova; “when a star dies and explodes in an extraordinary fashion” (ScienceDaily.com, 2010).  In  january of 2008, astronomers caught a glimpse of this, the first ever witnessed event.  You can read the article here.  What really caught my attention was not the actual event itself (though that in itself is quite amazing), it was the realization of the event as an action/reaction of the whole universe.  It’s easy to think a star died, it blew up and there are a million other stars out there to take its place, and that’s it, but it is so much more than that.  Those stars are made up of gasses and different compounds, like our own atmosphere and bodies.  When a star is about to die, it essentially has burned up all its gasses except for its iron core (which can not burn anymore).  So, the star explodes into little bits into the universe and all those different elements are spewed out into the rest of space and made into something else, some new combination of elements and gaseous compounds.  Yes, somewhere along the way, all these little bits are made into a part of ourselves, so one could say, we are in essence, pieces put together by the stars… the iron in our blood, the nitrogen, the hydrogen… (crazy isn’t it!) 

Till next time…

~be well~

Erin

Sources: 

Graham, Nicholas. (2008, May 21). Stars supernova death witnessed by scientists. The Huffington Post, Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/05/21/stars-supernova-death-wit_n_102959.html

Institute of Physics (2009, March 4). ‘Spooky Action At A Distance’ Of Quantum Mechanics Directly Observed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 12, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090304091231.htm

Taylor, J.B. (Speaker). (2008). Jill bolte taylor’s stroke of insight. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html

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