If you grew up during the 90s, smoking was not cool. It was actually vilified by television shows. However, it did not stop people from smoking. I see tons of people in their 20s and 30s smoking. I remember college and post college, people smoking at bars, on the way to class, basically anywhere they could. Thankfully people cannot smoke in bars anymore but that isn’t stopping majority of the population from smoking. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 17.8% of people in the United States smoke. A fact that is even more alarming is 3,200 people under 18 start smoking everyday, and 2,100 people go from occasional smokers to everyday smokers everyday. It’s shocking how many people smoke, especially because there are 42,000 deaths a year in the United States that are caused by smoking.
My patients who smoke tell me that there is nothing like coffee and a cigarette. I have seen people literally light up when they talk about smoking. After my grandmother quit smoking she would walk behind people who were smoking and breath it in. She never lost her love for the smell. As the granddaughter of a smoker I hated the way she smelled and how her room smelled. But I loved her, and it was that love that eventually got her to stop. However, that is not the case for most smokers. They can’t just automatically quit one day, they need help.
Acupuncture, in particular auricular acupuncture, is extremely useful for helping people stop smoking, as well as other addictions. The protocol that is used for addiction is called the NADA protocol, and it was created by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association. When doing the NADA protocol, needles are placed in both ears at five specific locations. One of the points is called Shen Men, and it is used to calm the mind. Another location, the Sympathetic point, puts the body in a parasympathetic state, and the patient becomes more relaxed and able to heal. The other three points are Liver, Kidney, and Lung. By inserting needles at those points in the ear, the patient will start to clean out those organs that have been clouded by smoking. The practitioner will also administer other points in the body that they feel are necessary to balance out the patient’s body. Together all these points help the patient start to quit smoking for good.
After the first couple of treatments the patient will most likely smoke (even though some do quit right away) but they are going to notice different patterns to their smoking habits. They might get satiated from a cigarette faster, forget to smoke during the day, or wake up and not want a cigarette. Some patients start to feel grossed out by a cigarette. It is a similar feeling to eating clean for a month and then eating a sugar free candy. It tastes funny and gross. There will be changes and each patient has a different reaction. The patient should be smoking less and less with each treatment until they stop. The timeline for each patient is individually based, just like everything else in Chinese Medicine. Although, if you do not see a pattern change right away tell your acupuncturist.
Hopefully the number of people who start smoking becomes less and less each year so that the number of people who die from smoking will also decrease. Smoking is not only bad for yourself, it is also toxic to anyone around you. The sooner you quit, the better your body will be in the long run. Acupuncture can help strengthen your lungs so you can move towards a healthier life after you quit. So if you are a smoker, or know someone who is a smoker, and want to quit, find an acupuncturist who can help you today.
Dana Fine, L.Ac.
Editor In Chief
Have you ever stuck out your tongue at your doctor? If you see an acupuncturist you will with every treatment. Our patients stick their tongues out at us in order to aid us in coming up with a diagnosis. We are not doing it to be silly we are doing it to find out what is causing you to feel off balance. The tongue is the X-ray machine, or MRI, of a Chinese medicine practitioner. It gives us a very clear insight into the body.
In Chinese Medicine, we use tongue diagnosis every time we see a patient as part of our intake. We look at the tongue’s color, shape, and coating to help come up with a treatment plan. The back of the tongue represents the kidney, urinary bladder and intestines, the middle of the tongue relates to the spleen and stomach, and the sides of the tongue are indicative of the liver and gallbladder. Within each section of the tongue there can be cracks, macules, and papules that help guide the practitioner to treating that specific organ.
The color is important because it helps us figure out what temperature is causing a problem, and if the problem is an excess or a deficiency. It can also tell us if there is any stagnation. Stagnation refers to anything stuck in your body; menstrual blood, muscle pain, or even the feeling of being stuck. A red tongue means there is heat, which is an excess condition. Excess conditions refer to conditions that have too much of one ailment, such as heat. If the tongue is pale there is a deficiency, purple or black there is stagnation.
The shape can also help us confirm the channel that seems to be off balance. If a tongue splits at the tip, it is a heart etiology, which can lead the practitioner to a finding of an emotional disturbance. If it has ridges on the side it is a liver or gallbladder issue, which will make the practitioner think there is some decision that needs to be made in the patient’s life. Gallbladder issues correlate with making decisions in your life. If it is puffy and scalloped it is a spleen issue, which will guide the practitioner to changing the patient’s diet. Another key to helping us better diagnosis is the patient’s coat, which is why we always tell you not to scrape or brush your tongue before you come see us. If there is no coat it can mean heat or a yin deficiency. The dry coat is from lack of fluids in the patient’s body because it has been dried up from the heat. If there is a yellow coat it can mean damp-heat, which is caused from eating too many spicy and or greasy food. A white coat or a slippery coat it can mean dampness, which is a result of poor eating habits.
As patients recover from their ailments there are noticeable changes in their tongues. The color may appear pinker, the coat is fresh, and the cracks, macules, and papules disappear. This does not happen overnight. Chinese Medicine is not always a quick fix, but it is a lasting fix. We have to remember, it can take years for people who abuse their bodies to become unhealthy. It may take years to fix it, but it will be fixed with proper nutrition and lifestyle choices. We just need to make sure we take care of every body part, including our mouths. They are too important to be ignored.
Imagine you are about to give the biggest presentation of your life. You heart starts racing, sweat drips down your armpits, and your eyes dilate. You are ready and alert; it is because your sympathetic nervous system, a part of your autonomic nervous system, has kicked in and is controlling your body. However, we can only be that alert for a short time. It causes a lot of stress on our bodies especially our heart and other internal organs. We need our parasympathetic nervous system to activate to allow you to “rest and digest” and start the healing process.
The parasympathetic nervous system is the other component of the autonomic nervous system and is activated when we are relaxed. It allows us to slow our heart rate, digest our food, and rest our eyes. We need that relaxation because only when we take a break can we heal. In Chinese Medicine terms these two nervous systems are the yin and yang of our body. They get us to a balance state.
The problem is that today, people are constantly stressed with work, life, and the work/life balance. They feel like there is no answer to their cycle of no sleep, anxiousness, and eventually pain or sickness. Often people ask me, “How do I relax? I have no time.” Acupuncture helps—a lot: it turns on the patient’s parasympathetic nervous system letting the patient relax and then recuperate.
In a treatment, a practitioner will ask the patient questions look at their tongue and feel their pulse. From there they will administer needles and then leave the patient in the room alone to relax, for a period from 40 minutes to an hour. With this time carved out for one’s self—itself a challenge in today’s society—patients learn to deal with their thoughts without looking at a phone; the acupuncture helps them enter a dream world and calm down. Just the practice of being alone with one’s thoughts can help patients activate their parasympathetic nervous system.
Many different points can help calm down a patient and activate the parasympathetics. There is a specific point in the ear called the sympathetic point that helps accelerate the process. The point is located towards the top of the ear and it helps with any disruption in the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system’s goal is to achieve homeostasis (balance) in the body by turning on and off the sympathetics and parasympathetic. By inserting this point, a person who constantly feels stressed will loosen up easier.
Those moments when we are in sympathetic mode are some of the best moments in our lives. They are the moments when we scored the winning basket, kissed the love of our life, started a new journey, or got the job of our dreams. It feels good but only for a short time. We cannot maintain that high intensity all day. There is no way our bodies will survive. Being in the parasympathetic phase isn’t as exciting. It may even be boring, but we need it.
The comedian Whitney Cummings said during a commencement speech at the University of Pennsylvania, “Don’t confuse being busy with being productive.” Acupuncture administered at the parasympathetic activation points can help trigger the relaxation and healing that enables us to take on bouts of intense productivity when we need to, and unwind when we’re able.
Dana Fine, L.Ac.
Editor In Chief
Lately, I have been reading many articles about which Chinese Medical schools are ranked the highest in the country. I do think it is important to go to a good school but what is more important is to pick the school that fits your style of learning the best. Everyone will have a different experience no matter where they go. Also, remember when it comes to picking a school, ask someone who has graduated already, because the black circles under the eyes of a current student will make you run, even though you really shouldn’t.
When I decided to look into graduate school programs I was shocked to learn that almost all of them are four years. It seemed very long but I thought to myself, if I am going to do this I have to do it now, so I applied. I was a journalist before going back to school, and I knew I could always write but with a masters, I would have an even stronger focus to my writing. I was really excited and ready to go, and during the summer of 2009, I found out that I was accepted to Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in Chicago. It seemed like the perfect school for me.
All summer long I prepared by reading books about Chinese Medicine but nothing prepared me for the beginning. I did not know that I was essentially learning a brand new language, culture, and a completely new way of thinking. I also forgot what it was like to start somewhere new, without any friends or acquaintances in sight. My only choice was to put on a strong front until I made it to my car to call my mom and cry. I cried that first day, same with the second but it was that third day when everything changed. On my third day of school, I made a friend. She was and will always be my angel in graduate school. I was having trouble remembering a definition in medical terminology, and she turned to me and said something funny to me to help me remember the definition. That one friend helped me relax a little, and after that school started to become much easier for me.
The ironic thing is school taught me that I needed to be more balanced by making me completely unbalanced for about two years. I devoted all my time to school, like anyone else who is in school for Chinese Medicine will do for their first year. However, little did I know that each class was bringing me closer to the balance I needed to fully comprehend all that I was learning in school. Because of graduate school I am now able to use all of those balancing tools in my life.
Throughout school I became more comfortable. I was making more friends and started to understand my classes a little better. I formed a study group with some other women, and I soon realized that I wasn’t alone on this difficult journey. I found out that I chose the right school for me. However, some of my classmates didn’t feel the same way and they transferred. They are still successful because they found a place that allowed them to succeed. There is no shame in finding the perfect school for you.
Graduate school wasn’t all perfect, I didn’t only cry those first two days. I had days where I was completely overworked, exhausted, and on the verge of a meltdown but I persevered because I know that Chinese Medicine is a wonderful tool. Through graduate school I was given the skills to help make people feel better. I am so grateful that I decided on a whim to change my life because it has only made my life more fulfilling. Never be afraid of trying something new. We can always go back if we need to, but when we try something new, we are always moving forward.
Dana Fine, L.Ac.
Editor In Chief
I am writing you this letter to let you know that Chinese medicine is more than just acupuncture. Now don’t misunderstand me, a big part of Chinese medicine is the use of acupuncture but acupuncture isn’t the only tool in a Chinese medicine practitioner’s box. You see a well trained Chinese medicine practitioner will attend graduate school for about four years, including summers. They will take classes in anatomy, physiology, biology, herbology, nutrition, social work, and yes acupuncture but their degree will encompass much more than just acupuncture.
Many patients will come to me for help with pain. They will tell me that they have tried everything and are now willing to give acupuncture a try. Now while I both thank and commend you for coming to me to help you with your pain, please understand that I and most other Chinese medicine practitioners will not just give you acupuncture. We will also help guide you to healthier living and eating. I know this may seem overwhelming at first, but as a practitioner we need to treat the whole body; which is almost impossible to do when you repeat the exact action
that is causing the root of your pain.
A good Chinese medicine practitioner will ask you questions about your daily activity such as; how are you breathing? Do you have short breaths or long breaths? How active are you during the day? Do you go on walks, dance, or move at all? Are you at a desk all day? Have you ever tried Qi Gong, Tai Chi, or Yoga? We will take what we have learned from these answers and try to make your daily activity more conducive to what your body needs to be healthy.
Please realize that we are not trying to make your life harder, in fact it’s just the opposite. We are trying to make your life better. We are trying to alleviate your pain symptoms, and prevent you from getting sick too often. We want all of our patients to be healthy and lead fun, fulfilling lives. This might mean that you have to give up some things that you enjoy doing. We might ask you to stop eating gluten if you are suffering from chronic pain, headaches, autoimmune diseases, and stomachaches. There is a chance you will have to stop drinking alcohol especially if that is what triggers your symptoms. Also, obvious health hazards such as soda pop and cigarettes will always be off limits. Remember you are coming to us because you don’t feel good, and that might mean something you are doing in your everyday life could be causing the problem. Let us be your detectives and figure out what it is.
As a Chinese medicine practitioner, we have many tools at our disposal to help you aside from just acupuncture. The utilization of herbal formulas is just one of several examples that your Chinese medicine practitioner might suggest for you to start taking. You see herbs go along with a healthy lifestyle and diet because just like acupuncture, they treat the root of the problem. So don’t be surprised to see us add herbal teas to your diet to help prolong the benefits of whatever treatment we prescribe you.
Think about it this way. Have you ever bought a beautiful sweater and thought it looked perfect on you? However, the second you put it on you start feeling really itchy. You continue to tell yourself that it matched perfectly so you end up wearing it but by the end of the night you have rashes and hives all over your body. Now common sense tells you that if you would never have worn that sweater in the first place, then you would not be suffering, since the sweater is the root of the problem. The second you took it off you were fine, everything slowly healed. A Chinese
medicine practitioner will do everything they can to remove the metaphorical sweater that you are wearing. It is important that you work with us as we figure out what the problem is so we can help heal you. Please understand that Chinese medicine is a very powerful technique that can be used to treat ailments but the only way it can truly be successful is if you comply with the ideas of Chinese medicine.
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Thank you for your time,
A Practitioner and a Patient
Dana Fine, L.Ac.
Editor In Chief