Painful periods (also known as dysmenorrhea) and chronic pelvic pain are common conditions we see every day at Triangle Acupuncture Clinic. We improve symptoms for moderate-severe pain with the period as well as more complex issues such as tight pelvic floor muscles and pain with intercourse. The acupuncture helps to relax muscle spasm and causes changes in the central nervous system that decrease the level of perceived pain in chronic pain patients.
A study in 2008 showed that participants had a substantial reduction in the use of NSAIDs as a consequence of pain control by acupuncture. The study also showed the significant pain control during the menstrual period was maintained up to 6 months in 50% of the cases, confirming that acupuncture obtains more than just a temporary symptomatic effect.
In our clinic, treatment is generally once/week or every other week for three months. With primary dysmenorrhea we need the patients to schedule treatment the week before they expect their period. Results tend to last for over a year, many continue to come for acupuncture once/month to maintain the benefit. Patients love the acupuncture as it is very relaxing, and we work on other lifestyle and diet factors that promote feeling healthy and great.
Getting older happens. Whether you’re staring down your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s or beyond, we believe it is always important to cultivate wellness. We find that many of our patients continue to stay well by incorporating acupuncture and herbal medicine along their life journey. It isn’t uncommon for us to treat someone for a couple of months and then see them back in a year for something completely different. We are always here for you, no matter what challenges life throws your way! Do you identify with these age-related conditions we see most often?
Are you hitting mid-life and deciding to train for a half or full marathon? Or, are you 50+ and keeping active but nagged by aches and pains? Acupuncture once/monthly as part of your training will keep your joints, tendons and muscles healthy as you turn up the heat. Should you develop any injuries that prevent you from reaching exercise milestones, we have the best acupuncture pain specialists in town.
As you age are you discovering that certain foods make you feel inflamed or result in unwanted digestive woes? Having to give up food groups like dairy and gluten can be helpful in the short-term but nobody wants a strict and limited diet for the rest of their life. There are many ways acupuncture and herbal medicine can reclaim your digestion and get you back to eating the healthy foods you love – in moderation of course.
Sleep is the all-important anti-aging tool. It is very common to find that you can’t get a solid night’s sleep as you get older. For women, menopause often equals poorer sleep quality. For men, stress and pain often keep them up. We always work on the underlying problem that is keeping you awake whether it is hot flashes or joint pain. If there is just plain old insomnia for no reason in particular, acupuncture on specific points to relax the nervous system can help with more restful sleep.
Fighting Wrinkles –
Cosmetic acupuncture treatments can soften, lift and tone the face and neck. We use tiny needles along with special facial cupping and gua sha tools to bring circulation to the delicate facial tissues and enhance lymph drainage. The result is a more radiant you without any cutting or poking or peeling!
Using acupuncture to treat pain is what we do. No matter what a patient comes in for as their primary concern, we inevitably include points for a tense upper back or headaches, a foot that aches or what we call “computer arms” (tendonitis near the elbow). Pain is a part of our modern lives but thankfully you have acupuncturists just a phone call away!
There are quite a few ways we can address pain, depending on how long you’ve had it and the exact nature of the problem itself. A herniated disc will get different treatment than say, sciatica or a post-surgery knee. The points that we choose and the depth and technique that are applied all matter a great deal in getting results. For instance, sometimes we need to treat the muscles and do deeper needling into trigger points like you see in dry needling. Other times the needling is much more precise and adding moxibustion to warm the needles or electro-stimulation is more effective. We also add cupping when appropriate to lift the skin and fascia and allow for more circulation and healing.
Did we mention that all of these techniques are comfortable? One thing we always try to do is make sure our treatments feel good. The warmth of moxibustion is heavenly on sore aching joints. Cupping is like a massage and at times we’ll do it just to relax someone who is stressed and tense. Electro-stimulation sounds painful but the sensation is actually very gentle.
This ongoing case illustrates a common treatment plan:
A 35 year old woman presents with chronic but severe neck pain. It began about 3 months prior to her first visit, after working long hours at her computer under high stress conditions at work. She was having trouble with range of motion – couldn’t turn her head to the right without pain. She also experienced TMJ and headaches in conjunction with the tightness in her neck. In an effort to avoid taking too much ibuprofen which hurt her stomach, she was searching for another way to deal with the pain.
The treatment plan was acupuncture with electro-stimulation once per week for 8 weeks. Points included were along the back of her neck and upper back with a couple distal points on the feet and hands. After the fourth acupuncture treatment she noticed a lot of improvement in her pain level and range of motion. By the eighth visit she was doing quite well, pain free and restored range of motion that would hint at coming back but always improved with a good nights sleep. We switched to acupuncture every other week for four more visits and then she has continued once/month for a year. Because she can’t avoid using her computer and working some long hours, this maintenance of once/month keeps her feeling good and she has avoided any type of relapse.
You’re pregnant! It is such a special time and you are likely nervous and excited. Unfortunately, the majority of pregnant women start to also feel hijacked as nausea and overwhelming tiredness set in around week six. This can make the first trimester seem like it lasts forever. Acupuncture can make a big difference in how you feel during pregnancy, starting with that first trimester.
First trimester: We see some women weekly, some twice/week if they’re very nauseas and others come bimonthly or monthly. Your practitioner can let you know what’s recommended for you. First trimester issues we see most often are:
- Nausea or Morning Sickness – acupuncture is excellent at reducing nausea and vomiting during the first trimester.
- Anxiety – stress can trigger your body to convert progesterone to cortisol. Using acupuncture to keep you out of “fight or flight” mode can be very helpful to support early pregnancy hormonal balance and keep progesterone levels stable.
- Headaches – as hormone levels change, some women can have a hard time with headaches. Acupuncture can provide fast relief.
- Recurrent Miscarriage – acupuncture is recommended more consistently for these women. Research suggests that the supportive care of acupuncture during the early weeks of pregnancy can reduce miscarriage rates when there is unknown cause. Sometimes herbal medicines are also prescribed.
Second trimester: During the second and third trimesterwe recommend acupuncture every 4 weeks to stay ahead of hip and back pain and address any other issues that crop up. If pain does develop, it often just takes 1-2 acupuncture treatments to help you get on your way. We commonly see pain in the hip, back, pubic bone, ribs and wrists.
Third trimester: At 36 weeks it is time to start coming once/week again to help your hormones shift into delivery-mode. We use acupuncture for labor promotion to assist you from going over your due date. It is very successful if you come in starting week 36 for weekly treatments.
Please ask us if you have any questions about using acupuncture during pregnancy! We have lovingly been providing safe and effective acupuncture to moms throughout the Triangle for over 15 years.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS as it is widely known, is an infertility diagnosis that has risen significantly in the past several years. While the cause of the disorder is still not well understood, PCOS is an endocrine disorder that includes dysfunction in cortisol, insulin, testosterone and other reproductive hormone levels. This means that stress, weight gain, inflammation and too much sugar in the diet all come together to form this syndrome. While women with PCOS can vary in their severity of symptoms, most will have irregular menstrual cycles and ovulation issues and some can have cystic ovaries, excessive hair growth, and difficulty losing weight as well.
We see many patients in our clinic with PCOS every week and it can be a very frustrating diagnosis. If a woman is overweight, often even a little bit of weight-loss will positively impact this hormonal syndrome and increase their fertility greatly. If a woman is thin, young and maintains a healthy lifestyle she often feels lost as to what else she can do to improve her situation. Clomid and Femara are low-intervention fertility medications that can sometimes get ovulation back on track but they do not address the hormonal imbalance that is driving PCOS. Thus, Clomid and Femara can have some very negative side effects such as increasing the number of cysts, causing hyper-PMS symptoms, hot flashes, etc.
Many women take these medications and get pregnant very quickly, and when that happens we can all feel happy. But what about the women who have tried these low-intervention therapies and have not had success within 3 cycles? They are often left to move onto IVF, a very expensive undertaking.
What we have seen in treating fertility and PCOS with Chinese Medicine over the past decade is very inspiring. Because PCOS affects many different hormones, a holistic approach to re-balancing the endocrine system is very helpful in creating the optimal environment for healthy eggs and a healthy pregnancy. A study published in the American Journal of Endocrinology, Physiology, and Metabolism concluded that a series of acupuncture treatments over the course of 12 weeks reduced the metabolic effects of PCOS and increased ovulation frequency. The proposed mechanism is that the acupuncture points peripherally modulated the sympathetic nerve stimulation to the ovaries. Reducing the sympathetic nervous system effects (the part of our nervous system that responds to stress) has a broad impact on the different hormonal functions in our bodies.
In our clinic we pair these acupuncture treatments with specific herbal medicines, diet and exercise suggestions to achieve results even more quickly. Often women who are not ovulating regularly will have menstrual cycles that are more balanced and fertile within 2-3 cycles. By not bypassing the root of the disorder we help restore fertility naturally.
Here are a few tips to get you started if you have been diagnosed with PCOS:
- See an acupuncturist who specializes in treating PCOS and can get you started on an herbal formula that is right for you. There are several types of formulas specifically geared to restoring ovulation. Paired with an acupuncture plan, your likelihood of achieving a normal menstrual cycle is high.
- Exercise! Getting 30 minutes or more of moderate intensity exercise helps stabilize blood sugar and reduce the sympathetic nervous system effects driving PCOS.
- Take steps to reduce inflammation – this usually means limiting foods made from flour, sugar, and alcohol to start with. Often women with PCOS can really benefit from a gluten and dairy free diet.
- Reduce your environmental estrogen over-load. Choose organic meat products, use natural body care products, reduce soy, eliminate processed foods and stay away from plastic water bottles and using plastics in your kitchen to get you started.
Please share this with anyone you know who may be struggling with PCOS! We are happy to help end the frustration of trying to conceive with this disorder.
It’s that time of year again, back to school and often a more grueling weekly routine. This is also the time of year that more viruses start to make their rounds through schools and the workplace. Here are a few tips to keep your immune system in good working order this fall and winter:
- Prioritize a healthy sleep pattern – this is the first and some can argue the most important part of our day when you’re talking about immune system health. Aim for 8 hours minimum per night, you will feel so much better that it becomes an easy habit to continue.
- Clean up your diet – minimizing sugars and gluten for two weeks is a great short cleanse to get your gut biome, metabolism and blood sugar back on track. Adding in extra boosts of foods like bone broth, green veggies and healthy fats will give your body the fuel it needs to run optimally this time of year.
- Get Acupuncture - the National Institute of Health and many published studies concur that acupuncture has far-reaching effects on immune system health from increasing red and white cell counts in compromised patients to increasing lymphocyte proliferation and natural killer cell activity in patients fighting illness. Other effects of acupuncture relax the body, help a person sleep and promote healthy digestion all of which support a healthy immune system.
- Stock up on your Chinese herbs – we utilize many different herbal formulas to not only boost the immune system but to also treat colds and flus symptoms once you’ve come down with one. Different herbs act to dry excessive mucus, relieve sore throat and sinus pressure, clear lung congestion and open airways. Call or stop in for an herbal consult if you're interested in learning about what can help you this fall.
Body Care Products
Body creams and lotions that we rub into our skin can contain high amounts of xenoextrogens. The big problem is that many of these estrogenic chemicals are introduced topically and go right into our bloodstream, and on into our tissues and organs. There are three major chemical groups to avoid in lotions, household products and sunscreens. The first is the category of preservatives found in body care products known as methyl-, ethyl-, butyl- and propylparaben. You may notice many lotions say "paraben-free" on their labels now, this is a good thing. Second is phthalates, these chemicals make lotions and household products smell good. Pthalates are found in everything from body lotions to laundry detergents and cleaning products as well as air fresheners. Third are the chemicals commonly found in sunscreens, PABA and 4-MBC. These are also highly estrogenic and we usually rub them over most of our body surface area giving us a big dose of extra estrogen. Here's what you can do:
· Read the labels on all body care products that you purchase. Avoid parabens, phthalates, PABA and 4-MBC.
· Don’t use air fresheners or cleaning products with artificial scents. Try an essential oil diffuser instead – these fragrances are plant derived and nontoxic.
· Visit the website ewg.org to learn more about which brands of body care products, foods and household cleaners are safest.
Adopting these few changes can make a huge difference in your hormonal wellbeing. Getting rid of these extra chemicals has profound effects on women who suffer from severe pain with their periods, to couples struggling to have a baby, to girls who are entering puberty at younger and younger ages and to the millions of women battling breast and cervical cancer in the world today. We do not deserve to be made sick by the food and products we buy. You can make educated choices when shopping to decrease the amount of estrogen in your body and our environment!
Go to www.ewg.orgto see the Environmental Working Group’s lists of healthy products and searchable database of skin care and cosmetics. They also have an app you can put on your phone for easy access at the store.
Most plastics until just recently contained a chemical known as bisphenol-A, a potent xenoestrogen (substance that mimics estrogen and binds to estrogen receptors in our body). The main concern with this type of estrogen in our environment is most prevalent when the plastic is heated, causing the bisphenol-A to leach into whatever food or liquid contained. To put it in perspective, one Dartmouth University study showed that plastic wrap heated in a microwave with vegetable oil had over 500,000 times the amount of xenoestrogen required to stimulate breast cancer cells to grow in a test tube. !! This should have us jumping out of our chairs!
Plastic has been convenient and useful to us over the last 50 years. But the truth is...we would be better off without it. Reusable glass and aluminum are a far better choice than plastic in your kitchen and body care products. Not to mention the enormous amount of waste plastic packaging creates and the current struggles we are having with dumping our recycling and trash worldwide.
So here is what you can do:
- Don’t rely on plastic bottles for drinking water, use reusable aluminum or glass bottles. Disposable water and soda bottles may have been heated as they sit on trucks, dramatically increasing the amount of dangerous chemicals that leach into the beverage.
- Do not heat food in plastic containers; this includes all prepared frozen foods and leftovers cooked in the microwave. Dump it onto a plate or into a glass container first!
- Purchase baby bottles and pacifiers as well as other plastic essentials from companies that advertise no Bisphenol-A.
Many of the chemicals commonly used in processed foods, smell-good body care products, air fresheners and plastics are now recognized as “hormone disruptors.” This means that chemicals in our food and environment mimic estrogen to the point that they bind to our body’s estrogen receptors when we eat them, breathe them or absorb them through our skin. This is one reason many women (and men) can experience “estrogen dominance” where the level of estrogen in your system is higher than it should be and starts causing health issues. These can include:
- Male factor fertility issues
- Female reproductive health issues
- Estrogen dependent cancers such as breast and ovarian
- Uterine fibroids and polyps
- Ovarian cysts
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Severe menstrual cramping
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms
So what are 3 easy ways you can detoxify from estrogen overload? Let’s look at Food, Plastics and Body Care Products to find out. Part 1 is about lessening estrogen exposure in our Food.
When you eat animal products you will ingest a certain amount of estrogen and hormones from these animals. If you are sufferring from one of the hormonal issues above, it may be in your best interest to consume less dairy and meat products altogether. Because estrogen supplementation is given to cattle, pork and chickens grown in large-scale factory farms to increase their milk and egg production and to promote faster growth, you consume even more estrogen than you should normally when eating these products. (We've all seen the giant chicken breasts now available in grocery stores.) Organic meat and dairy products are not allowed to contain these added estrogens and are a good choice both because you will not consume extra estrogen and because it will help reduce the overall demand for these products. The same is true for the synthetic pesticides utilized by most major fruit and vegetable farmers. Whenever you can buy organic fruits and vegetables, you will reduce your exposure to the hormone disrupting effect of chemical pesticides.
1. The number one thing you can do is buy organic milk, meat, eggs and other dairy products and to purchase vegetables and fruits grown without synthetic pesticides. The cheapest and easiest way to do this is to shop at our many farmers markets and talk to the growers. Local, small farms don’t have to resort to the same practices as the mega-factory farmers do. When you don’t buy organic fruits and veggies, wash them with cold water and dish soap, or rinse them in a water-vinegar solution.
2. Avoid consuming heavily processed foods. Many of the convenience foods that are so simple to whip up, contain lots of added preservatives, coloring and additives that equate to you consuming lots of synthetic chemicals. Keep it simple – food doesn’t have to be fancy – basic organic fruits and veggies with some protein and whole grains should be your mainstay. Not processed foods.
3. Visit www.ewg.org for the Shopper’s Guide on which foods should be bought organic and which are less of a priority.
Day 6: Part Two: Self Care Strategies Continued
Mindfulness and Solitude
There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes
-That Nich Hanh
This is one of my favorite sayings by That Nich Hanh. What it means is, we have choice over our lives, even when it comes to the not-so-fun chores and tasks we have to do each day. We have a choice to look at the chore or task at hand, and get all spun up and stressed about it (or spend the time while doing the task distracted by other things we have to do), We also have a choice to experience the pleasure of embodiment in doing the task. We wash the dishes in order to experience washing the dishes. The warmth of the water, the slippery bubbles, the satisfaction of turning a clean plate over under running water. These tiny moments are just a few minutes of your day, but hold a treasure of joy and meaning, if we are willing to bring our presence to them. In this way,we can find meaning and fulfillment in even the most mundane parts of our lives.
Some ideas for inviting more mindfulness into our lives:
• Qi Gong
• Grounding/connecting to the Earth
• Deep breathing
Many times, in order to find places for mindfulness, we must have solitude. For some, the word solitude equates to loneliness. But there is a dramatic difference between solitude and loneliness, and we find the difference in making friends with ourselves--which is what self care is all about. When we feel solid in our relationship with self, spending time alone can be a rich, nourishing, and rewarding treat we can give ourselves.
Therapy and Support for Mental Health
Therapy has been stigmatized for a long time as something that only ‘crazy’ people need. My crazy idea is that everybody needs therapy!
As human beings, we all experience a vast emotional landscape that can sometimes feel confusing or overwhelming. Life is complex. Sometimes we need help with our relationships. Sometimes we have trauma or experiences from the past that can make navigating our present emotions difficult. Sometimes we lose a loved one. Sometimes we just have a bad day, or a bad week, or a bad year. When we hurt ourselves, or get sick, we go to the doctor. The same is true for our mental and emotional wellbeing.
Having a caring, trusted, neutral person that will listen to our stories, hold space for us to vent, and offer us new tools for our emotional tool boxes is an immense gift we can give ourselves, even if we don’t feel mentally ‘unwell’. Most insurances now cover mental health providers, and more and more therapists are offering sliding scale options or grad-student level counseling for a lower cash rate for those who don’t have coverage.
Need some help finding a good therapist? At TAC, we recommend one of our Partners, the North Carolina Center for Resiliency. Goodtherapy.org is another great resource with a 'Therapist Finder' that you can put all kinds of search critieria in to find a provider that best meets your needs.
Joy, Creativity, and Play
When’s the last time you blew bubbles, or made sidewalk chalk art, or had a pillow fight? Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean the children inside us ever grew up. Making time for play and creativity can significantly reduce stress, and exponentially increase the joy in our lives.
If you have children, you have an instant and never-ending joy fountain! Find the opportunities to play along with your kids. Run after them at Marbles, and challenge them to a giant lego build-off. Play hide and seek in the house. See if the whirly things at the playground still make you dizzy. Make mud pies and have snowball fights. Collaborate on a finger paint masterpiece. Set up a mini obstacle course in your backyard using items you already have laying around. If you don’t have children, please remember that adults are just big kids! You can still play and be creative. Take an art class (even if it’s just a one-time ‘wine and design’ class). Take a walk around the art museum and get inspired. Get yourself a lovely new journal and write. Go to karaoke with your friends. Find the places that spark your creativity and fun, and enjoy them, guilt-free.
Let’s get it out of the way first: social media does *not* count towards filling up your Social Bucket. I promise.
Now, let’s think of things that do. For starters, think of the people on your list that matter most to you. You most likely see these people on a regular basis if they are your spouse/partner, children, close friends and family, etc. Think of the quality of time spent with these people--has it become more route and less meaningful than you’d like? Does it feel daunting when you try to think of how to keep all these connections maintained?
An easy way to bring more fulfillment to our social connections is to bring in ritual. Have a regular thing you do with your bestie every week. Schedule a regular date night with your spouse or partner or children. Find something to do in which you get to meet new people (combine bestie and new people time if you’re feeling nervous!). The activities can be the same every time, or completely spontaneous. The goal is giving your yes (your commitment of time and energy) to those most important to you, and building it into your life regularly. Scheduling time to maintain your social relationships may feel like not much fun on the front end, but it can be a great way to maintain your important connections for the longterm.
Let’s talk about Stuff, Baby
Stuff. It’s everywhere. In drawers and closets and bins and piles. In the garage, the driveway, our pockets, the backyard. Owning things puts us in an obligatory relationship with our stuff. Whether it’s a house, a car, clothes, collections, papers, books, etc. We spend time, money, and energy on procuring, upgrading, repairing, maintaining, organizing, storing, and stressing about our stuff. That’s time, money and energy we could be spending on what matters most to us.
Clutter can cause anxiety. According to recent research, clutter in our spaces decreases our ability to focus, process information and make decisions, and increases stress levels and the likelihood of depression. Think of clutter in your home as clutter in your mind. So, the less piles of things you have laying around, the clearer you’ll feel mentally and emotionally.
Marie Kondo and her book ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ along with her Netflix series is all the rage right now. I’m a big fan of her work, and I can testify to the magic of developing a new relationship with my stuff. The idea of letting go of anything that doesn't spark joy (and everything that’s left having a reserved place in my home) can ripple outwards to other areas of life as well--and it’s helped me to reevaluate the relationships and obligations that were not joyful or sustaining for me.
So, how much stuff do we actually need? First, let’s take a look at the word ‘need’. It’s a strong word. Byron Katie is fond of saying ‘How do I know I don’t need a thing? Because I don’t already have it.’ While that may sound extreme, the meaning behind it is that many of us already have our basic ‘stuff needs’ met. We have shelter, clothing, food, water, and transportation. The trap we can get ourselves into is convincing ourselves that we ‘need’ something, when in reality we just really, really want it. And what often happens when we buy the thing we ‘needed’, is we have a momentary rush of excitement, which after a short time fades away. When initial excitement of having the thing is gone, we find something else we just have to have, and the cycle continues all over.
A good way of deciding whether or not to buy an item is to ask yourself first: ‘Does this help fill one of my Buckets, or drain it (thinking of your Financial Bucket here is a great idea!)?’ and second ‘Am I prepared to be committed to caring for this item?’ If we look at our stuff in relational terms, and remember the time, money, and energy we devote to having things, it’s easier to decide whether or not we really need to buy that 3rd pair of leather boots that are on sale right now.
Impulse buying: Chase the feeling, not the form. The next time you’re feeling impulsive about a purchase, take a moment to get present with yourself. Ask yourself what is the feeling you’re looking for? Sink into that for a minute. Is it a feeling of comfort, safety, or excitement? Is there a way to give yourself that feeling without buying something? When you change your relationship with your stuff, you open up a whole new world of freedom.
Gift Giving: Presence over presents! Gift giving is a lovely thing we humans do, that should feel good for the giver and the receiver. One of the ways we can combat the clutter and the stress when gift giving, is to remember these tips:
• Give experiences (planned outings, concert tickets, camping trips, spa day, etc)
• Give consumables (meals, nice bottle of wine, locally roasted coffee,tea etc)
• Give hand made (whether made by you, or a local artisan, hand made gifts tend to last longer, and if you make your own gifts, you save money and yourself from the shopping frenzy)
Check your motive. Ask yourself: Does giving this gift feel good to me? Am I giving out of obligation, or a sincere feeling of joyfulness or gratitude? If not, then simply don’t do it.
This reduces the likelihood of the gifts we give being introduced into the waste stream, takes some of the stress and pressure off of gift shopping, and helps us remember our joy.
It is my hope that you’ve received some insights and benefits from this series that can help you on your way to a deeper, more meaningful relationship with yourself. I am deeply grateful for your company in this self-care adventure. Until next time!