A list of conditions that are often treated with Chinese medicine and which we often see in our clinic.


Answers to common questions about acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

How to choose an Acupuncturist

How to choose an acupuncturist with the right qualifications and who will be right for you.

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Monte's Blog on Eastern and Western Medicine.

Chinese Med picture

Monte's blog: This will be a blog about all things Chinese medicine and Western medicine and how they may or may relate. Mostly I will give my opinion on things going on in the medical community that I feel are significant to the health of my patients and readers.

3/17/2016 One of the main ideas that drew me to Chinese medicine was my interest in disease prevention. Chinese medicine is all about prevention (in olden days the emperor paid his doctor when he was healthy and stopped paying if he was sick), in that it is based on balance. If yin and yang are balanced there is no illness. The best Chinese doctors seek this balance of yin and yang in each of their patients. This is done mainly through acupuncture but also with herbs and diet and even exercise. It amazes and somewhat saddens me all the drug commercials on TV constantly telling us we are sick and we need their help. We are becoming brainwashed into thinking our bodies are flawed so big Pharma can make their billions in profit. If we take care of ourselves than health is easy to maintain. Of course our diet is a major problem these days in this country and that is something I will be talking a lot about in future blog entries.

3/21/2016 Currently am reading a very interesting and important book (it seems) called 'Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox.' It is one of those books that you can summarize in a few sentences but takes a book to adequately explain. This is the message that I have gotten out of the book so far: taking Calcium supplements can actually be dangerous if you do not also get enough vitamin K2 in your diet. Without sufficient K2 the calcium you are taking not only does NOT get deposited in your bones, but rather it ends up as plaque in your arteries and causes heart disease and possibly early death. If it's all true it should be a wakeup call for the millions (mainly women) who take calcium supplements. It could explain the increased prevalence of heart disease in women. I will blog more about this book later.

3/29/2016 OK, another book recommendation (some people are foodies but I am a book lover so I guess I am a bookie, but not that kind). Anyway, I recommend everyone at least buy Vani Hari's book the Food Babe Way. This is the woman who with her food babe army (I'm a soldier) has taken on some of the biggest of the big food companies in a effort to make their products less poisonous, and she has won - many times. Actually she has cost these huge companies so much pain and money that I am really surprised she is still alive. Really. She is the one who found out about an ingredient in Subway sandwich shop bread that is also used in yoga mats (azodicarbonamide.)! She told them nicely to please take it out. They told her to go away. In just a few days she over 100,000 food babe army signatures on a petition. Subway caved. This is just one example. She is also a big reason why your Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks now has pumpkin listed as an ingredient! She is a big reason why Panera removed 150 additives from their menu items (yes 150). So, even if you don't actually read the book (which you should because it's actually pretty good) she deserves to make some money to use for her team of 24 hour body guards.

4/2/2016 Interesting study published in JAMA Oncology which concludes that 'Nightly fasting may help reduce breast cancer risk.' The study was done on women who previously had breast cancer and found that if they fasted daily for 13 hours, their recurrence of breast cancer was reduced by 36% compared to breast cancer survivors who did not fast. The fasting in this case was mainly done during sleeping hours, so they basically ate an early dinner and a late breakfast. We were taught in Chinese medical school that fasting is indeed health, and there are many other studies like this one that confirm it. And if we do it this way, just increasing the hours between dinner and breakfast, it's quite painless. I don't think there is anything magical about the 13 hours in the study or the every day. Any number of days doing this in the week is beneficial. I also think that its best to eat a lighter dinner which would contribute to this fasting effect, because if you eat a large dinner you don't really get to a fasting state until much later in the evening.

4/8/2016 Very interesting findings from research done at the University of California-San Diego has found that Cancer risk falls with higher levels of vitamin D. Other research has shown similar results, so it's important to make sure your levels are high enough. Further results of the study showed that 'vitamin D levels of 40ng/ml or higher tied to a 67% lower cancer risk.' This is an important finding because the levels currently recommended by doctors is only 20ng/ml. This lower level has for years been considered too low by those who do research in vitamin D on health. So, when you get your blood test for vitamin D, be sure to check this number, because if you are above 20, there will most likely no one will tell you that the healthier level just might be 40 or, some say, even higher than that.

7/20/16 I am going to try and blog more often! As you can see things have been busy and the first thing to go is the blog. I thought I would write some about cupping and gua sha, because until you have it most people don't know what it is. I usually use cupping for pain issues and I usually use gua sha for issues in which there is a great deal of inflammation. So cupping is just an actual suction cup applied to the skin and either left there or moved. I tend to move the cup more than just leave it there but from what I gather most other acupuncturists leave the cup in place. I prefer to move the cup, which is similar to a massage (except the motion of the skin and muscle is up instead of down). I feel I get better results from moving cupping. Cupping is something I do every day at work, usually several times. So I get a lot of practice at it. Cupping should not hurt, at least not very much. If cupping hurts a lot than the cup is too tight. It doesn't have to hurt to be effective. Cupping is excellent for pain, anywhere really that a cup can be applied. OK, this is not so exciting a discussion, so I will wrap it up by saying that acupuncture and cupping together is a great 1-2 punch for treating pain. I use gua sha less but in the right situation that is what is needed instead of cupping. So any highly inflamed tissue will probably benefit from gua sha. Gua sha is simply scraping the skin. Traditionally the scraping is done with the side of a bone, but nowadays we usually do it with the side of a gua sha tool, which is usually made of stone. The surface is dull so it doesn't cut at all but gently scraps at the skin until it turns red and releases heat (inflammation) through small red marks called sha marks. This (as well as cupping) is most likely just as old as acupuncture, so at least 4000 years old. So I always say that these ancient methods, if they didn't work would most likely have been tossed out - I don't know - maybe 3000 years ago.

7/25/16 I want to cover in today's entry a question that I get asked often by patients or prospective patients. I get asked if I think acupuncture will help a certain condition and if so how many treatments it will take. This is a valid question because everyone wants to know what their prognosis is. I would really like to answer their question well. The problem is that it is really tough to give an accurate prognosis. There are so many factors involved: how long they have had the condition, how old they are, how good their general health is, how well they respond to acupuncture, how severe the condition is, what medications they are taking, how often they can come in, what other treatments they are doing concurrently, even their attitude. So I generally will say that I do not know and I suggest we do a few treatments and see how things go. This is why we offer the 3 treatment package because I have found that 3 treatments is a good test as to how things will go. If you are no better after 3 treatments, it's not that it will not ever fix the problem, but it will probably take a good while. If you are much better after 3, then we are on the right track and you might need no more treatments or just a couple more. Most people seem OK with this answer, because I am sincere about it, it's really the way it is. I also contend that no one can really give an accurate prognosis. A doctor doesn't 100 percent know how a procedure will turn out for any single patient. I think it is unethical to tell someone that this will fix you, 100 percent of the time. No one can accurately say that, so I think they shouldn't.

8/10/16 The Olympics is on and everyone is talking about the cupping marks found on some of the athletes and especially on the shoulder of the great swimmer Michael Phelps. Cupping is something that you can also read about on our web site. Cupping has been used by almost every culture besides ours including in the Middle East and Europe, and has been used to treat many things for hundreds even thousands of years. In the case of the Olympic athletes it is being used for what we usually use is for and that is for pain or soreness or to speed healing. I personally do cupping on most of my pain cases. I find that combining cupping with acupuncture treats the pain at a much deeper level than just one or the other. Cupping is not painful, or shouldn't be if it is done correctly. Many of my patients say it actually feels good. Several of my patients request cupping every time they come in whether or not they are in pain. Some people are concerned about the round purple marks because either they look painful or just look strange. The marks are not painful at all and they go away in a few days. However, I usually do moving cupping which I find is even more useful than the type that causes the marks on the skin. This type of cupping is more like a massage with the cup gliding over the skin. So in conclusion, cupping is not so mysterious, most people really like it, and as our Olympic team has discovered it is very effective, or they wouldn't be using it.

8/13/16 I heard from a patient that Michael Phelps was seen in pictures getting an acupuncture treatment and in an interview talking about how it has helped keep him going during the competition. With all the talk about cupping it isn't hard to figure out that they are also doing acupuncture on the athletes. There are a few good reasons why they might want to have some acupuncturists traveling with our national team (which they do). First of all acupuncture is excellent for treating pain. This is no surprise to anyone who has tried it. Secondly, acupuncture is excellent at helping an injury heal faster. This is important in a competition, where something must be done to get the athlete back in the race as soon as possible. I often treat patients that are amazed at how quickly their body starts healing an injured ankle or how the healing after surgery will suddenly be sped up dramatically after a few acupuncture sessions. This works because acupuncture enhances the body's system of healing. A third reason they are using acupuncture in the Olympics is that they have to be careful what drugs they give to the athletes. There are many drugs that if used could get the athlete disqualified. But acupuncture is not on any banned lists. There are also no side effects to acupuncture so they don't have to worry about any adverse effects of giving a pill.

8/15/16 I am often asked especially by new patients how acupuncture works. It's a bit hard to explain in the few minutes that I am inserting the needles, but I try because people are really curious about it and I appreciate that. I like to say in a nutshell that acupuncture uses the energy of the body to heal the body. The energy of the body, called Qi by the Chinese, travels in channels, most of which originate and end in an organ such as the kidney or the liver. The energy channels run the length of the body and this energy keeps us healthy and pain free. The acupuncture points give us access into these channels of moving energy and allow us to do things to that energy such as strengthen it, drain it, or make it flow faster; and also to effect the function of the organ associated with that channel. As you can tell it is very different from the way western medicine looks at things. I, having a western mind, have many times been amazed at how accurate this eastern model of how the body works is. What I really like about it is that it has a deep respect for the body's innate ability to be healthy and when necessary to heal itself. I find the eastern way of looking at health and healing much easier to grasp. After doing this medicine for 15 years I often find myself looking at western medicine, which granted did get a 2 or 3 thousand year later start, as actually less advanced than eastern medicine. Most western docs would laugh at this assessment, but advances, if made in the wrong direction, just lead to larger errors.

9/10/16 I used to be certified in a type of exercise for pain issues called the Egoscue Method. I don't do it anymore with my patients just because it's so complicated that I just couldn't get my patients to do it regularly. But it works. Anyway, I mention it because when you call an Egoscue clinic they don't say 'goodbye' before hanging up, they say 'keep moving'. I wish I could remember to say this to my patients every time they leave. They might think I am weird, but it's very important to just keep moving. Several recent studies have shown that the healthiest people are the ones who rarely sit still; conversely the most unhealthy people are the ones who just kind of sit through the day at every opportunity. And one study showed (for some reason) that this is even more important for women. So if you come see me for a treatment and I say 'keep moving' when you are leaving, I am not trying to hurry you out the door. I am just reminding you to stay healthy by moving as much as possible. Of course if it hurts to move than that needs to be addressed. But remember we were born, designed to move. This is more important than going to the gym 3 or 4 times a week. What you do for your health daily is what really counts.

9/17/16 I had a patient once who had been a back surgeon's nurse for 20 years and she said to me out of the blue that she 'had never seen a patient have just one back surgery.' In other words once you get on that treadmill you don't really ever get off. I was initially slightly shocked by her admitting that. But after thinking about it, it's really not surprising at all. It made me realize even more what I already knew, and that is that our spine and also all our joints and hands and feet are so complex, such miracles, that mere mortals, even skilled surgeons, cannot modify them and expect to get it right. And if you don't get it right, then it is never the same again. I had a patient who had 2 hand surgeries and was still unable to use her hand. When she complained to the surgeon that she couldn't use her hand at work he said, 'what do you expect, you have had two hand surgeries?' There are certainly times when surgery is the only option. I have seen patients in so much pain that they had to do something drastic. And that is my point, that surgery should always be the last resort, because it is drastic and permanent, because once it is done there is no going back.

10/11/16 This is really basic, but I want to get the word out that many people I see in my practice are having real health problems because they do not drink enough water. I even saw a prominent physician recently who, when I asked him how much water he drinks he replied - not enough. In Chinese medicine there is the all-important concept of yin and yang. Everything in the universe has a yin side and a yang side. And our bodies can be described in simple terms using this concept. So the heat that is generated by us being alive is yang, and the fluids in our body that act as a coolant are yin. The coolant and the heat balance each other, balance of yin and yang. When yin and yang are balanced in the body everything works well and we are well. When this balance is tipped is when things break down. Most people have plenty of the heat part but are lacking in the coolant part. A coolant that you can add to your built-in coolant is the water we drink. You can easily imagine what could happen if we have too much heat in our body and not enough coolant - we will overheat. And if something, say your car, is overheated, it is in danger of breaking down. Also, heating up things dries things out. A body that is dried out does not work as well. If your bowels dry out, you are in big trouble. If your lungs are dry you develop a chronic cough. Even your cells, which are mainly water, if less than optimally hydrated will not function as well. We are almost 60% water, so if you are low on water you are pretty dried out. I like to tell people, and I do this myself, to wake up to water. One of the first things you do each morning should be to drink a glass of water. It's really the little things that we do every day that make the real differences in our health and really in our lives.

10/25/16 One of my heroes is Jack LaLanne. For one thing Jack has been dead since 2011 and he still maintains a thriving web site. That is impressive. I'm surprised he is not still blogging! What I like about Jack was that he was committed to health, and to helping others stay healthy. It was his business but it was also his passion. If you go on his site www.jacklalanne.com and watch his videos from the 50's and 60's, you will see that he was so far ahead of his time. He was talking about exercise when no one really exercised. He was talking about eating whole foods before there was a Whole Foods. In the 50's and 60's obesity was rare, not like today. But Jack, I think, saw it coming. What brought Jack around was that he was a sickly teen who was addicted to sugar. He realized it and wanted to be strong and gave up sugar for life. He worked out with weights the day he died at 96. His mind was as sharp as a 20 year old. We don't all have to be as over the top as Jack LaLanne was about our health, but we can all learn a few things from him. Check out his videos, also on youtube.

11/2/16 What do I treat mainly at the Acupuncture Center? I get asked this a lot by patients. Because I have been doing this for over a decade, I think I can truthfully say that I have treated almost every health concern out there. But the question is what I mainly treat. My main specialization is in treating pain (I also specialize in anxiety, depression and weight loss). I see a lot of back pain, but I also see a lot of migraine pain and I see a lot of shoulder and neck pain. In Chinese medicine it doesn't really matter where the pain is, we always treat it roughly the same way. When I first started out treating I didn't want to necessarily treat mostly pain. But I knew someone in our practice really needed to cover pain so I took it on. And it really grew on me over time. And most people experience pain, so it's needed. I think I am good at it. I think Chinese medicine is good at treating pain. I see more and more patients who have been referred by a doctor. I see more and more doctors come in. There is of course an issue with pain medications in our country and people are really starting to look for alternative methods. Acupuncture has zero side effects. And the herbal pain formulas also have zero side effects. My method of treating pain is simple: I use acupuncture, cupping, and if needed Chinese herbs. This combination usually works really well and fast. Most people are better after even one treatment. That is my goal, to get you feeling better as quickly as possible. I'm usually able to do so. I would truthfully say that over 90 percent of my patients get better. If they don't I take it personal.

12/3/16 How much exercise do we need? I would say it really depends (I say this a lot). There are constantly new studies attempting to determine the optimal type, duration and frequency of exercise, but of course no two studies seem to agree. I think there is just too much variability in people to specify the right plan for everyone. We all have unique bodies, we all are at different times in our life. So everyone needs to answer this question as best they can for themselves. The only thing everyone agrees on is that exercise is good for us all. You can consult a doctor or trainer but it might be best to figure this one out for yourself using trial and error. I see many patients who work out too much (yes too much) and are actually breaking their body down instead of making it stronger. I usually see this in young people, especially in women who are afraid of gaining weight, or in young men who want to look muscular. And usually telling them to cut back falls on deaf ears. But also some people are just built for lots and lots of physical activity and these people do fine with huge amounts of exercise, they do not damage their body. These people are rare though. The advice to listen to your body is effective here. From a Chinese medicine standpoint, we should not push the body too far. Perhaps we Americans especially do not realize or even think about the importance of rest and balance to staying healthy. I personally think and some studies agree, that we do not need a whole lot of exercise, but we do need a medium amount. It's important to find something you like doing. Because if you don't all least partially enjoy your workouts you will not continue with them. And most people do best when they can work out some every day or every other day. As I say often to my patients, what really matters most are the things you do every day.

12/3/16 To continue with the theme of the last sentence in the last blog, it really does matter what you do on a day to day basis because if you do something every day then over time you get somewhere. If you are doing things sporadically then you are really just marching in place. I think this works for most things, but it certainly works for things like working out or eating right or eating wrong as well. Like I mentioned in the last blog if you work out every day or every other day this makes sense. If you work out one day a week for the same amount, say 4 hours you will probably injure yourself, but in any case it is not as good for you. Your body wants consistency, it wants to know what to expect from you. However, you can also use this want of the body to your advantage. Working out every other day is good. Doing the same workout every day is bad. The reason for this is that if you do the same workout every time then your body will know what to expect. If you mix it up then your body, which is the ultimate survival machine, thinks, 'I have no idea what I am going to get done to me during these workouts, I better add some bulk to my muscles and health to my body so that if something even more surprising gets thrown at me I will survive it.' l'll continue with this in the next blog.

12/15/16 A study just came out that concluded that yo-yo dieting leads to weight gain. Continuing a similar theme of the last couple of blogs, this makes perfect sense. Why? Because as I stated in the last blog, your body is a survival machine and a big part of survival is knowing or at least guessing well what will happen next. So weight gain with yo-yo dieting works kind of the same way as varied workout does on your muscles. With muscles they get stronger when the body is left wondering what kind of exercise challenge you will throw at it next. And we gain weight when the body wonders what kind of diet you are going to throw at it next. The body knows that it is better to put on some pounds if things are not so consistent with the food. The body wants to be reassured that its food source is OK. And if the food supply goes up then down, then changes to something else and then back again and then lessens then increases, confusion is sown. If the body is not sure that the supply will be consistent, then it starts putting on weight to increase its chances of survival. You need to realize that for most of our existence, a human's chance of starving was much much greater that its chance of dying of obesity. In our times, at least in first world countries, that chance has reversed. So the body is built to put on weight more than to take if off. This is one reason that it can be so hard to lose weight, unless you are smart about it.

1/6/17 A condition that we have been seeing a lot recently at the center is sciatica. This is a pretty common condition and luckily it usually responds well to acupuncture. This is because the pain goes from the lower back and down one or both legs, and acupuncture points are used to treat all painful areas during each treatment. Often this condition will respond well after the 1st treatment and the pain level is much more manageable. Usually a couple of more to a few more treatments are needed to get rid of the pain. Often I will prescribe a Chinese herbal formula to take in between treatments to improve circulation and reduce any inflammation. Inflammation, if severe, can impede healing, so even things like diet can be a factor in getting this condition under control as quickly as possible.

1/9/17 We get a lot of questions about Chinese herbs from our patients so I thought I would do a couple of blogs on them. Often the first question we get is whether or not they really work? The short answer is yes. But, and this makes sense, you have to get the right formula, the right medicine for the condition. So it's important to find someone who is good as well as experienced at Chinese herbs. Chinese herbs have been around for as long as acupuncture or longer, so about 5,000 years of continuous knowledge. And this knowledge base is not static, it continues to grow and evolve. And sort of like acupuncture, if they didn't work they would most likely not be around for so long. There are Chinese herbal formulas for pretty much any condition that you can name. The way it has evolved at our center is that we started out with a whole bunch of different formulas on the shelf, and we, over 12 years, have pared these down to our favorites that we know work for certain conditions. We also have certain brands that have become our favorites and I will talk about this next time.

1/9/17 I want to talk some more about the herbs we use at the Acupuncture Center. We have been prescribing Chinese herbs to patients for over 12 years now and we have changed brands just a couple of times. Currently we mainly use herbs by a California company called Evergreen. We feel they are the best or at least one of the best in the US. These and all the herbs we carry follow the standards of Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) established by the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization. This assures the quality and safety of the herbs. If you take Chinese herbs I recommend you only take those which have the GMP label on them. I would say all others are suspect. Another brand we use is Mayway. Mayway of course is also a cGMP company. We have never had any major issues with our patients taking Chinese herbal formulations. They are very safe and have generally zero side effects. Now and then someone will have mild stomach issues but that can be remedied by taking the herbs after meals. The formulas we use are ones that have been used in China for sometimes a thousand years or more. Some are modifications of those formulas for more modern applications. We are nationally certified Chinese herbalist, many acupuncturists are not as many school do not include herbal studies.

1/17/17 I treat a lot of pain issues and I will often use Chinese herbal formulas to help with the healing. Usually these herbs do 2 major things. First, they increase blood flow to the injured area which promotes healing and reduces pain. Second, they contain herbs to reduce inflammation in the area and in the body in general. So often our patients will take herbs between acupuncture sessions. Yan hu sou is the top herb in all the Chinese herbal cornucopia for pain issues. So most of the pain formulas will contain this. There are 3000 or more common Chinese herbs and their uses have been mapped out so well that there are herbs that are known to effect very specific areas such as the shoulder or lower back or the head. So pain formulas can target different areas of the body. There are formulas for acute pain and for chronic pain. Most of the formulas we use will consist of 6 to as many as 20 different single herbs. They are cooked together to create a synergistic effect and put into capsules or made into a tea.

1/30/17 We treat patients with migraines weekly at the Acupuncture Center. As many of our patients will tell you, acupuncture and herbs can often be very effective for this condition. The pharmaceutical drugs that are given for migraines are not really treating the root cause, and if the cause is not treated then, even though you might dull the pain, the condition is really getting worse and more ingrained in the body. With Chinese medicine we always go after the root cause. This is just how Chinese medicine developed over many millennia. If the root of the problem is addressed the issues goes away. Many people are just genetically prone to have headaches or even migraines, but reducing the number and severity of them is possible and even straightforward using acupuncture.

2/15/17 Rheumatoid arthritis is the fasting growing autoimmune disease in our country. I suspected this because it seems like half of the commercials on television are drug commercials to treat RA. So I looked it up and sure enough it's the fastest growing segment of autoimmune disease. RA generally occurs in women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. This makes sense to me because I have never seen a male with RA in my practice. I have treated this condition many times in my practice and in general it responds well to acupuncture, especially if some simple Chinese herbs are included, such and the one they nickname 'the women's herb' or dang gui in Chinese pinyin. Some of the women I have treated have responded well enough that they have come off their RA drugs, or they never had to start them. It is interesting that this illness usually starts at about the same time that women go through menopause. Menopause in our medicine is due to a natural imbalance that occurs during this hormonal change. This change called menopause brings on more heat or inflammation in the body and this can cause a tipping point into a number of named diseases, one of them being RA. So the menopause factor must be addressed in order to treat the root of the condition, to cure it instead of just medicate the symptoms.