Last week when I was treating a patient, she asked this question, “So how does acupuncture work?” It’s a question that I had asked as a student at the New England School of Acupuncture.
The truth is that we don’t actually know how acupuncture works from a Western medical perspective. East Asian medicine has a model that is vastly different from science, which focuses on separating the different parts of the body and has an emphasis on cause and effect.
Acupuncture looks at the body as a whole and focuses more on the relationship of a part to it’s whole.
Western Medicine is more absolute, Eastern Asian medicine more relative. Because these models are so different, it’s difficult to explain one in terms of the other.
That said, we do have some clues about how acupuncture works from a Western medical perspective.
All of this is exciting news because it offers confirmation of what I find when treating patients. Pain decreases, the body goes into relaxed states, colds & flus last for shorter amounts of time.
Interested, intrigued by how this works and how it might help you?
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With you in health,
Acupuncture works by moving qi in the body. But what is qi and why is it important?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we learn that qi is energy. In its most basic form, it contains yin and yang – two ends of a spectrum. Yin corresponds to darkness, cold, winter, female, stillness. Yang corresponds to light, heat, summer, male. This energy further separates into the five elements – water, wood, fire, earth and metal.
In the body, yin refers to the front and yang to the back. The five elements are reflected in the five major organs – the kidneys, liver, heart, spleen/pancreas, and lungs. When we refer to these organs, we’re not talking about the actual physical organ, rather organ functionality. There’s something that is not actual living tissue, rather the instructions for how the cells and organs should behave.
I think of qi as the body’s intelligent energy. It’s what makes lung cells know how to breathe, stomach cells know how to digest food, liver cells know how to detoxify, kidney cells know how to filter waste and heart cells know how to pump blood.
We come into the world with only these basic instructions to keep us alive. Breathe and eat to supply the body with energy. Get rid of the waste productions that result from this process. And then, of course, take a nap.
Remarkably, without any training, our bodies are pretty good at this.
Then life happens. There’s all this other stuff we need to do. We learn to speak and read and accumulate knowledge. We have to go out into the world of work. Our bodies develop the capacity to reproduce. We form connections with other people.
The world gets much more complex. In the midst of the complexities, we can forget the basics – breathe, eat, move and rest.
What used to be so simple may know seem out of reach.
Here’s the thing. Getting these basics back is not out of reach. Acupuncture and East Asian medicine are truly designed for this.
When I’m working with people, I’m reminding them of the things that their body already knows.
The beauty of the work is in helping people reclaim the power that lives within them.
Need encouragement, advice on how to do this?
There’s an easy way to get in touch with me. Sign up for a free, 30 minute consultation.
If you’re new to acupuncture, have seen me before or are a current patient, I’m happy to spend a little time helping you live with more health, greater ease and increased well-being.
Every year I think about what advice to share as we complete another turn around the sun. What can I write that will bring you more health, more joy and more ease?
There are so many possibilities – eat better, sleep more, find quiet time for meditation. These are all good things, but I realized the magic missing ingredient in so many wellness and self-care programs is found in the act of taking stock.
It’s not enough to set goals. We need to watch what happens when we put an idea out into the world. We need to track our progress and record our thoughts and feelings each day.
I got this inspiration sitting at my desk, looking at my 2020 yearly planner. It’s the place where I keep track of things. Not my daily schedule filled with patient appointments, places to go and commitments to keep. These are stored electronically with a kind of efficiency only the digital world can provide.
In my paper planner, I write down goals and dreams, along with notes marking unexpected pleasures and themes for the month. I use the planner as a journal of sorts, briefly recording my thoughts and feelings on a somewhat regular basis.
As I turn the pages, I’m able to look back and reflect.
I might not have remembered any of this if I hadn’t jotted down notes as the year went by. I barely remember what I had for lunch yesterday :). So now I have this incredible gift – pages filled with remembrances, a record of days gone by.
As the new year begins, I recommend that you begin (or continue) to take stock. Here’s how:
At this moment, there is the initial pleasure found in the blank pages of the yearly planner that have not yet been filled. It’s still an empty slate awaiting possibility. You don’t yet know what the year will bring. (2020 taught us the role of the unexpected.)
You stand at this moment, closing one door and about to open another. This is the time to dream, to imagine, to ask for the wishes that live deep in your heart.
Your yearly planner allows for this. The empty pages are waiting to be filled with the moments & reflections that make up your life. Write these down. Take stock. Be the creator of your life’s journey.
As we enter 2021, I send you blessings to guide you along the way.
Ps. If this process sounds appealing, but you don’t have time to get a planner of your own, here's my Roadmap to Health Booklet/Calendar/Journal for you to print out.
And if you feel like you need help in the process of creating healthy habits for a healthy year, do get in touch to find out about my Roadmap to Health Wellness Counseling program.
I love the holidays and this time of year. In the 5 element, 5 organ system of Chinese Medicine, we are entering the time of the kidneys and water. It is a time that connects us to our deepest energy. Think of the image of a well that brings up water from deep in the ground, to sustain and support us.
It’s so interesting that the new year starts here because energetically it is a time of beginnings. A time to plant the seeds that will grow into life events and experiences – things that we will harvest in 2021.
I’m not a big fan of new year’s resolutions, as most of these get broken, leaving us feeling discouraged.
But I am a fan of imagining, asking for what we want, digging deep into our souls for guidance and seeing what we find.
I encourage you to take time to reflect on the things that are most important to you.
My part in this process is to help you achieve your health goals.
In the spirit of thanks and generosity, I’m offering discounted packages that you can purchase for yourself or as a gift to a family ember. These will be available through this link until the end of December.
May this season be filled with wonder and connection even as we wear masks and socially distance.
Life continues to move forward. Let’s make the best of it.
With you in spirit,
ps. If you’re looking for a Thanksgiving recipe instead of or in addition to the traditional turkey, here’s a yummy stuffed squash dish.
I look at my calendar and realize that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. How is this possible?
I see that I've added the word Cleveland from Tuesday, November 24th to Saturday, November 28th on my calendar. In a moment of optimism, my husband and I thought that we would be able to drive to visit his family in Ohio. We would all get tested, wear masks and social distance.
But a few weeks ago, we realized that keeping everyone safe from the spread of Covid was more important than gathering together.
I feel a little unanchored. Thanksgiving for Dan and I has always been a time to travel. We either visit out-of-town relatives or indulge in one of our favorite things, a long weekend away from it all. Some years it has been on the quiet beaches of the Cape. Other times we've explored the back roads of Vermont. In the 16 years that we've been together, we have never spent Thanksgiving at home.
This year we will.
Are you starting to think about how to celebrate the holiday? Have you canceled your usual plans, or will you take precautions and gather together?
Either way the holiday will be different.
In 2020, our lives have been upended. It will take our creative spirits to make this year's Thanksgiving a meaningful one.
Here are my suggestions:
1) Start to plan.
3) Remember that we're starting the holiday season. That gives us the opportunity to have small celebrations, small joys through New Years.
4) Take a look at the blog, A Holistic Approach to the Holidays, that I send out each year.
5) It is a season of gift giving. I'm offering these holiday packages so that you can give the gift of health to someone you love.
Most of all, remember that you're going to get through this. Be a little kinder to yourself and those around you. We're all feeling the specific challenge of a very unusual time. My holiday blog talks about the gift of imperfection. This is an imperfect year.
Strive on. Find joy. Be well.
Pain is one of those pesky things we think we have to live with. You, like many of my patients, may have experienced sciatica. It’s something that generally isn’t serious in a life-threatening way, but creates so much distress and discomfort. If you have sciatica, you probably will be in pain doing your normal daily activities, like walking, sitting or sleeping.
Your doctor may want to help you, but has minimal tools – anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone shots – both of which come with side effects. Also, they don’t fix the problem.
Here’s where being open to trying a new modality like acupuncture can be helpful. Treatments reduce inflammation, relax muscles and treat areas of the spine that may be pressing on the sciatic nerve.
That’s what Phil Chmura found out when he came to see me. Phil suffered from severe sciatica. The pain interfered with his daily life to the extent that he couldn't stand for more than 3 minutes before the pain started and continued to increase. He had already tried treatments like chiropractic and anti-inflammatory drugs to no avail and he wanted to avoid cortisone shots.
He finally decided it was time to turn his life around and came to see me after getting encouragement from his daughter and friend of mine, Amber Ladley.
After just nine weekly treatments, we were able to virtually eliminate his pain!
Phil was able to get back to biking – one of his favorite activities. When I reached out to him, about a year and a half after treatment, he responded with these words:
"I have fortunately been relatively pain free since the completion and have just recently signed up for my second bike trip across the USA. I cannot thank Bonnie enough for getting my life back to normal and would highly recommend her services."
I thank Phil for sharing his story. With pain, you have options. By being open to complementary forms of treatment, like acupuncture, you can find ways of reducing and eliminating pain.
You might be a little nervous to try something new. I understand that. People have concerns about the needles, the safety of treatment, trying something outside of Western Medicine.
That’s why I offer free ½ hour, online consultations. I’ll listen to what is causing you pain and discomfort, review your health history and honestly let you know how I can be helpful.
Please know that you don't have to suffer in silence if you're in pain.
Sciatica is caused by inflammation of the sciatic nerve – the longest and widest nerve in the body. It’s about the thickness of your little finger.
While sciatica often isn’t serious, it can create a lot of discomfort.
From an acupuncture perspective, there are two meridians (energetic pathways) that are involved, the bladder and gall bladder meridians. Note: Inflammation in these meridians does not mean that you have bladder or gall bladder problems.
When there is the smooth flow of energy through the meridians, there’s health in the body. Notice how the meridians run along the same area of the sciatic nerve.
Treatments can help:
-open up restrictions in the meridians
-reduce inflammation along the spine in areas that are pressing on the sciatic nerve
-relax muscles that are contracting and causing pain
-teach you to eat in a way that reduces inflammation in the body
Here it is, June 3rd, and I'm slowly reopening the office. It's been encouraging to go back to doing the work that I love. And with masks and lots of sanitizer, I'm finding that it's possible to continue to practice. For that I feel enormously grateful.
Over the past two and a half months, I've been bunkering down here at home. I'm feeling appreciation that I have a place of safety, a refuge that Dan and I created in a very uncertain world. It's funny how things that I took for granted just a little while ago have become so precious.Things like a comfortable home, a backyard, a grill and of course, my kitchen and all the foods in it.
Somehow this time has been productive for me. I started a food blog, planted a garden, fenced in the yard and am in the process of getting a dog. I've been taking an online Tai Chi class and learning to slow down.
For some of you reading this, the last few months have also been an oasis, a chance to have more time with folks you love, catch up on the things you have been putting off, and a pause in an otherwise overscheduled and over busy life.
For others, it's been a time of deep anxiety. An illness without a cure is spreading; the fabric of our nation is being tested; our economic well-being is insecure.
I have been wondering, "what's my place in all of this?", "what should I be doing", "how can I help?"
The words that are whispered in my ear are, "find places of safety"," find moments of tranquility"," help others find these as well."
I write to tell you to find harbors to weather this storm. Simple things such as time in the morning for quiet and gratitude and prayer can be so important. Having a space in your home filled with things that you love can ground you and bring joy. Planting a garden or even an herb or flower and watching it grow, can give you a sense of control and purpose in an uncertain world.
Each day, write down three things for which you're grateful. Take walks. Smile at your neighbors. Be kind. Find the love that exists along with trauma and tragedy.
I've lived through a lot in life, and I can tell you with certainty, love is always there.
Please know that as we collectively go through this time, my spirit is with you. I pray that each of you reading this will find your way in these unchartered waters.
The spirit is boundless and mine is always there for you. In times like these, you may need a little more than that. A lot is being asked of us right now. You may need support. You may need guidance to find the path that truly serves you.
Here are a few ways to connect with me:
1) Sign up for my food blog. This is filled with healthy, yummy recipes and a look into what's cooking in my kitchen.
2) Schedule an acupuncture appointment or free consultation. Together we can find ways for you to live healthier and happier, with less pain and more ease.
3) Reserve a spot in the class I'm offering through the Gaylord Library in South Hadley. It's called, "Yummy Healthy Food: How Eating Well for 30 Days Can Change Your Life"
Please know that no matter what is happening in your life in this moment, you are not alone.
Sending healing energy…
I know these are unusual and uncertain times. Years from now we will look back on this and be able to share with each other where we were, what we were doing and how this experience changed us.
You see, the story about the Coronavirus that you will tell your friends and children, maybe even grandchildren, is a story that you are writing now. What you do today and tomorrow and the next day will become that story. And because this is a specific moment in time that we all share, it's going to be an important story.
This moment reminds us that we have choices about how we want to live our lives. And just because humanity (at the moment) can't completely control how the virus will spread, it does not mean that we have no control over our lives.
So in writing this, I'm offering you the possibility of feeling empowered. Because you, in this moment, have the opportunity to make choices that are healthier and will give you more satisfaction, more ease, more hope.
As I write this, I take a moment to check Facebook, which just so happens to provide me with this quote. (Thank you, universe!) "In the rush to return to normal, let's use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to." Dave Hollis
How powerful is this statement? Read it again. It's a reminder of something that I've been thinking about. You can look at the Coronavirus as a crisis (which it absolutely is) and also a moment of awakening -- a moment to pause and think about what is most important for you and your life. So that 1 year or 10 years from now, you'll be telling the story you want to tell about what you did during the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic.
I encourage you to think about the story you want to tell. While I can't see you in person, I am offering my wellness counseling program called Roadmap to Health. The program is based on 30 years of life experience that includes living with and recovering from chronic illness, 20 years of practicing holistic medicine and thousands of years of teachings from healers in China and Japan who came before me and created and built upon a system of medicine that focuses on creating balance in body, mind and spirit; and our connection to the natural world.
I created Roadmap to Health about a year ago, but now is the time when it's particularly important because it's easy to forget how to take care of ourselves -- particularly when we're stressed and there is so much conflicting information out there.
At this moment, when your health may be at risk, it's particularly important to have some guidance on how to stay healthy, keep your immune system strong and protect yourself from the Coronavirus.
Using the wisdom of Eastern Medicine, you’ll learn the principles of healthy eating, breathing, movement, meditation and connection. You’ll go through the process of choosing a health goal specifically for you. You’ll receive a book to track your progress, and you'll get encouragement from me. You'll also get a chance to reflect on what your experience has been like.
Roadmap to Health is not a one-size fits all package. It's a program of wellness principles that have helped my patients, and myself, live and feel healthier. And it's INDIVIDUALIZED especially for you.
If this sounds interesting to you, please do schedule a time to meet online or by phone with me. It's a completely free conversation to see if the program is a good fit for you.
You can also get more info, at bonniediamond.com/roadmap-to-health.
Wishing you health and well-being,
Over the last few days, I've been wondering how I can best be of service in these uncertain times. Other medical professionals have been writing about how to stay safe and sane during the next few weeks and possibly months. I will share these resources with you at the end of this blog.
I can no longer offer my in-person treatments because of the risk of spreading infection. I did a load of laundry this morning filled with sheets that ordinarily would be put on my treatment table. As I neatly folded them and placed them in my laundry basket, I wondered when I would be able to do this again. Honestly, I don't know.
But I can share with you some of the wisdom of Chinese and Japanese medicine. The lessons that it teaches. The ways it might be helpful now. How I came to discover it at a time that was personally for me not so different than what we are collectively experiencing now. A time when I was forced to dramatically change my behavior and narrow my expectations of life.
You may know the story of how I became an acupuncturist. I was working in high tech in the 1980s when I came down with a mysterious and not well understood illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I had to leave my job as a technical consultant at the Boston office of the Environmental Protection Agency. I felt enormous uncertainty about my work, my health and what the future might hold.
I grew up in a very achievement-oriented family. But at that moment in time, I could no longer do the work that my BA from Colgate and Certificate in Software Engineering from Harvard had trained me for.
The illness put me on an entirely different path. I needed a new model of life that wasn't based on doing more, earning more, and producing more. I found that model in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This was a model that talked about our connection to the natural world, with its natural rhythms and the importance of balance.
With this model, I could imagine a different way of looking at the world. This model was a relative model that explained that at different times in our lives, we have different goals, different amounts of energy, different focuses. And I knew that while I was dealing with a chronic illness, my life needed to be simpler, with most of my focus on healing. This completely changed a decade of my life. I focused on getting the care that I needed; doing my best to eat, if not completely healthy, at least real foods; taking walks in the few hours that I had sufficient energy.
If I couldn't do all the things that I wanted to, I would at least watch these activities. The television (this was in the days before the Internet) in some ways became my lifeline. I watched cooking shows and figure skating and ski competitions. I allowed my mind to go to places that my body couldn't get to.
I've always been a pretty active person, and I gave up a lot. I had fewer friends, I shopped less, and I found myself at home more. But I got to get to know myself better. I had more quiet time, read and studied a lot, and had less choices and decisions to make.
And at the end of the that decade, and after years spent living simply and studying acupuncture and Chinese and Japanese medicine, I emerged. I got a part time job, started my acupuncture practice, and became active in the synagogue that I belonged to.
Then when I needed a ride to a ski weekend in Maine, I met my husband, fell in love and a year and a half later, got married. And once again, my life changed forever -- also in ways I could not have imagined.
All this to say that as we go through the upheaval of the coronavirus, it's important to remember that life will go on. This is not to discount the reality of loss of lives, disruption, pain and heartache. That brings with it an enormous sadness.
But for most of us, this too shall pass and each of us has the opportunity to emerge a little stronger, a little more resilient, perhaps even a little healthier.
You have inner resources you may not have been aware of. Humans are resourceful creatures. It's why we're all here after wars, natural disasters, other pandemics. When faced with trauma and tragedy, we go on and rebuild and reconnect. It's in our DNA.
So at this time, remember to take care of yourself. Here are the basics:
1) Eat 3 meals a day filled with nutritious, real, whole foods.
Take a look at my blog on getting your kitchen filled with nutritious foods. There has not been a run on broccoli or kale. I often counsel people to make one new healthy dish a week that they can then incorporate into their diet.
Here are some links to my favorite cooks. (Note: I do recommend avoiding sugar, white flour and dairy. So choose your meals wisely.)
2) Incorporate movement into your day. Take walks, go to the woods, climb a mountain.
Here is a list of my favorite places in the area.
~Go to Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton for a beautiful walk in the words.
~Visit Mount Tom State Reservation for hiking and walking. I use the entrance off of Route 5 in Holyoke. Walk around the pond for a relaxed walk. Hike up the K.B. trail for a more intense exercise experience.
~Chesterfield Gorge is just beautiful. Walk along the Westfield River. On a nice day, sit out on the rocks.
~The Manhan, Northampton and Norwottuck rail trails, which go from Southampton through Northampton to Williamsburg or Amherst, are great for biking, walking, jogging or roller blading. It’s perfect for any degree of activity.
~Paradise Pond behind Smith College offers a lovely walk in the woods along the Mill River.
~Last but not least, the Ashley Reservoir in Holyoke is a 3.3 mile loop on flat land.
3) Incorporate gentle stretching into your regular routine.
These are stretches that most people can do.
4) Keep your spirit strong.
Whatever your religious beliefs, whether you believe in a divine entity or not, this is a time that is reminding us that we are all connected. If you feel worried, take some time -- 5 minutes, 1/2 an hour -- to write down a prayer asking for what you and your loved ones need.
5) Here are additional resources written by medical doctors, chock full of good info and wisdom.
As you read this, know that my thoughts are with you, that I hold you in my prayers and that my wish for you is that this time allows you to see your strength and your resilience.
Sending healing energy…
Bonnie Diamond, Licensed Acupuncturist