Migraine Headaches

by Clark and Ann Zimmerman, L.Ac.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine have enjoyed a long and successful history of treating a wide variety of headache patterns. Migraine headaches currently affect around 5 million Americans. The cause of migraines eludes many of its sufferers. Certain foods have been identified as triggers. Stress, anxiety, and hormonal imbalances have also been found to play a role. Many people with migraines feel hopeless, as they have tried conventional medications such as imitrex without good effect.

In Chinese medicine, migraines have a few different causes. The number one pattern underlying migraines is liver qi stagnation. This means that the functional energy of the liver becomes stuck and hyperactive. This is usually due to pent up anger or a chronic inability to express one’s emotions. Liver related headaches tend to run along the temples, as the gall bladder meridian, which is closely connected with the liver, travels through this area.

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Neck Pain

Neck pain is one of the most common reasons for doctor visits. It is estimated that approximately a million people currently suffer with chronic neck pain. Acupuncture is one of the most widely used treatment options for neck pain, as it has a proven history of effectively treating this condition.

In Acupuncture theory, pain is said to be caused by the stagnation of either Qi (energy or life force) or blood in the body. When energy gets stuck, pain results. Pain that is due to qi stagnation tends to be rather mild or achy in nature, whereas pain due to blood stagnation is more severe, sharp, fixed, or stabbing. Acupuncture is often effective in either case, as it has the unique ability to regulate the circulation of Qi and restore blood flow through painful areas.

Acupuncture works by regulating the flow of Qi in meridians, which can be seen as networks that distribute Qi through the body. The meridians correspond to the major organs of the body. The bladder meridian runs along the nape of the neck and is, therefore, primarily implicated in the treatment of neck pain. The energy of the bladder meridian relates to fear, anxiety, ambition, will power, and urgency. Therefore, many people with neck pain also have deeper layers of fear that need to be released, either from whiplash as occurs in a car accident, or in relating to the daily life circumstances of work, money, and survival. The Qi tends to get stuck around the point Bladder 10 at the nape of the neck, which is a central point for clearing fear and anxiety.

Acupuncture should be a relaxing, gentle treatment approach, even if the painful area is being stimulated. There are occasions where the neck won’t be touched at all, as the treatment will be more effective by stimulating distal points that correspond to the imbalanced meridian.

While acupuncture is an excellent treatment option for all kinds of neck pain, Chinese herbs are used frequently as well. The following formulas are used regularly for this purpose:

Neck Formula by Plum Flower: This formula has been found to be 92% effective in Chinese hospitals for treating all kinds of neck pain.
Ease Plus by Health Concerns: Helps with neck and upper back tension due to excessive stress and worry
Ge gen tang: Often used for neck pain due to the onset of a cold, but has been applied for many types of chronic neck pain as well. This formula has also been found to be useful for helping chiropractic adjustments hold for longer periods of time.

Regular yoga practice is also of great benefit for most kinds of chronic neck pain. The following poses all have a direct action on creating space between the cervical discs and relieving muscle tension through the upper back into the occipital region:

standing forward bend
downward facing dog
bridge
plow
shoulder stand
fish

Meditation and deep breathing exercises can also be helpful, as most people with chronic neck and upper back pain tend to breathe quite superficially. Training yourself to breathe more deeply oxygenates the muscle tissue and provides an internal massage for the deepest layers of your musculature.

Most of our patients with chronic neck pain commit to acupuncture once a week for 4-6 visits, at which time we reassess for progress. Most patients find that they feel much better after each treatment, not only in relation to the neck pain, but in their overall sense of health and well being.

Optimal Health

by Clark and Ann Zimmerman, L.Ac.

Optimal health. We all want to have it, but very few of us are anywhere close to achieving it. Unfortunately, this is because health is not a high priority for most of us. Even more so, most of us don’t even know how to define optimal health. Our medical model teaches us that health is the absence of disease. We can guarantee you that health is much more than this. There are millions of people who don’t have a diagnosable disease, but are still in poor or mediocre health.

Interestingly, there are also many people who do have a disease but are in good to excellent health. How could this be? Because we define health in a much different way than our western medical model does. We define health as the absence of addiction, not disease. Health is about living spontaneously.

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