Headaches are nasty, annoying, and way too common. That's why I want to help you beat them!
First, we need to talk about the different kinds of headaches in Chinese medicine. Not every headache is created equal and it's important to know what you're dealing with. When you have a headache, make sure you pay attention to onset, time of day, pain location, pain quality, and what makes it better or worse. This record will help your Chinese medicine practitioner make an accurate diagnosis and come up with an effective treatment plan.
Onset: If the headache comes on suddenly with a short duration means its coming from an external invasion, such as a cold or flu. A gradual onset with a long duration means there is an internal imbalance to address. Also, a headache that occurs around menstruation has an underlying hormonal imbalance.
Time of day: Headaches that begin during the day indicate a deficiency of Qi or Yang, whereas headaches that begin in the evening are typically due to a deficiency of Blood or Yin. Headaches that start at night during sleep or before menstruation indicate blood stasis.
Location: Back of the head (Bladder, Small Intestine, or Kidney channel imbalance), top of the head (Liver or Pericardium channel imbalance), forehead (Stomach or Large Intestine channel imbalance), temples and side of the head (Gallbladder channel imbalance), behind the eyes (Liver channel imbalance), or whole head (Kidney channel deficiency or external invasion).
Quality: A dull ache usually indicates deficiency whereas a sharp or throbbing pain indicates excess. A dull ache with the head feeling like it was wrapped in a band and/or a feeling of heaviness indicates Dampness or Phlegm. Headaches that are felt "inside" the head are usually due to a Kidney deficiency.
Ameliorating or aggravating factors: A chronic headache that is improves with rest, lying down, or eating are due to deficiency. Headaches that are improved by exercise are due to excess. Headaches that are aggravated by lying down or eating are also from excess.
Triggers: stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, certain foods (look for dairy, chocolate, soy, citrus), hormones, low blood sugar, sex, weather and lighting changes, rebound from painkillers.
Basically, there are lots and lots of different patterns that can cause headaches. Luckily, Chinese medicine is wonderful at balancing out the body and helping you with the frequency and intensity of your headaches! Once a diagnosis has been reached, the treatment method will focus on bringing all parts back into balance.
At Herbs & Acupuncture Clinic, I will do a combination of things for a headache. Typically, I find a custom herbal prescription, bloodletting (not as scary as it sounds, promise), acupuncture, and ear seeds will have an immediate effect on headaches. Continued treatments lengthen the period of relief, as well as decrease headache intensity. For headaches that have lasted longer than three months, I usually recommend a series of 10-15 treatments, and 6-8 treatments for headaches that have lasted less three months or less.
There's no foolproof way to stop a headache, but there are definitely some things you can do outside of a Chinese medicine treatment to lessen its impact. These are some things I talk about in clinic:
-essential oils- peppermint and lavender are great, and eucalyptus will help a sinus headache
-protect your neck with a scarf, esp in windy weather
-use heat or ice, or alternate 5-10 min heat, 5-10 min ice, and always end with heat
-head, face, and neck massage on tender points
I've helped lots of people manage their headaches or migraines, or get rid of them completely! I offer a free in-office or phone consultation, so please get in touch if you want to look and feel your best. I'd love to help you!
What is cupping?
Cupping is a suction technique designed to pull toxin build-up and muscle-spasm from the body's deep tissue to the surface of the skin. It can shorten the healing process by weeks, even months, in a way that acupuncture, massage, and other forms of treatment cannot.
Physical pain implies poor circulation through a particular area. When toxins and metabolic waste stagnate in the muscles or joints, it can be very difficult for the body to get rid of the waste, causing further stagnation and discomfort.
By using cupping, we are able to pull the toxins and waste out of the deeper tissues and move it to the skin's surface. This is what causes the circular marks on the skin. Once at the surface, it is much easier for the body to eliminate the toxins and waste via the capillary system.
In only ten minutes of cupping, not only can we pull toxin build up out of specific areas, but we can also pull the fresh, new blood into those areas. This will promote healing and restore proper blood flow.
Why choose cupping?
Cupping is therapeutic and diagnostic. It tells us three basic things:
First, cupping tells us the kind of problem we are dealing with. If the cup colors, that means we are dealing with toxin/waste buildup or muscle spasms. If there is no color, this indicates nerve or bone issues.
Second, cupping tells us exactly where the problem is. The area where the skin colors indicates a painful area from muscle spasm or metabolic waste build-up. Practitioners will usually cup an area slightly larger than the painful area to ensure that it is completely covered.
Third, cupping will tell us the severity of the problem. Light or moderate stagnation in the deep tissues will cause the skin to color pink or red and may take a day or two for the color to go away. Severe stagnation causes the skin to color a deep scarlet, purple, or even black. It may take seven to ten days for the dark color to disperse.
All of this information is helpful in making an accurate diagnosis and providing an effective treatment.
Is cupping painful?
The cupping sensation can be a bit strong for the first 60 seconds, the time which most of the toxins are removed. It is helpful to try and relax into the process of being cupped and to acknowledge and tolerate the sensation.
It is important not to get cupped on an empty stomach. Inhale and exhale only through the nose. This will slow the breathing and help to prevent you from getting lightheaded or dizzy.
Patients typically experience immediate relief upon removal of the cups, making the initial discomfort well worth it. Rarely, when skin turns deep purple, there may be more intense discomfort which goes away in 24-48 hours.
Keep the cupped area covered, warm, and out of the wind and drafts for the following three days to make sure the muscles do not tighten and spasm.
If there is lasting discomfort, over-the-counter pain relief medication may be used.
Drink plenty of water to help clear the toxins and waste through the body's normal excretory system.
Take it easy after the cupping treatment and for the day after. Avoid hot tubs and cold plunges to prevent getting chilled. Avoid any strenuous activity, especially if there is residual soreness.
Remember, your skin has not been bruised or traumatized. The coloration shows toxin release.
If you still have concerns, call your practitioner.
Trigger points can be a real problem.
Not only are they painful, but trigger points also decrease range of motion, weaken the muscles, and produce excessive muscle contraction. They are formed when the process of muscle contraction and release is disrupted. Persistent muscle contraction, strain, or overuse causes the muscle band to contract too tightly, increasing metabolic demand and squeezing off the supply of blood and oxygen to the area. This consequently prevents the muscle from releasing.
This the the bad news: trigger points can severely impact athletic performance and quality of life. The good news? Acupuncture can help!
Think of a trigger point like a knot in a rubber band. The rubber band is your muscle and the knot is the trigger point. Stretching the rubber band will increase movement, but it will not release the knot. To restore full range of motion, you must first unwind the knot.
A muscle with a trigger point is too painful to stretch fully, and forcing a stretch will most likely result in muscle strain.
Acupuncture is an effective way to release a trigger point.
The acupuncture needle provides a disruption to the trigger point, stopping the cycle of contraction causing a lack of circulation, and therefore, preventing release. It can reach the depth of a trigger point without irritating the hyper sensitive tissue around it. Restored to its full length after being released with acupuncture, the muscle recovers its normal blood supply and metabolism and function.
And its usually immediate. A needle inserted into a trigger point will elicit a twitch followed by reduced muscular tension and increased range of motion.
Tips to prevent trigger points from forming:
Did you know that your brain has 100 billion nerve cells and 1000 trillion synapse? Every synapse is used to pass information around your brain and body.
Your brain changes constantly, instantly, and efficiently in response to messages from your body. The messengers are our senses, thoughts, beliefs, memories, emotions, and movement. Diseases, traumatic events, and stress also influence the brain. The process by which these changes take place is called neuroplasticity.
Every time we learn a new skill, visualize, or recall a stressful or traumatic event, we are literally changing our brains based on the new pathways that are created via the electrical and chemical signals in our cells. Repetition reinforces the strength of the pathways, causing a genuine anatomical change.
With chronic pain, our brains change due to the constant pain signaling loop between the brain and the body. We may suffer significant losses: loss of function, loss of quality of life, loss of purpose, and loss of any sense of control over our bodies and lives. This may leave us feeling isolated, worries, helpless, and out of touch.
The challenge is to reverse the brain in pain. To accomplish this, we can use thoughts, images, sensations, memories, soothing emotions, movement, and beliefs to harness the power of our brains to modify the pain.
Some tips to slow down the runaway brain in pain:
If you're not getting the results you want to manage your pain, please consider traditional Chinese medicine as an alternative to hopelessness.
An excellent resource on neuroplasticity is neuroplastix.com
Acupuncture is a go-to therapy for many elite athletes, but you don't have to be going to the Olympics this summer in order to experience its benefits in your athletic adventures. Whether you're a crossfitter, yogi, weekend warrior, or young athlete, acupuncture can help you feel stronger, healthier, and more aware.
We all know that acupuncture works great for sports injuries by decreasing inflammation (swelling, bruising, redness), relaxing muscles and tendons, calming spasms, improving circulation, and lowering the body's pain response. And this is wonderful for athletes who go through a lot of wear and tear on their bodies.
But you may be surprised to learn that acupuncture is actually most beneficial when incorporated into training and recovery regimes, before an injury surfaces. Those who do notice better performance, fewer injuries, and more enjoyment!
5 Reasons to Start Using Acupuncture for Athletics
There's no denying it. Acupuncture is an excellent modality for all aspects of any athletes' health and well-being. Find an acupuncturist you vibe with and give it a try!
The ability to adapt to the stresses of life is fundamental to life itself. Adaptability is the root of evolution and the rate limiting factor to biological success. Fortunately, human beings are one of the most adaptable creatures on earth. We have adapted to almost every climate. People live in some of the hottest, driest, dampest, coldest, and most barren parts of the earth.
In this age, a healthy person easily adapts to a wide range of normal stressors, such as changes in weather, nutrition, emotions, or physical activity. Success could be measured by how well we handle stress. Those who manage stress well generally take on greater challenges, overcome more obstacles, and get more accomplished.
Successfully adapting to change is the truest way to grow in experience, knowledge, and wisdom. The more adaptive an individual, the more vigor with which one can meet the challenges of life, and the greater that person's heath.
But if we lose this fundamental ability, we stiffen and lose our ability to change. Therefore, we easily become imbalanced and stagnant, and dangerously susceptible to disease.
Traditional Chinese medicine emphasizes the importance of flowing with nature's changes; constantly harmonizing, always maintaining balance to avoid the extremes. By knowing when you have gone far enough, you will lead a less stressed, less draining life. Additionally, by living close to nature and changing gracefully with your environment, you can avoid disaster and slow down aging.
One of the greatest secrets of a satisfying and happy life, according to traditional Chinese medicine wisdom, is to focus on promoting health instead of managing disease. Physical health is irrelevant if it is accompanied by unhappiness, trouble, or failure. It is necessary and possible to cultivate an attitude of holistic health so the body, mind, and spirit can flourish. Total success takes determination, knowledge, and discipline.
But we don't have to do it alone. While we already have excellent adaptive systems in place, such as the work done by our liver, kidneys, and digestive tract, sometimes we can use a tune up to function optimally. Regular acupuncture and tonic Chinese herbs are wonderful resources to promote physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Traditional Chinese medicine can help you look and feel your best. Try out a system of healing that's full of wisdom and perfect for the modern age.
Inspiration: The Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs, Ron Teeguarden
Recently, I saw an Under Armour ad showing Michael Phelps receiving fire-cupping. It's a cool ad showing the training, strength, perseverance, and recovery required to be an Olympic athlete. Watch closely at 44 seconds in and you'll see it as part of Phelps' recovery!
Cupping is a traditional Chinese medicine technique used to treat many different conditions. Acupuncturists commonly use cupping as an adjunct to acupuncture, but cupping on its own also provides great benefits.
Cupping involves creating a vacuum-like seal on the skin using bamboo, plastic, or glass cups. There are different techniques to creating this vacuum, such as lighting an alcohol soaked cotton ball inside the cup to create heat or using suction cups.
This suction can affect tissues up to four inches deep- effecting blood vessels, muscles, fascia, and scar tissue. For athletes, cupping speeds recovery after workouts and competitions. No wonder Phelps is using it!
Benefits of Cupping:
Conditions for Cupping:
What most people recognize about cupping are the circular marks left on the skin. These marks are caused by the cellular waste stuck in the muscles being pulled up and deposited under the skin where it can be drained away via the lymphatic system. From an acupuncturist's perspective, the darker the mark, the more waste there is stuck in the muscle. Eventually, with consistent treatments, a person will not have any marks after cupping.
Despite the marks, receiving cupping feels like a pulling away of tension from tight and stiff areas on the body. It can range from gentle to "hurt-so-good."
Have you tried cupping? Any questions before you do?
I have been getting this question a lot recently, especially at my Ft. Morgan location. Patients want to know the difference between dry needling and acupuncture. So, I have created this chart to compare the two modalities.
Acupuncturists, Doctors, Physical Therapists, did I overlook anything? Patients, what has been your experience, good or bad, with either modality?
Neiguan is one of the most important points in traditional Chinese medicine due to its many different functions.
It opens the chest, and therefore, can be used for any chest problems causing pain, stuffiness, or tightness.
It helps to harmonize the stomach and subdue the upward rushing of energy manifesting as nausea or vomiting. It also helps with acid regurgitation, belching, dizziness, and hiccuping.
Neiguan has a powerful calming action on the mind and can be used to help with anxiety or irritability. It is excellent to promote restful sleep and help with pre-menstrual depression and moodiness. Not only does it help you digest food but emotions as well.
Interestingly, this point is effective in alleviating neck aches originating from the back of the head, especially in women.
Lastly, an acupuncturist might choose this point to help regulate irregular or painful menses.
Use Neiguan for pain management, stress, and digestion. Let me know if you've tried it and how it worked.
Battlefield Acupuncture was developed by Dr. Richard Niemtzow in 2001 for quick relief of pain. Dr. Niemtzow came up with the term Battlefield Acupuncture because it could be easily used on the military battlefield. The method involves the insertion of five needles into each ear in situations when narcotics could not be used.
This technique delivers significant pain reduction in just a few minutes. The amount of time a person experiences pain relief can be anywhere from a few hours to days or weeks. More complex pain patterns generally require more frequent treatments. For these cases, it is best to treat twice per week for one or two weeks.
Battlefield Acupuncture works by changing the brain’s pain response via the hypothalamus, thalamus, cingulate gyrus, and cerebral cortex structures. I have successfully used this technique work for many different types of pain, such as fibromyalgia, neuropathic pain, residual pain from past injuries, digestive pains, and headaches. Call to see if Battlefield Acupuncture could help you get out of pain for good!
Thoughts and practical tips to help you look and feel your best based in the wisdom of Chinese medicine.
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