Acupuncture, Massage, Newsletter - October 2008 | Issue 57
In this issue you will find: Important PCOM Dates
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Pediatric massage for children
by Alex A. Kecskes
More commonly known as pediatric acupuncture, Shonishin literally translated means sho for little, ni for children, and shin for needle (though typically no needles are used and nothing actually penetrates the skin).
Tracing its roots back to 17th century Osaka, Japan (and ultimately to ancient China), the specialized acupuncture technique was developed specifically for babies and children up to the age of seven. Practitioners insist Shonishin offers a viable alternative to pharmaceuticals in the treatment of childhood health problems—everything from behavioral and emotional to many physical conditions. It has been used with some success in treating infants and children afflicted with a wide variety of conditions, including colic, indigestion, GERD, constipation, and diarrhea. It has even shown some success in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), allergies, asthma, eczema, hives, bedwetting, and stuttering. Children as young as one month old have been effectively treated.
To understand how Shonishin works, one must first realize that a child’s bio-energetic systems are in the “yang” phase and not fully developed, which means their energy (Qi) moves very quickly. Due to their rapidly growing bodies, infants consume large amounts of Qi. This often depletes the organs most responsible for producing Qi, which can result in hyperstimulation and offers a fertile ground for health problems. Enter Shonishin. Its gentle, mostly non-invasive treatment techniques involve non-inserted needles — the enshin, the teishin and the zanshin. Experienced practitioners rhythmically stroke, rub, tap and press the skin to produce a variety of gentle stimulation sensations. Rounded tools, including stones, shells, silver, or gold rods are typically used. Sometimes a press sphere—a tiny round ball—is taped in place and left for a few hours to stimulate an acupuncture point. These techniques serve to harmonize and boost a child’s vital energy.
There are many variables to consider in the application of Shonishin treatment. The frequency, dosage and strength of therapy, for example, will depend on the individual practitioner, as well as the age, health or illness of the child. Keep in mind that a child’s treatments will usually be short in duration, generally taking only one to five minutes—with older children usually requiring longer treatments. Shonishin is administered quickly, usually within 15-20 minutes, and is typically performed with the child clothed or just wearing a diaper. The technique is most effective when given several times per week until the symptoms are alleviated. Once the primary health concern is addressed, treatments may continue on a limited protracted basis to prevent recurrence. While only skilled acupuncturists administer initial treatments, many procedures can be performed by the child’s parents at home (a silver teaspoon makes an ideal home-based Shonishin tool). The techniques are quickly and easily learned, allowing parents to perform daily treatments between visits.
Regardless of treatment type or length, practitioners frequently develop a kind and gentle rapport with the child. In fact, regular Shonishin treatments help strengthen the parent-child relationship and can improve the spiritual and emotional development of the child. Regular daily preventative massage done by the parents may increase circulation of Qi and blood, and may strengthen the child’s immune system. The soothing, relaxing massage can also improve sleeping and eating habits. In some cases, Shonishin can even help children to be more sociable and better disposed.
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Improving Vision with Traditional Chinese Medicine
by Steve Goodman
It has been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. In TCM the eyes are more accurately described as the window to the inner workings of the body, for in TCM the eyes are connected to all of the internal organs.
In Chinese medicine each part the eye is associated with a particular element and corresponding zang organ. The iris is represented by the liver zang. The heart zang relates to the corners of the eyes or the canthi, the upper and lower eyelids correspond to the spleen, the conjunctiva the lung, and the pupil the kidney.
TCM recognizes six environmental or external pathogens that can lead to vision loss. A person’s resistance to environmental pathogenic factors is based on how healthy their immune system is, which in turn is a function of Qi. This balance between vital Qi and external pathogens forms the basis for all aspects of TCM, with degenerative eye diseases and vision loss being no exception. According to TCM a person with poor Qi flow or imbalances in Qi in any of the zang organs relating to the parts of the eye will have decreased resistance to the six specific environmental pathogens that can influence vision.
Environmental Pathogenic Factors Affecting the Eyes
- Heat – Leads to swelling, inflammation, and the redness commonly found in many eye diseases such as conjunctivitis
- Cold – Will yield pain and slow vision loss over time, as in chronic degenerative conditions such as macular degeneration and glaucoma
- Wind – Results in sudden and dramatic onset of vision loss
- Dampness – Causes secretion of mucus, and swelling
- Dryness – Results in dry itchy eyes and redness
- Summer Heat - Inflammation and mucus discharge
Of these six external factors, wind and fire bring on “Yang” conditions of the eye. As the eyes look out onto the world they are susceptible to the attack of wind pathogens that enter the body through the eye. Wind born eye disorders are characterized by rapid onset of acute conditions. The result of Fire pathogenic invasion is indicated by inflammation, ulceration, and redness.
The other environment pathogens, cold and dampness, result in “Yin” conditions. According to TCM the most common cause of poor vision is exposure to cold and dampness, which results in poor circulation to the eyes. The invasion of cold blocks flow of Qi, depriving the eyes of vital warmth and nourishment. Coldness also settles into the muscles, vessels, and skin around the eyes, resulting in further degeneration of visual acuity.
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Treating Winter and Fall Allergies with Traditional Chinese Medicine
by Alex A. Kecskes
Winter and Fall allergies can cause a great deal of discomfort in many people, young or old. Symptoms include sneezing, congestion, runny nose and red, itchy eyes. Western medicine typically prescribes antihistamines, decongestants, or drugs that act on the nervous system. Dovetailing these efforts are steps to avoid the allergens altogether. While these may be effective in treating the allergic response, they often have undesirable side effects, such as drowsiness, immune system suppression or over-reliance on medications.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can offer an alternative to these Western approaches, treating the whole person and recognizing that people with chronic allergies often show signs of spleen or kidney deficiency, even lung problems. TCM considers allergies or hay fever as a manifestation of Wind invading the upper body. This occurs because one’s Wei (or protective Qi) has been weakened, which explains why a Chinese herbalist may address these allergies by building up the body’s defensive Qi. The goal is not only to treat one’s acute symptoms and provide immediate relief, but to treat any underlying immune system imbalances, which may be the real cause of one’s allergy problems. Such treatments may take the form of acupuncture and revising one’s diet, including the addition of specific herbal formulas.
There are many holistic Chinese herbal formulas that TCM practitioners use to treat allergies. Xiao Qing Long Wan or Minor Blue Dragon is one often-prescribed formula. It is usually taken when one suffers from a sensitivity to cold, or to treat chills, fever (without sweating), body aches, wheezing, a cough that produces clear to white mucus, congestion in the chest, and a thick white coating on the tongue. The pills should be taken with plenty of water and for short duration only.
Astra 8, another herbal formula, combines the advantages of an immune system enhancer with an energy tonic. It contains astragalus (huang qi), a herb that some believe can enhance the body’s immune system and offers some antiviral properties. What’s more, the herbs in Astra 8 are Qi tonics that support astragalus to boost the immune and energy systems. Other formulations include Pei Min Kan Wan, which can relieve the discomfort of fall allergies, and Fang Feng Xin Yi Wan, which may help those suffering from hay fever.
Besides these formulas, TCM further advocates replacing coffee with catechin-rich green tea, which provides anti-allergy actions. Even Chrysanthemum tea—made from dried flowers—can also help reduce allergy symptoms. Some TCM herbalists may recommend quercetin, a bioflavonoid, which has been shown to stabilize mast cells (this slows down the body’s release of histamine and other chemicals related to allergic symptoms). Lest we not forget radishes; they cool and moisten, which makes them ideal for treating dry, itchy allergy eyes. They can also help clear the sinuses, drain mucous and ease sore throats.
Those sensitive to ragweed and similar fall blooms, should boost their immune system before the fall allergy season arrives. That means seeing one’s TCM practitioner about acupuncture now, for it can take awhile for these procedures to help with allergic symptoms. People who wait until they start sneezing or suffer from a sinus headache, will find they’ve acted too late. Building immunity to fall allergies is best done weekly for four to six weeks. Those who suffer from ragweed allergies should begin treatment immediately.
We recommend in all cases that you consult with a trusted health care professional before taking any nutritional supplements or discontinuing any medication.
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Chinese Wisdom: Quote of the Day
The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.
Acupuncture, Massage, Newsletter - September 2008 | Issue 55
In this issue you will find: Important PCOM Dates
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Acupuncture Improves Athletic Performance
By, Kathleen Rushall
The Summer 2008 Olympics were held in Beijing, China, in the country where acupuncture originated thousands of years ago. Perhaps it is no surprise then that this ancient practice is gaining further interest and media attention now that China has hosted a world-class athletic event. The Olympic Village in Beijing offered free acupuncture to athletes and officials of the games – making it the first Olympic Village in history to do so. Since the presence of the Olympics in China, acupuncture is finally gaining the recognition it deserves as a remedy for sports ailments.
Especially when combined with Western therapy, there is little that acupuncture cannot do to help improve sports injuries. Acupuncture can quickly lessen inflammation, as well as to release pressure and improve blood circulation. Long used for the relief of chronic pain, acupuncture not only provides instant relief from painful injuries, but can also accelerate the healing process by reducing swelling, boosting the immune system, and providing energy and serenity to the patient. Acupuncture has been found to be especially effective in treating tendon and ligament sprains, which are common injuries for athletes.
One of the differences between Chinese medicine and its Western counterpart is that an Oriental medicine diagnosis always focuses on the root of the problem, rather than merely symptoms of the problem. Chinese medicine focuses on the athlete and the injury; in the West, treatment is usually more geared towards just the injury. By centering on the problem’s origins, more complex issues can be resolved and a complete sense of well-being can be achieved through acupuncture. A traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis will include taking the athlete’s history of past injuries into account as well as other health issues, sleeping and eating patterns, and the strength of various systems throughout his or her body.
The goal of most athletic acupuncture treatments is to increase one’s flexibility, circulation, and mental clarity, usually with a specific competition or game in mind. It’s important to have a set mental goal to achieve regarding one’s performance. The acupuncture treatment will not replace an athlete’s warm-up, but rather, complement it. Knowing one’s own strengths and weaknesses is key, because the acupuncturist will focus on bolstering specific weaknesses in the body or performance. With the proper questions and diagnosis, a good practitioner can even help alert an athlete to their own physical prowess or areas in need of improvement. Every observable factor is taken into account for a treatment – the athlete’s anxieties, temperature, and fatigue are a few examples of this. If nervous, the athlete will be soothed by the treatment. If already prepped and warmed up, the treatment will focus on flexibility.
A recent 2008 edition of the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine published a study regarding the effects of acupuncture on cyclists. Twenty young (between 18 and 30 years of age) male cyclists participated in this study. These men underwent three tests per week, riding a stationary bike for 20 kilometers as fast as possible. Before each biking session, they received a treatment: some received acupuncture, some received a sham treatment, and some received none, once each in a random order. The statistically significant result was that acupuncture gave higher RPE scores compared to the other tests. The men receiving the real acupuncture treatments completed their cycling tests at a higher acceleration than the others.
Another important draw that acupuncture holds for athletes is the fact that it goes above and beyond merely alleviating an injury. Consistent acupuncture treatments can improve performance and provide more energy. Treatments can support the body during training, help to build muscle mass, promote liver glycogen storage, and to lend the body those bursts of energy that are so integral to a great performance.
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The Many Benefits of Chinese Cupping
By, Kathleen Rushall
Traditional Chinese medicine brings to mind acupuncture and the use of natural herbs as healing remedies. Cupping is a lesser-known treatment that is also part of Oriental medicine, one that can provide an especially pleasant experience. One of the earliest documentations of cupping can be found in the work titled A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies, which was written by a Taoist herbalist by the name of Ge Hong and which dates all the way back to 300 AD.
Cupping is the term applied to a technique that uses small glass cups or bamboo jars as suction devices that are placed on the skin. There are several ways that a practitioner can create the suction in the cups. One method involves swabbing rubbing alcohol onto the bottom of the cup, then lighting it and putting the cup immediately against the skin. Suction can also be created by placing an inverted cup over a small flame, or by using an alcohol-soaked cotton pad over an insulating material (like leather) to protect the skin, then lighting the pad and placing an empty cup over the flame to extinguish it. Flames are never used near the skin and are not lit throughout the process of cupping, but rather are a means to create the heat that causes the suction within the small cups.
Once the suction has occurred, the cups can be gently moved across the skin (often referred to as “gliding cupping). The suction in the cups causes the skin and superficial muscle layer to be lightly drawn into the cup. Cupping is much like the inverse of massage – rather than applying pressure to muscles, it uses gentle pressure to pull them upward. For most patients, this is a particularly relaxing and relieving sensation. Once suctioned, the cups are generally left in place for about ten minutes while the patient relaxes. This is similar to the practice of Tui Na, a traditional Chinese medicine massage technique that targets acupuncture points as well as painful body parts, and is well known to provide relief through pressure.
Generally, cupping is combined with acupuncture in one treatment, but it can also be used alone. The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate the nervous system (which makes it an excellent treatment for high blood pressure). Cupping is used to relieve back and neck pains, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, rheumatism, and even cellulite. For weight loss and cellulite treatments, oil is first applied to the skin, and then the cups are moved up and down the surrounding area.
Like acupuncture, cupping follows the lines of the meridians. There are five meridian lines on the back, and these are where the cups are usually placed. Using these points, cupping can help to align and relax qi, as well as target more specific maladies. By targeting the meridian channels, cupping strives to ‘open’ these channels – the paths through which life energy flows freely throughout the body, through all tissues and organs, thus providing a smoother and more free-flowing qi (life force). Cupping is one of the best deep-tissue therapies available. It is thought to affect tissues up to four inches deep from the external skin. Toxins can be released, blockages can be cleared, and veins and arteries can be refreshed within these four inches of affected materials. Even hands, wrists, legs, and ankles can be ‘cupped,’ thus applying the healing to specific organs that correlate with these points.
This treatment is also valuable for the lungs, and can clear congestion from a common cold or help to control a person’s asthma. In fact, respiratory conditions are one of the most common maladies that cupping is used to relieve. Three thousand years ago, in the earliest Chinese documentation of cupping, it was recommended for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis.
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Relieve Infant Colic with Massage
By: Michelle Fletcher
For some, it appears constant crying is a normal occurrence in newborns. But is it? Colic is one of the most common reported ailments in infants aged 3 weeks to about 3 or 4 months. Extended periods of loud crying lasting longer than an hour are trademarks of the ailment, and are most frequent after being fed or late into the evenings.
Colic stems from problems with the infant’s immature digestive system. Trapped gas may cause the baby’s stomach to become distended, resulting in pain, bloating, the inability to pass gas, and frequent crying or screaming. Luckily, stimulation of the digestive process through careful massage may help ease the pain and urge relief from colic.
A study printed in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics supported the effects of massage on colicky infants. The researchers claim that massage therapy stimulated melatonin secretion and rest-activity rhythms in full-term infants. “Massage therapy by mothers in the prenatal period serves as a strong time cue, enhancing coordination of the developing circadian system with environmental cues.” In essence, massage helped relax infants and urge them to sleep, observing the natural circadian rhythms.
A Danish study further supports the claim that massage and reflexological treatments eased symptoms of colic in infants. The purpose of the study was to investigate and treat infants with colic by conventional medicine, followed by an investigation of the effect of reflexological treatment. “Infantile colic had a significant cure rate at pediatric consultation and the children who did not benefit from this intervention had a significantly better outcome after reflexological treatment than had the observation group.” The addition of massage to treatments in the study proved more effective than traditional medicine alone.
Massage for colicky infants is simple and stress-free. A few minutes of your time is enough to soothe the child, relieve symptoms of colic, and help create a tighter bond between parent and child.
The first step is called the paddlewheel. You may want to use a little massage oil or lotion on your hands before beginning. Place your palm under the infant’s chin, with fingers pointing towards the child’s shoulder. Draw your hand downward along the chest, towards their diaper. Repeat with slow, gentle motions.
In the second step, place your infant’s heel next to their bottom by bending the knee. With the leg still bent, move the thigh towards their stomach until it rests on their tummy. Move the other leg to this position as well. Slowly and carefully move the legs in a bicycle pattern. The infant may be confused at first, but they grow to love it.
Part three is also simple. Using as much of your palm and fingers as possible, circle the belly button in a clockwise motion. This motion will move the gas around, making it easier to pass for the infant.
For most parents, only five minutes per diaper change is enough to encourage a healthy digestive system, ease symptoms of colic, and promote a quiet and restful evening.
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Chinese Wisdom: Quote of the Day
“A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers”