acupunctureAcupuncture is one of several ancient practices to channel Qi and remove blockages of this “vital energy” for the natural relief of pain and for healing. Acupuncture and, in deed, other forms of vital energy manipulation predate recorded history and are estimated to be approximately 4,000 years old. Western medicine is no longer skeptical of the efficacy of these forms of treatment and is considered safe by AMA, NIH, and NCCAM “when administered by well-trained practitioners using sterile needles”. Western practitioners such as the Mind Body Institute are trying to understand how eastern practices work and fold them into western practices. However, the biggest difference between eastern and western practice is that the eastern practices treat the mind-body as a whole where as the western practices focus on specific symptoms, diseases, and organs.

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Traditional Chinese medicine views the body as a small universe with five major interconnected systems. Each system is represented by an element, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water. Collectively, these systems/elements are called the Wu Xing. The association of these elements is far from random, in fact, when the body is in balance the systems have a cyclical “affinity”. Water helps the tree (Wood) to grow which, in turn, feeds Fire which returns to Earth etc. When one or more systems fall out of balance, symptoms emerge from the antagonistic relationships that develop. The systems are said to be in “enmity”, a state which can cascade into other systems. Water suppresses Fire, Fire melts Metal, Wood breaks Earth, etc. Resulting illnesses and symptoms often occur as constellations or patterns across multiple systems. Treatment seeks to restore the proper flow between systems as well as relieve the ailments.

In Chinese thought, Wood attributes are considered to be strength and flexibility, as with bamboo. It is also associated with qualities of warmth, generosity, co-operation and idealism. The Wood person will be expansive, outgoing and socially conscious. The wood element is one that seeks always to grow and expand. Wood heralds the beginning of life, springtime and buds, sensuality and abundance. Wood needs moisture to thrive.

In Chinese medicine, wood is associated with negative feelings of anger, and positive feelings of patience and altruism. Organs associated with this element are the liver (yin) and the gall bladder (yang), the eyes and the tendons. The emotional patterns associated with enmity in the liver, gall bladder, eyes and tendons include difficulty adapting to stress, frustration, irritability and propensity to become angry. These emotions are typically accompanied by pain or tightness in the chest, tension in the neck and shoulders, teeth grinding, muscle spasms, cramping, twitching, as well as numbness, tingling or rashes. It is not unusual to experience headaches, high-pitched ringing in the ears and/or a lump in the throat. Sufferers often take alcohol and/or recreational drugs and may suffer from depression.

Fire is yang in character, its motion is upward and its energy is expansive. It is associated with the planet Mars, summer, south, daylight and heat and the color red. (Red is associated with extreme luck). It also stands for the heart, tongue, and pulse. Its negative emotion is anxiety, while its positive emotion is joy. The Primal Spirit of fire is represented by the Red Pheasant or Phoenix.

In Chinese thought Fire is associated with the qualities of dynamism, strength and persistence; however, it is also connected to restlessness. The fire element provides, warmth, enthusiasm and creativity, however an excess of it can bring aggression, impatience and impulsive behavior. Indications of enmity in this system include patterns of difficulty sleeping, restlessness, mental confusion and anxiety. Examples include, waking through the night, restless sleep, nightmares, difficulty falling asleep and waking un-refreshed. Sufferers can experience high or low blood pressure, palpitations, fainting, and chest pain traveling to shoulders or down arms. Sufferers can also get sores on the tip of their tongue.

Earth is a balance of both yin and yang, the feminine and masculine together. Its motion is inward and centering, and its energy is stabilizing and conserving. It is associated with the color yellow and the planet Saturn, and it lies at the center of the compass in the Chinese cosmos. It is associated with the turn of each of the four seasons and with damp. It is believed to govern the spleen, stomach, mouth and muscles. Its negative emotion is anxiety and its positive emotion is empathy. Its Primal Spirit is represented by the Yellow Dragon.

In Chinese thought Earth is associated with the qualities of patience, thoughtfulness, practicality, hard work and stability. The earth element is also nurturing and seeks to draw all things together with itself, in order to bring harmony, rootedness and stability. Other attributes of the earth element include ambition, stubbornness, responsibility and long-term planning. In pathology, the earth can represent selfishness and self-centeredness.

Enmity of this system is said to focus in the spleen and emerging patterns evoke a sense of worry or excessive thinking. Physical patters develop around eating, appetite, and processing of food. Symptoms include cravings, changes to appetite or low appetite, fatigue after eating as well as abrupt changes in weight, up or down. Sufferers can experience abdominal gas, gurgling and bloating, constipation or diarrhea, undigested food or mucous in stools, blood in stools or tarry stools, and chronic use of laxatives.

Metal is yin in character, its motion is inwards and its energy is contracting. It is associated with the west and autumn, old age, the planet Venus and the color white. The archetypal metals are silver and gold. Its Primal Spirit is represented by a White Tiger.

The qualities associated with metal are unyieldingness, rigidity, persistence, strength and determination. The metal person that is controlling, ambitious, forceful and set in their ways as metal is very strong; and they are self-reliant and prefer to handle their problems alone. The metal person is also materialists, business oriented and good at organization and stability. However the metal person can also appreciate luxury and enjoy the good things in life. Just as metal can conduct electricity, the Metal person has strong impulses and generative powers and can bring about changes and transformations for those who come into contact with them. Metal is believed to govern the lungs, nose and skin. The negative emotion associated with metal is grief, while the positive emotion is courage.

Enmity of this system focuses on lung function and exhibits as melancholy or sadness. Physical symptoms can include issues with the nose, lungs and breathing pathways. They can include profuse nasal discharge, nose bleeds, or sinus congestion, dry mouth, dry itchy or sore throat. They can include bronchitis, allergies, and/or difficulty breathing. Sufferers may also complain of aching in the body, alternating fever and chills, stiff neck, dry skin, hives or eczema. Cigarette smoking may be associated.

Water is yin in character, its energy is downward and its motion is stillness and conserving. It is associated with the planet Mercury, the north, winter and cold, darkness, night and the colour black. It is also associated with the moon, which was believed to cause the dew to fall at night. It is also believed to govern the kidneys, ears and bones. The negative emotion associated with water is fear, while the positive emotion is calmness. Its Primal Spirit is represented by the Black Tortoise.

In Chinese Taoist thought, water is representative of intelligence and wisdom, flexibility, softness and pliancy; however, an over-abundance of the element is said to cause difficulty in choosing something and sticking to it. In the same way, Water can be fluid and weak, but can also wield great power when it floods and overwhelms the land.

The system represented by water is described by kidney function and enmity is associated with temperature, perspiration, thirst and to some degree low energy. The body can feel or be excessively hot or cold and the individual can complain of hot or cold hands or feet. Afternoon flashes and/or night sweats are not uncommon. The individual may perspire easily or not enough and may have sweaty hands and/or sweaty feet.

Is Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine right for you?

Individuals seeking relief of specific aliments have often lost sight of one or more irritating but minor conditions that they take for granted and, in fact, may have lived with for years. The skilled acupuncturist seeks to understand the flow of the entire body which often requires inquiry beyond the initial complaint. For this reason, the initial evaluation is a thorough assessment and may include seemingly repetitive or unrelated questions. As you consider whether Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture are right for you, I would urge you to download and complete the Health History Questionnaire available on the Forms Page. The Health History Questionnaire is organized in a way that may reveal patterns you hadn’t considered.

Here is a short list of the many health reasons individuals have come to see me:

Women’s Health & Infertility
Pain Management
Headaches and Migraines
Digestive and Bowel Disorders
Allergies and Asthma
Cancer and Chemotherapy related issues
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Immune Weakness
Sprains and Strains and Sports Injuries
Memory and Cognitive Issues