In this issue you will find:
- Important PCOM Dates
- Pacific College Contributes to Annual National Stand-Down for Homeless Veterans
- The Benefits of Massage Therapy for Expectant Mothers
- Using Acupressure to Relieve Pain and Anxiety
- Chinese Wisdom: Quote of the Day
- July 17th- 19th: (Friday to Sunday) National Stand-Down for Homeless Veterans, San Diego
- July 29th: (Wednesday) San Diego Program and Application Workshop
- July 29th: (Wednesday) Chicago Campus Open House
- August 4th: (Tuesday) New York Campus Open House
The National Stand-Down for Homeless Veterans is an annual event that honors and seeks to physically and emotionally help homeless veterans. Each summer in San Diego, acupuncturist Mitch Lehman directs and organizes the National Stand-Down for homeless veterans, held by Integrated Medicine Services. This year’s Stand-Down will be held from the 17th through the 19th of July.
“For veterans, Stand-Down is a place where someone has their back and they can rest and recuperate. Life on the streets is much like a battleground,” said Darcy Pavich, Stand Down Coordinator. “For three days we provide a place where our homeless brothers and sisters can access resources to change their lives, maybe even to save their lives, “ said Pavich.
During times of war the term “Stand-Down” refers to the time of rest and recovery that exhausted combat units require before re-entering the fray. Today, Stand-Down refers to a grassroots, community-based intervention program designed to help the nation’s estimated 275,000 homeless veterans to “combat” life on the streets. Each year, hundreds of homeless veterans attend Stand-Down.
While food and safety are at the top of the list, these resources also include medical care, legal services, substance abuse recovery programs, employment services, spiritual care, dental and chiropractic services, and even reiki and hypnotherapy. Professionals in each field provide these complimentary services. Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, San Diego has participated in Stand-Down for nine years, and this summer, 2009, PCOM will contribute an estimated 30 student and supervising practitioner volunteers per day to perform acupuncture and massage for the veterans.
Acupuncture and massage are ideal for this kind of event because they are highly mobile practices that don’t require heavy or expensive equipment, and they also provide immediate relief for many conditions. Acupuncture has been used to treat (or relieve the pain of) dozens of ailments. The National Institute of Health (NIH) recognizes its usefulness in treating addiction, fibromyalgia, headaches, cramps, back pain, osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel, asthma, and more. This is a unique opportunity for PCOM volunteers to show compassion while simultaneously demonstrating their professional skills and spread awareness of the benefits of traditional Chinese medicine.
In addition to the excitement of pregnancy, expectant women are exposed to numerous physical discomforts as well as emotional highs and lows. During the nine months of pregnancy, women can deal with hormone changes, weight increase, joint and back strain, and headaches. While common, these pains don’t need to be persistent. With the help of Oriental medicine and Asian body therapy, many of the aches of pregnancy can be alleviated with the use of massage. Additionally, massage can help to soothe women emotionally and relieve stress.
Prenatal massage can address a wide variety of issues from backaches and headaches to pelvic and hip pain, which is often caused by the body’s increasing or shifting weight. Massage can increase blood circulation, reduce fatigue, improve skin elasticity to reduce stretch marks, and by reducing anxiety, a massage can even stabilize hormone levels. The gentle kneading of massage can also reduce swelling, especially in the feet, a place where the swelling impacts the daily routine of the expectant mother by inhibiting walking and often making movement painful.
Touch is a powerful tool to relieve pain and provide comfort. At a time when women may feel baffled or frustrated with their bodily changes and discomforts, massage brings the body into focus in a positive way. It can improve mental and physical wellbeing by providing a pleasurable experience in otherwise uncomfortable areas of the body. In a study conducted by the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology, 26 pregnant women were assigned to a massage therapy or a relaxation therapy group for five weeks. Both groups reported feeling less anxious after the first session and less leg pain after the first and last session. Only the massage therapy group, however, reported reduced anxiety, improved mood, better sleep and less back pain by the last day of the study. A different study that was conducted by the Touch Research Institute in Miami, Florida found that massage has further positive effects on pregnant women, both during pregnancy and labor. One study showed lower levels of stress hormones in massaged pregnant women, as well as fewer complications during and right after labor. Massage of the feet during pregnancy has been shown to increase movement of the fetus.
The World Massage Forum states “Touch is vital to the mother's physical and emotional well-being as she adapts to her new body image.” Women undergo bodily changes not only during pregnancy, but post-labor, meaning that massage can be continued after birth to improve womens’ recovery and health. In a different study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology, 28 women were recruited from pre-natal classes and randomly assigned to receive massage in addition to breathing coaching from their partners during labor, or to receive coaching in breathing alone. The massaged mothers reported a decrease in depressed mood, anxiety and pain, and showed less agitated activity and anxiety and more positive affect following the first massage during labor. In addition, the massaged mothers reported shorter labors, a shorter hospital stay, and less postpartum depression.
The Touch Research Institute conducted a study on massage therapy benefits for depressed pregnant women. Eighty-four depressed expectant mothers participated in the study. Each was randomly assigned to a massage group, a muscle-relaxation group, or a standard-care control group. There was also a control group of 28 non-depressed pregnant women. The study lasted for 16 weeks, and consistently measured the womens’ anxiety, depressed mood, and leg and back pain. The outcome of the study revealed that women in the massage group had the highest increased levels of serotonin and dopamine (uplifting their spirits), and significantly decreased levels of cortisol and norepinephrine (stress hormones) by the end of the study. Women in the other groups showed no significant changes in any of these levels. The massage group had the greatest decrease in depression on the last day of the test compared to the first day, as well as improvement in mood and decreased anxiety.
Massage, therefore, is highly beneficial to expectant mothers not only physically but emotionally and mentally. The reposeful experience of a massage can provide the relief of pain and swelling that is intertwined with the reduction of worry and anxiety that is so prevalent during pregnancy. Massage encompasses the ideology of Oriental medicine, the melding of the body, mind, and spirit, because it simultaneously nourishes all three.
Using Acupressure to Relieve Pain and Anxiety
The ancient Chinese healing art of acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but instead of needles, the technique uses finger pressure on various points along the body. Like acupuncture, applying pressure on specific points of the body draws on the body's natural abilities to cure itself. The pressure promotes blood flow, releases muscular tension, and engages the body's own life force to soothe and heal. Acupressure can relieve tension, aches and pains, arthritis, even menstrual cramps. It can also help relieve the symptoms of insomnia, depression, toothache, dizziness, digestive disorders, nausea, morning, and motion sickness.
According to University of California, Irvine anesthesiologists, an acupressure massage applied to children undergoing anesthesia may help lower their anxiety levels, reducing the stress of surgery. The sedatives currently used before anesthesia can cause nausea and prolong sedation. Acupressure has no such side effects. In a recent study, adhesive acupressure beads were applied to 52 children between the ages of eight and 17 who were scheduled to undergo endoscopic stomach surgery. In half the children, a bead was applied to the Extra-1 acupoint, which is located in the midpoint between the eyebrows. In the other half, the bead was applied to a spot above the left eyebrow that revealed no reported clinical effects. Half an hour later, researchers noted lowered levels of anxiety in the children who had the beads applied to the Extra-1 acupoint, while anxiety levels rose in the other group.
When correctly administered, acupressure can be effective in treating a number of conditions caused by tension. The good news is that there are no side effects from drugs, and one can practice acupressure therapy any time, anywhere—while sitting, standing or lying down. Acupressure works by accessing and releasing blocked energy centers in the body. The stimulation rids the body of toxic build up that accumulates in muscle tissue. These toxins can cause stiffness in various areas of the body. Stiffness in muscles puts abnormal pressure on nerves, and blood and lymph vessels. The pressure on blood and lymph vessels affects both skeletal systems and internal organ functioning.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has mapped out points of meridian pathways on the human body. These points, mapped out and proven by Western science using electrical devices, carry energy called “qi”. Some points relate to a specific body parts, others are more general. When these points are stimulated by hand and finger massage, they encourage the body to combat illness. Basically, the many pressure points that exist along the meridians act as "valves" for the flow of qi. Acupressure opens these valves to restore the flow of qi and balance the body's natural energy.
Much like a regular massage, acupressure massage uses the finger or thumb, and sometimes a blunt object. Motions are quick and circular and applied with a medium amount of pressure. Massages last between five and 15 minutes. The most often used acupressure techniques involve rubbing, kneading, and vibration using the hands, fingers, knees and elbows. Sometimes even the feet can be used to massage larger areas of the body.
“It does not matter how slowly you go forward as long as you never stop.”