Grief: moving thru the pain

By Clark Zimmerman, LAc.

broken heart

A few years ago I suffered a huge loss: I was completely overwhelmed. Though I had always considered myself to be a optimist who could put a positive spin on difficult events, none of my tools were enough to pull me out of my profound grief. I found it nearly impossible to function. All of life’s regular activities, such as meals and work seemed so meaningless. Food lost its flavor, joy became a faint memory. I had been down before, but this time was different. It was my first real taste of deep grief. If given a choice, many of us would make joy our permanent abode. We live in a culture that loves joy.  We “smile for the camera,” or click the “like” button.   Life is not always joyful though.  Some cultures are much more attentive to grief:  They wear black, they have lengthy, culturally recognized periods for grieving a loss. We do our best to minimize the pain that accompanies grief, and we try to move through it as quickly and quietly as possible.

Grief doesn’t heal if we don’t help it to heal. In fact, pushing it away or minimizing a loss actually makes it worse. It can make us chronically sick or depressed; It can drive us to medicate with alcohol, drugs or food. According to Chinese Medicine, grief is one of the five emotions. Along with joy, anger, worry, and fear; grief is a powerful signal that our body’s give us to implore us to pay attention to a situation and work on healthy ways to acknowledge and express our feelings. According to Chinese medicine, grief is related to the lungs and the metal element. This is why so often we cry or even sob when we grieve. Moving the lungs is the bodies method of moving grief through the body. If we stifle this expression, we often develop lung related illness. I can’t tell you how many patients I have seen who have not properly grieved only to develop lung cancer or frequent bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis.  

So what can a person do if they are feeling grief? The first step is to grieve and do so without a care for how your grief appears to others. It is not your job to make others feel comfortable when you are in a state of grief. Secondly, seek out help. Find a good therapist, join a grief group, spend time with friends who can hold your grief and all its darkness. This doesn’t mean you should find someone who will help you cover up your grief or try to talk you out of it, but someone who can hold space for your process.  Third, get body work, including massage or acupuncture. We store emotion in our bodies and bodywork is a great way to address the somatization of our emotions.  Acupuncture in particular has very specific protocols that are remarkably helpful in clearing grief from the body. Fourth, consider herbs, supplements or essential oils to help the body manage the effects of grief.  Since grief can effect different people in different ways, it is helpful to speak with a professional who can recommend specific things to address your individual situation.   Lastly, breath work or singing also move the energy of the lungs and helps with the stagnation that can occur when we are grieving.

It is also important to realize that there is no time table to the grieving process.  It can take years to feel that something has healed. Often we carry a noticeable scar for the rest of our life.  These experiences of grief have so much to offer us as we move through them and integrate their lessons.  We can use our experience of suffering to develop more empathy and understanding, ultimately becoming more caring human beings.

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Prescription Pain Killers: A treatment of last resort

By Clark Zimmerman, LAc. 

Pain is part of being human.  We all have to deal with pain of varying degrees throughout our lives.  When pain is minor most people can continue on with their regular activities without much trouble.  When pain becomes more severe most people reach for an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.  These medications can offer some relief, and allow people to continue on with their normal activities.  When these medications are not successful in alleviating pain most people go to their doctor and get a prescription for opiate pain medications, such as Vicodin or oxycontin.  These medications can be helpful in some situations by providing relief while a person heals enough that their pain diminishes to a manageable level.  Unfortunately they do not address the underlying issue which causes the pain, such as muscle tension or strains, inflammation or a misalignment of bones. Opiate pain relievers also can cause some significant side effects, including constipation, nausea/vomiting and drowsiness.  They can also mask the pain to the degree that someone continues to do certain activities that may make an underlying injury or imbalance worse.   One of the biggest drawbacks of opiate use is their high risk of addiction.  According to a recent NPR story, Oregon has the unfortunate distinction of being the national leader in non medical use of opioids:

In 2012, about 1 in 4 Oregonians received an opioid prescription — more than 900,000 people.  The state also currently leads the nation in non-medical use of opioids, and about a third of the hospitalizations related to drug abuse in Oregon are because of opioids. 

Another problem with opiates is that over time patients develop a tolerance for the drugs that create a need for a larger dose to achieve the same pain relief.  This leads to an increased likelihood of developing an addiction that can linger even after the initial pain has been alleviated.  Prescription pain killers can also make people more sensitized to pain causing people to experience an increase in pain levels over time.   

While opiates do have their place in treatment, the high risks involved in their usage should make them a treatment of last resort.  Instead people suffering from pain should try some of the simpler options first such as ice, rest, stretching, proper posture and exercise.  Massage, acupuncture, physical therapy and chiropractic can also be used to help treat the underlying problem and help to heal the cause of the pain in a more holistic and permanent way.  If these less risky and more deliberate methods do not succeed to lower pain levels, then pain killers can be a possible addition to the treatment plan for short term use. 

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Middleway Medicine: Talent’s featured business in April 2015

Middleway Medicine

Ann and Clark Zimmerman are excited to announce the relocation of their acupuncture and herbal clinic, Middleway Medicine, to 88 Lapree Drive here in downtown Talent. We recently had the opportunity to ask the friendly husband-and-wife team a few questions…

How long you’ve lived in Talent?

We have lived in Talent for 9 years. After meeting in Portland at Chinese Medical school in 2000 our friendship grew from study buddies to husband and wife. Upon graduation, we got married and began our search for the perfect “home.” We were looking for a slower pace of life that would offer us a good gardening climate, culture and access to the wilderness. The Rogue Valley was our perfect fit and after exploring the different towns in the valley, Talent grabbed us immediately.

Talent offered the small town we wanted with access to Ashland and Medford. We liked that Talent had a humble quality to it and was without any acupuncturists. During our first week in town we visited the Talent Dental Office to inquire what it was like to practice healthcare in Talent. To our surprise the dentist, Dr. Jackson, was willing to take the time with us to talk about Talent (something that was not the usual experience in Portland). We discovered that Dr. Jackson had gone to high school with Clark’s dad in Indiana. Then when we asked if he knew of any available office space in town, he said that he had just vacated his previous office next door, which we found to be the perfect spot for our new practice. We felt a serendipitous YES, that Talent was our home. From that spring moment in 2006, Middleway Medicine has been growing and offering healthcare in Talent. We were warmly welcomed by the established Talent Clinic and the people of Talent.

What motivated you to open the business or follow this career:

We are both Hoosiers, natives of Indiana, who met in Portland and who have been able to bridge our conservative mid-western roots with the progressive nature of the west coast. Practicing Chinese medicine has been our venue to help others and to meet this community. Neither of us had any exposure to Chinese medicine in Indiana. The medical climate there was, and is, very different from Oregon. Ann›s background of being a competitive soccer player and having the opportunity to travel extensively led her to an undergraduate degree in Anthropology. During her studies and travels she was exposed to eastern philosophy and medicine. These traditions combined with her natural inclination to help/heal others were a perfect fit. A gardener at heart, she was specifically drawn to herbal medicine and fascinated by the effectiveness of Chinese herbalism.

Clark hails from a family of western medical providers and knew early on he would go into medicine. During college he was pre-med until he became disenchanted by the competiveness of the medical program. This led him to seek alternative ways of healing. First becoming a massage therapist and practicing for 12 years, then going onto Chinese medical school. His background in Western medicine combines well with his energetic approach to the body. We feel like we are constantly reflecting and trying to achieve balance in our personal lives. Our commitment to our own journey helps us to understand and help others.

Describe your business:

balance in their lives. We use the art of Chinese medical theory to make a diagnosis and the tools of acupuncture, herbs, massage and lifestyle guidance to facilitate health in our patients.

What can customers expect?

Customers can expect us to take the time to understand what ails them. We graduated from the most esteemed Oriental Medical school in the country and have practiced this medicine almost daily for 15 years. The combination of being midwesterners and alternative medicine practitioners allows us to be able to relate with most people. We can talk the specifics of a Western medical diagnosis and in the same conversation talk about how energy flows in the body. We strive to be in the middle. We have said it many times….Talent is in the MIDDLE in both location and ideology between Medford and Ashland. We do not push using only one form of medicine or choosing between natural herbs or prescription drugs. We recognize each person has a unique balance place, or “Middleway,” that can be found between the extremes of the black and white of life.

What other services or products do you offer your customers?

We are a general health clinic. This means we treat all kinds of ailments. Most commonly people come to acupuncture for pain relief and for this it is very effective. In addition to pain relief we commonly treat: digestive issues, fertility, immune enhancement, the common cold, headaches, pregnancy, allergies, anxiety/depression, insomnia, and gynecology. Most commonly we combine acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas to achieve the best outcome. We have an extensive herbal pharmacy that we use to custom blend our formulas, carefully combining 3-20 individual herbs to specifically treat a patients diagnosis. We also offer a selection of high quality supplements and topical salves.

Anything else unique about the business:

We are super excited about our new location and the standard it sets for Talent as a whole. We put a lot of intention into creating a sacred space that would allow people to relax and to heal. Beauty, simplicity, and privacy were the main goals of our new clinic design. It will be a joy to share this with the community.

After spending nearly 9 years in downtown we have had plenty of time to observe the local business trends. There is a general feeling amongst locals that Talent is about to blossom. The «about to» part is the big question mark. We hope our example of investing into downtown Talent propels the «bud» to open and that more and more people will choose to open and run businesses in downtown. We like to count ourselves among the businesses that provide a service that keeps the local community doing their business in Talent. There is no shortage of amazing people living here and our hopes are we could together create a downtown that reflects the flavor of its residents.

It is our dream come true to have the grace to expand Middleway Medicine into an independent and beautifully custom made clinic. We are grateful for our partnerships with Star Property, Coleman Creek Construction, Plant Oregon, Earth Stewards, SOS plumbing, Megan Blossom Design, Sarah Wallace (our office manager) and to our patients for their continued support.

Cheers to Talent and its bright future!

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Clark Zimmerman, LAc, MAcOM
Ann Zimmerman, LAc, MAcOM
Ryan Baker, MAcOM, LAc, RPh


Mon–Thurs 9–6
Friday 9–4


Phone: 541-535-5082
Fax: 541-535-3026

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